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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. Devil

    I like the fact that u guys start hatting or dislike Bieber for his faith in THE ONE! shhhhhhhh i dont exist!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Brandon

      Apparently, the Devil went down to Georgia and picked up their bad grammar and bad spelling tendencies.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  2. David Johnson

    @Brandon

    Save you from what?

    Curious in Arizona

    September 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  3. David Johnson

    I heard a rumor that Bieber can cast our demons, forgive sins and raise the dead. Jesus who?

    Cheers!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      his naked body could raise the dead

      September 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  4. C. Sheen

    Does anyone have Cathleen Falsani's phone number?

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

      No, but I have her address.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  5. Brandon

    Great, a story about two things I abhor, Justin Bieber and religion.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Kikaha

      Thanks for saying what I was thinking.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  6. janetperry

    Why all the negativity? Stop acting like losers. Think for a moment, he could and probably is for real. Give Jesus a try, He is our Savior!
    I like Justin B. and have more respect for him for speaking out for the Lord.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Me

      Nice!!!!!!!!!!!!! I like u!!!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Brandon

      I thought for a moment, then I realized that because something can be real, it doesn't mean it is justified to believe in. It may be real that Emperor Zenu colonized the Earth with runaway souls injected into the mouths of volcanoes, but there is no reason to believe that.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Miriam

      janet, the divinity of jesus is all fiction and Beiber is just an untalented pop boy pushed wherever his marketing-savvy management take him. Nothing more to it than that.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • blah

      @ Janet
      ROFL oh wait you were serious. justin beiber is the devil!!! janet you are sining!

      September 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  7. mr sunshine

    i would totally do bieber on a rickety old mattress.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • blah

      you kinda said that already. yes i know you said cot but we get that you want to do him. are you sure your name isn't the Pope or Catholic priest?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  8. Reality

    Bieber, Bieber, Bieber,

    We have come to set you free!!!

    The lyrics for your new song:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    September 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  9. G. Marx

    I would never belong to any organization that would have me.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  10. K. Marx

    Guilt is the opiate of the masses

    September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  11. Mister Ed

    Who is Cathleen Falsani and why should I care?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Kevin O.

    It's pointless to even ask why Justin is pertinent to anything except another future has been. Oh Justin you will join the ranks of Ricky Shroeder, Dana Plato, the home alone kid, um...let's see....yeah you're pretty much well today's flavor...and tomorrow's trash. And that you flat out use black people as body guards speaks volumes about you, you just l-o-v-e acting like "lil Masah", don't you? Who in the hell do you think you are? Shirley Temple? Do you think those guys wouldn't beat your little ass in a flat second in any other world?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Rapp

      You are one pathetic soul.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  13. Justin

    http://www. youtube .com/watch?v=JS1ch8RUjCo

    More fitting.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  14. The Pope

    Who is this guy and why should I care?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Me

    Charlie Sheen is more a hero for America than Justin Christian Bieber!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  16. pt6071

    Ah well that settles it. A pop singer who isn't old enough to drink and has every reason to act like he's Christian for the sake of popularity and profit says he believes in Jesus. Just the authoritative confirmation we were all after.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Bernard

    Of all the things that could be deemed worthy of front page news, this somehow trumped them.

    I hate everything.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  18. Dallas Sucks

    Soooo, now Beiber is jumping on the Christian Right bandwagon. Good job. Nothing he does is going to save him from his inevitable decline in popularity. That's just what happens to today's pop music acts- they're only popular for a year or two, and then it's as if they never existed. Today's pop music won't stand the test of time like music from years past will.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Dallas
      Yeah, because Bobby Sherman, Menudo, Debbie Gibson and Hanson are all still selling millions of records and are fondly remembered for their elaborate musical craftsmanship.
      Pop music is now, always has been and always will be disposible.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  19. Me

    Jesus is Our Saviour!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      jeses is ok, but bieber is way hotter.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Brandon

      How can a man who died 2000 years ago save you?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  20. J.W

    That lady is good looking. They should do some stories on her.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • C. Sheen

      or just do her

      September 26, 2011 at 2:45 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.