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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. L. GaGaowitz

    That picture makes me wnt to puke.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  2. marrod

    You go Beiber! proclaim your faith out loud. I can see why you keep receiving blessings. There are a lot of jealous people out there. Keep it up. AMEN!!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      yeah, keep it up! life may be long and hard, but you gotta keep it up!

      September 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  3. S. Freud

    This guy has some serious mental problems

    September 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  4. awasis

    Starting to look and dress a little like Rachel Maddow.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • blah

      ok so i didn't know who that rachel you spoke of was and had to google it. OMG you are so right!

      September 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  5. Stvnkrs10

    He looks like a young lesbian girl in that picture.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Katie

      When does he not?

      September 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  6. Binky42

    A biography of a teenager? It should be about 16 pages long.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • mr sunshine

      16? thats even longer than me.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    Biebapalooza LOL.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Brandon

    Justin Bieber looks too young, that even the priests wouldn't touch him.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • blah

      LOL that or because when they do try to touch him they realize it's not a him at all but a little girl and they fall out of interest.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Katrine

    He's sooooo dreamy.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Ed

      No you are!!! He's enjoying God, Fame, and cool millions... how about you?

      September 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Katrine

      I wasn't serious...

      September 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  10. pale

    It's great that Justin is open about his faith..it isn't great how he acts like a spoiled little brat and ruins Christs reputation. Justin is infected with the egomania that all pop stars get, where they just do whatever they feel like. Justin needs to come back to Earth and learn the meaning of humility

    September 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  11. jimbo

    He is still young and obviously his brain hasn't fully developed.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Ed

      No you brain isn't develop yet!!! He's enjoying God, Fame, and cool millions... how about you?

      September 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Myka

    Hey Justin And Others Im A Christian Too i Go To Central Christian Church In Nevada
    Im Also A Teen No Onee Ever Can destroy The Relationship That Me And Jesus Has
    Uhmm.... iLovee Justin Bieber Alot Wish i Can Go To His Concerts And That He Sings To Mee And That
    i Can See Him One Day So im Hoping To See You One Day And That You Have A Great Relationship With The Lord
    Hes Great And He Loves to Be Loved By Others

    September 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • C. Sheen

      Please send me some of your drugs

      September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • TheBossSaid

      Seriously dude, learn to write. Since when did every word start with a capital letter?

      September 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • blah

      i hate the grammar police on here more than anything (besides the bieber) but seriously!!! stay in school or get back to your special ed class!

      September 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Den

    Wait!!!! There's a book about Bieber?????

    September 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Myka

      Yess It Iss
      #Beliebeer Always And Forever

      September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  14. Hooligan

    lol

    Jesus.... he's not god.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Ed

      How do you know?

      September 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  15. pfunk

    Don't you think the writer could have thought of something better then "Jesusy" to describe someones faith?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bryan

      Silly fairy tales are what they are. Believing in the crap in the Bible is just as nutty as believing in Santa Claus. It's just sad that so many millions of people have this delusion. Same goes for all the Abrahamic faiths. Jesusy seems appropriate. 🙂

      September 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Den

    I totally agree with Mike. Where is the idea coming from that we care anything at all about Bieber. I have to admit I had no idea he was 16ish. I thought he was 11 yrs old and that was the reason the 10 yr olds had interest.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  17. Brandon

    Good for him, believing in complete nonsense. Does he still believe in Santa Claus too?

    September 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • IamGOD

      lol

      September 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • alex

      why all athiest have to attack religion, they always speak with such hate, just accept people believe in GOD and that athiests are in the minority, and by the way, it takes more faith believing whatever scientists tell you about evolution

      September 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • blah

      @alex
      you nitwit! there is no faith science. there is science in science.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  18. yeah

    hahahah BELIEBER 😀 awesome....
    As of bieber, Christianity sells in post recession america.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  19. Brandon

    Jesus loves everyone except Justin Bieber fans.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  20. mike

    I don't understand why this little nerd is always getting attention. Nobody likes him except 10 year old retard girls. And I don't think 10 year old's read CNN. Report on something more important CNN than this Dweeb.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Kleiber

      Why this little nerd is always getting attention? Because idiots like you have nothing better to do on a Monday afternoon than reading through lousy stories like these.. Simple.. isn't it?

      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.