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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. WSPIN132

    Zeus, great name. I assume you're more into Greek Mythology than Christianity. Even the Jews believe in Jesus. Even the Muslims believe in Jesus. Why would a bunch of dirt poor early Christians (Christians meaning a belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ) have the time or the energy to write some 'stories' when they were hardly able to feed themselves or provide shelter for their family. I don't see the elders in Somalia taking to the pen and pad to write about much of anything, because they're poor and hungry, much like the early Christians. To say that the man Jesus didn't walk this earth is pretty unfounded. And then, to acknowledge early Christians not believing in Jesus is an oxymoron at best. Take out the 'oxy' and you just have defined your stance, ding a ling.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • IamGOD

      why do people join cults? why do people commit massive suicides for those delusions? Christianity is nothing else but a cult , brainwashing , delusion and fear tactics, which eventually will die off...

      September 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jesus built my car

      ding a ling lang a lang a long ling long

      – Ministry

      September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  2. IamGOD

    more like brainwashed and deluded child...

    September 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  3. JW

    If you have enough faith, it will get you a Ferrari even. That is what the charismatics tend to teach . . .

    September 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  4. gager

    Two worthless people making the news.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  5. smartone

    Matthew 18:10
    "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Zeus

      How does quoting the bible make that opinion any more important? I'd think all the Bieber worship would be classified as false idol, golden calf stuff.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • gager

      Bible babble.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • smartone

      All people should be allowed their faith. That is what our founding fathers were trying to protect and promote. It is a right of every human being and your right not to believe in anything which is just sad. What this bible verse means is that don't hate the kid just because he believes in God. All you Aethiests out there, stop HATING!!!!!!!!!

      September 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  6. Zeus

    Jesus never existed. The early Christians didn't even regard him as a real person, but as metaphor for a great person in stories. The stories of Jesus are all borrowed from earlier religions and were also very popular with many religions. I wish people would realize the Bible is full of great stories, but they are just metaphors handed down from previous religions – that doesn't make them true, nor less important, but they are not scientific answers.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Cow

      That's false, none of that is backed up by any fact. Read some history young one.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • BlindSquirrel

      Heckuva try. Everyone has a God. Yours is science, and requires at least as much faith as any religion-based one does.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • jdrfks

      You are very much mistaken my friend' there are scores of eye witness accounts of Jesus life both from the bible and from secular writers of the time. Trying to prove He did not exist has saved many a soul. Keep digging!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Jerry

      Zeus, you always say Jesus never existed in all your postings. There is more historical evidence that He existed, then there is that the USA landed on the moon in 1969. I think the real issue is that once you say Jesus existed, you have to figure out what you are going to do about it. What are you going to do about the Son of God, the savior of the world?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Ben

      It's incredibly dishonest to say science is about faith. You see science includes a concept that is totally absent from religious belief. When science has no answer, the answer is "I don't know." Religion on the other hand turns to, "Let's just make something up!"

      September 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • SoCaler

      Sounds like spew, why not include a reference when challenging something widely known as fact. Jesus did exist there are tons, see the Jewish Source Section referred to through out this wikipedia article on The Historicity Of Jesus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus
      The article acknowledges the theory of Jesus not existing but as stated it, you can see why that theory is basically dead to anyone that examines the evidence of the Historicity of Jesus. Don't just take someone's word for it, dive deep and stay educated my friends! 😉

      September 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • gager

      BLINDSQUIRREL, Science is a religion like not having a hobby is a hobby.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Aaron

      Ignorance is bliss - for a season.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  7. Grumpster

    I am so tired of hearing this tween's insight on everything. He's a friggin TWEEN....and aside from a lucky break, isn't qualified on any grounds to receive acclaim for anything. So he wrote a book. WHO CARES? So he's a jebus freak...GO FIGURE> SO HE's GAY!!! We figure that already. Big woop.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      i would totally do justin bieber on a squeaky cot.

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

    If hes so religious why are there so many stories of him being a premadona, azzh0l3?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Matthew

      Because even religious people are still just people. A jerk is a jerk, religious or not. For some, however, religion is the mechanism through which they attempt to better themselves.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  9. mr sunshine

    what states would it be legal for me to bone justin bieber?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • S Kyle

      he's not even cute. if you wanna poke a child singer, look up that english boy from britain's got talent. at least he's attractive...

      September 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  10. mr sunshine

    how old is justin bieber

    September 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  11. dollydocker

    i suspect he will grow out of the jesusy/ big guy in the sky stuff after he suffers his first hangover, has a decent role in the sack and wakes up to that fact that the hereafter is "here and now " ; that the bedrock of reality is so far removed from faith that the two dont even share the same telephone book forget about same area code ; that his musical talents are a product of evolution descended for the call of the wild combined of course with hard work.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Cow

      It's so good to know magical evolution is the answer for everything that is known and can be known. Such an eloquent smokescreen to avoid problems.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Cashing in on the fame of the Biebs

    I saw, good show! If people are stupid enough to buy this book, you deserve to steal their money.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  13. HappyMadison

    "She was intrigued by the tone and tenor of what the young teen had to say about his faith, so she dug deeper."

    – Actually, she was intrigued by the fact that Bieber is extremely famous and she stood to make a good sum of cash off of book sales.

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

      wow, I didn't think someone besides me was thinking that while reading the article. :O

      September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mikey

      What amazes me most is the fact that he is SEVENTEEN! Why do a biography on a kid who has barely experienced life. He was lucky to catch the attention of a major producer, otherwise he would be like thousands of other hopefuls – waiting tables and hoping for their big break.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  14. dorthy

    BEEEEEEEEEEEEF !!!!!! i loooove the biebbbs <3

    September 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  15. Matt

    Ugh. More religio-pop-puke.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  16. JOHN

    On the book cover's photo: Looks like he's taking a big poop!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  17. metalhead

    Ugh.. While the poor get poorer, this idiot gets richer creating a book that only the dumbest soccer-moms would buy for their tween future wh0res. What a dork. He really is a true goody two shoes. When I was his age, kids like him got their asses beat. Hope that happens to him some day.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  18. jdrfks

    That Jesus Christ will make people uncomfortable is a good thing, means that deep rooted faith that that God planted in our DNA has'nt been completely extinguished yet. Your hope is in Jesus!

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

      hahahaha.

      by that sterling logic i should start following national socialism even faster.

      moron.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • YIKES

      i like to think that my DNA came from my parents, who got it from their parents, who got it from their parents.... ect. but i think some people came from apes or a sasqauch (sp), as much hair as i've seen on some people!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  19. WSPIN132

    I'm amazed. Amazed at the hate and ridicule poured out on this kid. No I don't care much for his music or his pop-celeb status, but anybody with this much fame and temptation who STILL speaks out for his Saviour is pretty damn cool. All of these LOLs and these gay taunts, REALLY?!?! Or do you, somewhere deep inside, wonder if you're wrong, and that this Jesus really did exist, as apparently he did, and that he really WAS telling the truth, really was THE TRUTH.

    You know, in Revelations, it's pretty clear that we don't ALL get to heaven. I'm glad there's a kid standing for his, and many other Christians' beliefs. After all, what an empty life without faith!

    September 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Sara

      Yay, thanks! Finally someone who said what I could not put into words!

      September 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • facecrap

      hahaha. when this kid comes out you're gonna cry so hard. 🙁

      September 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Sara

      Oh wow...You're still on 'he's gay'? And nah, the only time I'll cry for Justin is when he marries some girl who's NOT me 🙂

      September 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • blah

      @Sara
      facecrap didn't say justin was gay. facecrap probably thinks that justin is really a girl and will most likely marry a guy. geez

      September 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • facecrap

      @sara

      lololol. awwww. kid, your mother said the same thing about ricky martin.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Sara

      nope, i think for my mom it was anthony kiedis or kurt cobain 😛

      September 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  20. 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 1:49 pm |
    • Miriam

      Sara, you read the bible, and you still believe the Christian nonsense? You must be REALLY stupid.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • blah

      @Mirim
      LOL so true!

      September 26, 2011 at 3:04 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.