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The gospel according to Justin Bieber
A new book explores the faith of pop star Justin Bieber.
September 26th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

The gospel according to Justin Bieber

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Justin Bieber is one of the world's most famous pop stars but is also decidedly more Jesusy than his day job might lead some to believe.

When the young Canadian-born singer burst onto the scene, he was discovered in part by singing Christian songs on YouTube. But that is just the beginning of Bieber's faith journey, spelled out in a new book on the young star.

Cathleen Falsani sarcastically self-proclaims she is the "pre-eminent Justin Bieber scholar in North America."

Falsani has penned "Belieber! Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber," a book exploring the faith life of the tween sensation.

An award-winning religion journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist on the God beat, Falsani came to writing about Bieber almost accidentally.

"I was aware of who he was as a cultural figure. I was aware that he existed, that he was young, cute as a button and Canadian and that his music wasn't something that I generally listened to," she said.

She stumbled across an interview Bieber did with Rolling Stone magazine in which he talked about God. "I was like, 'OK, this is interesting.  Let's see if this is any different than all of the other young 'Christian' pop stars or actors.' "

She was intrigued by the "tone and tenor" of what the young teen had to say about his faith, so she dug deeper. Her young adopted son Vasco was talking about Bieber at the time, and a friend told her she ought to write a book on "the gospel according to Justin Bieber."

What she found was a compelling story of a young man born to an 18-year-old single woman who lost and then found her faith and her way back to church.

Falsani details how Bieber's mother, Patricia Mallette, openly shared her struggles with drugs, alcohol and a suicide attempt before she gave birth to Justin.

Mallette's faith journey took her to Jubilee Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Stratford, Ontario. The church mirrors many charismatic churches in the United States with an emphasis on prayer and spiritual gifts.

"I would call it a charismatic or a Pentecostal church. The iteration of that looks a little different in Canada than it does (in the United States). It looks like any number of our evangelical nondenominational churches, but with a lot more arms raised. Very, very prayerful," Falsani described.

Mallette joined the praise band, which led the music on Sundays. "Being young ... they used to hang out, and she would bring Justin. That's when they noticed this kid's got unbelievable rhythm. And he's 2," according to Falsani.

From there, Bieber lived the life of a normal Canadian church kid, focusing on school and sports.

Bieber kept his musical talents quiet from friends until he was 13 years old and entered a singing competition. He placed third.

His extended family was not able to come and see his performance, so he and his mom began to upload videos onto YouTube so the rest of the family could see him singing. Some of his tunes were Christian worship songs and others secular pop tunes.

The videos hit in a big way.

Falsani explained that Justin's mom thought, "If God had a plan for Justin to be to a music artist, then surely it would be in the Christian industry, and God would send them a nice Christian manager. Suddenly, this 25-year-old Jewish kid from Connecticut called."

In 2007, Scott "Scooter" Brown discovered Bieber.

His career took off.  The family moved to the United States, and Bieber began palling around with music icons.

The haircut, the honey-dripped voice and the screaming tweens are the stuff pop legends are made of. Today, Bieber is a multimillionaire and an industry all to his own, but Falsani details in the book how he and his mother have maintained their faith.

Sprinkled heavily through "Belieber!" are tweets from Bieber and his mom talking about faith, quoting scripture and sharing a simple Christian narrative that God loves people.

Bieber explained his approach to Rolling Stone in February: "I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans. I'm not going to tell them, 'You need Jesus,' but I will say at the end of my show, 'God loves you.' "

He does not take complicated theological soapbox stands. In February, he drew a lot of attention for articulating his opposition to abortion in a Rolling Stone article, but he was quick to say it was his belief and he would not force it on anyone.

The book also uses quotes from social media sites to evidence the positive influence Bieber's faith has on his young fans. Falsani sprinkles in quotes from Bieber's core audience - tween and teenage girls - and plays to their hand with a glossy color photo spread featuring pictures of Bieber being Bieber.

Though she considers herself a fan in his shadow demographic (the moms at the concert who secretly dig and buy the music), as a mother herself, Falsani appreciates the positive role Bieber's faith has played in his young career.

"I do think this faith he has is very genuine and very much his and not his mom's or anyone else's. It's not a marketing tool," she said.

Bieber's work with charity is well-documented; he gives a portion of ticket sales to charity, among other approaches.  Falsani is taking a similar role with this book, too. Part of the proceeds from her book are going towards the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Music

soundoff (509 Responses)
  1. rdg18

    There are many of us that stand with God's Word (Bible), no matter what direction the rest of the world goes. All will bow soon and many of us do now. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  2. GAW

    Why should the religious beliefs or non-beliefs of any celebrity have any effect on me? I'm not teenager anymore....last time I checked. If he gives to charity that's great but so do countless number of other celebrities whose religious beliefs are not well known.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Justin_Beaver

    I'm a belieber....are you????

    September 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • blah

      NO. Unless you are finally saying you ARE gay. Then I am a believer that you are indeed gay.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Arsio

      lol

      September 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  4. lolsigh

    It is always interesting how people who follow the bible allow and encourage worship of wealth and fame, a clear violation of their own god' laws lol

    September 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • gtgrad2008

      Out of curiosity, are you making the assumption that in order to be a christian, one cannot be famous or wealthy?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  5. GuestColin

    This kid is creepy. I got nothin' else. He's just...creepy. I don't know what *it* is about him...

    September 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  6. ryan

    why is it always the most annoying people on earth that bible thump? seriously? dumb annoying people...

    September 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • blah

      cause deep down they are a lonely person. so my theory is they have to have something to believe in even if it doesn't exist to make them feel better. wonder how many cats justine will have when his 5 mins are up....

      September 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  7. pfft

    forget all the logic and reason stuff- THIS is the best reason to be an atheist!!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Me

      I have no problem with an atheist's god, he doesnt exist! if u have problem with my GOD means....

      September 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • pfft

      cookies for us both?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Me

      kkkkkkkkkkkkk at least u funny!!!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  8. Pete

    I have no doubt Mr. Bieber makes himself whatever his team of marketers and publicity strategists tells him is the most profitable.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Krreagan

      Agreed. With all the child celebrities going bad (See:Lindsey Lohan for ex) it's no wonder they want to portray him as virtuous as possible. Wait until he flies off the deep end... perhaps 4 years at most. It's the last thing I'd let my kid do!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Mikey

      And he drives a Ferrari....at 17!!!! Well grounded – I think not.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  9. ghostmule

    Look at Justin. I'll bet any amount of money he comes out of the closet in the future. He is 100% gay.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Miriam

      Rumor has it that he's dating Michele Bachmann's gay husband Marcus.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Robert the Bob

      Now that's funny.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Me

    I love to see the bend over for the Creator and my saviour Jesus Christ.. everythig good in the world comes from christianity!!!! Sorry haters... you CAN hate but u cant not seeing this!! Yes Justin Bieber is good!!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • pfft

      interesting, all those vaccines and agricultural techniques came from christianity eh?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • J

      Yeah, the Crusades, Inquisitions, Witch Hunts, and countless other atrocities committed in the name of Christianity are excellent examples of "everything good in the world".

      September 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • facecrap

      lolol. so jesus is into sodomy?

      that's telling.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  11. Me

    Jesus Rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • blah

      I'd like to rock you, with stones, you know that are rocks...

      September 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  12. Question everything

    If he was a Saudi pop star he would be praising allah and would have to get a ride to his concert from his father as his mother is not allowed to drive.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  13. bullet

    wonder how much money he gives to the church

    September 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  14. DarkDrew

    Belieber?.... Seriously? This is making my brain hurt. There is far more in this world to worry about. I'm getting sick of hearing about this kid.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • inkjet

      Well, you have hear about this kid so they don't have to think about all of those other things.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Matt

    Very cool. Fight the good fight of faith, Justin!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Krreagan

      Is the faith of the 9/11 hijackers the "good fight" as well?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • inkjet

      LOL, of course not. They're on the other team.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  16. Karloff

    I still insist Bieber looks like a lesbian schoolteacher–and will definitely be in the cast for Celebrity Rehab 2019. Hallelujah!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  17. humtake

    It's good that Americans get to at least benefit from their obsessions with underage kids who look like the opposite gender than what they are.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  18. rezblade

    Luckily he has his Ferrari to keep him on the fast track of his spiritual journey!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  19. Sara

    People on here who write things like 'We need to nail his ass to the cross' or think that when you are a teenager you can't really belief: Why don't you stick with your own experiences instead of telling other they can't really have faith? I'm 16, almost 17, and grew up in a family in which religion only played a big role for my dad, not for my mom though. And when I was old enugh, I FREELY decided for Jesus and for God, not because that's what my parents wanted me to do! Being also a very dedicated of Justin, I happen to think that is faith is genuine, too. And yes, it inspires me! He it keeps ME reading the bible, too! He's a teenager and I'm sure he has struggles, that a lot of 17-year-olds have. The basis on which he built his career is safe, it's rock, not sand!

    P.S listen to some of his unreleased songs on youtube, like Won't Stop- He really HAS God in his life.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • rezblade

      What he says and what he does are two different things. It's easy to say "God loves you" at the end of a concert. The fact is he lavishes himself in luxury and allows his millions of fans to worship him. He could be using his career to serve God, but instead he uses it to serve himself.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • lolsigh

      I'm so sure having to go to church and listen to your father preach your entire life made that "free" choice easier.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • lolsigh

      as Rez said, it is interesting that someone who believes in god allows for self worship and you encourage it. Claiming to have read the bible and yet obviously not just shows your ignorance and why children know little about the real world.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • yikes

      @Sara
      Why aren't you in school?!?! I'm all about to each their own so you can believe in the tooth fairy for all I care but JP isn't worthy any one's time. I didn't even read the story. Just like to read the comments on JP when a story is posted. LOL

      September 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Sara

      So sure you have no idea what you are talking about, since my father didn't live with us for like 10 years, because me and my mother live in Germany and I get to see my father like 3 month a year. And so sorry if there was nobody who ever brought faith closer to you...

      September 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • lolsigh

      You live in germany yet type like an American, nice try on your lies, but no one ever falls for that.
      Have fun worshiping false idols of fame and wealth as a "believer" in your bible lol

      September 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Sara

      And oh, tell me where Justin idolizes himself?! He says that he puts God first, not his career! So you're saying that a Christian can't be famous? How about being famous and then delivering a message to (young people)? Using you're voice for charity?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • lolsigh

      allowing others to worship yourself moron

      September 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Sara

      hahahahahahaha, so I don't live in Germany? Well...I do? My father happens to be American though and I go to international school. But actually, I take that as a compliment, thanks!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • lolsigh

      he also sings secular music so where is the message? lol don;t cry because JB is violating your own god' laws lol Have you ever read your bible?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • lolsigh

      you take American over German as being a compliment? Ok yea, you are not German at all. lol
      Go troll someplace else because you have no clue lol

      September 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • lolsigh

      The fact you are defending him over your own religion shows you worship him, so have fun with that lol You even described an idological view upon him in your original statement lol You are worshiping him and not even knowing it, becuase you are a child and a sheep.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • lolsigh

      Yes, now go hide away and say to yourself " i still believe" and "there no place like home" lol Stupid christians lol

      September 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Sara

      Sara
      goshhh, HOW stupid are you? I took it as a compliment because you made me feel like my English was good! Anyways, Yes, I have read the bible, and I still read it. And yes, singing songs about how a prayer can make your day or how God leads him on the right path IS a message! So, yeah..do your homework!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Sara

      and where the F did describe an idological view upon him in my original statement?!?!?!?!?

      September 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • rezblade

      Of course he "says" he puts God first. But the fact that many stores have Justin Bieber shrines (complete with t-shirts, lunch boxes, action figures, tote bags, notebooks, and even trading cards) says otherwise. I'm not saying a Christian isn't allowed to be famous, but this should raise some spiritual red flags at the very least.

      September 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • blah

      @lolsigh
      Do you realize that you are arguing with a child? If you are also a teenager it wouldn't be such a big deal, I guess. LOL

      September 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Eric

      If Justin really has God in his heart then he'll live on $40k a year and give everything else to charity – holding your breath? Lots of people talk about Jesus and God but don't live a life in the philosophy of Christ. Osama killed thousands on 9/11 – how many "Christians" said love thy enemy or turn the other cheek rather than "Quick, who should we kill!"? How many "Christians" put off the new car to help the less fortunate. This country is 98% Atheists with some masquarading as something else.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • fred

      Eric
      Try 2-5% atheist and the majority just dont care. Hard to say how many Christians actually follow Christ but the number is low. So, the fix is get into a good Bible Fellowship that knows what it means to truley follow Christ. If you are not following the simply things God lays out for Christians call on Jesus. Interesting how simply asking Jesus for help actually works. The thing is you must follow through on what He then asks of you.

      September 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  20. erich2112x

    The Bible according to Maria in Sound Of Music, more like.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.