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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. Latasha

    Justin Queefer

    September 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • blah

      LOL

      September 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  2. David

    The Justin Bieber Bible Quiz
    http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2011/s11020143.htm

    September 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Jason S

    Is it a girl or guy?

    September 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Its a Beiber....i'm still trying to figure out what it is too.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  4. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    l will say that I am no fan of his music (little beyond those teeny bopper years), however this was a well written piece and he seems to have admirable character. There aren't many good role models these days, however I'm glad there's still a few. I don't understand why the atheists have to come on here and attack day in and day out. Funny thing is they'd probably praise some heavy metal atheist singer but criticize Bieber. Take the story for what it is; a singer who has a belief in God, which helps him try and lead his life in a positive way and be a positive role model for his fans.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Heavy Metal athiests are smarter than Bieber.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Heavy metal bands in general are better than the stuff he sings. You may not like the music but most all heavy metal mand members are much better musicians than any other musical genre out there. That being said, I agree with Jackdaw that atheist heavy metal bands are probably smarter.

      And trying to be a good role model is fine, but there is no need to bring god into it.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Credenza

      You're right again Alfonzo. Well said! You won't get anything sensible from this bunch of trolls. But you know you're right and I know you're right.

      I'd laugh at these wee ferrets but my Mother taught me that it was unkind to mock the afflicted

      September 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  5. The Jackdaw

    It’s not enough that this dork is a corporate tool, now he needs to be the church’s tool as well? Seriously? This kid has about as much spiritual insight as a drug addicted/unlicensed daycare operator.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  6. Jason S

    Guys like it because they think it's a girl and girls like it because they think it's a guy!

    September 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  7. Jason S

    Guys like him because they think hes a girl and girls like him because they think hes a guy!

    September 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Ron B

    What a load of krap........ if the kid wants to be a singer that's great but know off the religion foolishness...

    September 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  9. Joshua1960

    Does anyone else find that Patti looks just like the McDonald's Grimace? http://www.1070solution.com/images/separated.jpg

    September 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  10. Snoopy

    Not a fan of Ellen Paige's new haircut.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  11. Mike V

    Another reason not to like Bieber...

    September 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Ed

      No problem he don't care about you either. He's making millions!!! How about u?

      September 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Mike

      Ed is Justin Bieber's male prosti-tute.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Ed

      business is real good $$.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  12. sunny lovetts

    Now there is a reason for his fame, finally. Jesus is King, he better preach it out loud!

    September 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Did you think his voice might have something to do with it, not to mention some very effective marketing by people with a decidedly non-spritual approach?

      I guess not, *YAWN*

      September 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yes, Jesus cares about his fame.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  13. Joshua1960

    Can this kid possibly get any more effeminate looking? I think he'd look very pretty in a dress and makeup.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • blah

      yeah. 16 and no adam's apple. what's that tell ya?

      September 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  14. TL

    It is amazing how critical all of the comments are...seems to me there is a lot of hypocracy out there

    September 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Critical does not = hypocritical

      September 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Bloop

    Believe In Everything Because Everythings Reachable haha

    September 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  16. Non Belieber

    If we all started out as Adam and Eve, then why aren't our genes as screwed up as the Charlemagne family? They reproduced amongst themselves and mutated, surely the same occurred with Adam and Eve's millions of paternal offspring... and exactly how did we get so many shades of people? Interesting... religion is very interesting...

    September 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Yes... very interesting....

      No, wait, that other thing, oh yea! Tedious.

      They're all the same and none make any sense when compared to the real world run by science and math.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Darthlawsuit

      They have shown that sunlight exposure, environment, diet, and distance from the equator determine skin color. Do a little research once in a lifetime.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Ed

      Haters! You post all the negative don't make a cent. He's on the other hand, believe Christ and blessed with millions. HAHAHA

      September 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • adam

      A theory I've heard is since God made Adam and Eve before sin entered the world, they may have still had nearly perfect genes after the fall. Their children would have had close to perfect genes as well and would open the door for the defects to not be present. Later on, God abolished incestual relationships because they were no longer necessary and eventually would've led to defective genes.

      Just a theory I've heard. Thought it was interesting. And somewhat believable.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • adam

      That theory is also used to explain how people lived for hundreds of years initially.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Norps

      Yes Ed, That has Christs had written all over it. Because thats totally what Jesus was about, makin people rich.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • UncleM

      @adam – you find that believable? You must be retarded.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Skegeeace

      Some people think that Adam and Eve's genes were near perfect so their inter-familial mating wouldn't have had the same risk of mutations in children. (Also, despite popular belief, not all children that are the result of incestuous relationships have deformities.)

      As for all different colors, it's possible that Adam and Eve (being near-perfect) had the blueprints in their genes to create all types of races and ethnicities. A lot of black people punch out kids that are lighter than both parents; sometimes white couples drop kids that are olive skinned (although that's rarer than the former). There's also the idea of regional human evolution; that the races changed subtly based on their needs in each climate (wide noses for hotter temps, slanted eyes for colder, etc.).

      All kinds of possibilities! 🙂

      September 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • adam

      @UncleM

      I'm sure you believe any faith in God makes you retarded so, unfortunately, your opinion doesn't go very far. Too bad for the likes of you.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Fred1

      This is just another proof of god’s miraculous powers

      September 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Bev

      Even if you happened to be correct. How many people do you think the world started with from evolution? LOL

      September 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  17. C. Jorgenson

    Looks like a transgender issue

    September 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  18. Weena

    He's huge hit at my seminary.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      All boys his age are big hits there.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  19. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Oh, paleeeeze....don't use religion to reach an audience. That's so cheesey, like the business-minded people who open "Christian" mega-bookstores, then stock their shelves with Sarah Palin's books.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  20. I'm Right....Get Used to It.

    What you say – whether typed or spoken – says a lot more about you than it does about your chosen topic. If you believe then great. If you don't believe then great. There are two things you MUST do in this life by yourself. Everything else in between can be done for you. You must be born by yourself and you must die by yourself. These two things cannot be done for you. What you believe is up to you. That either group would look down at the other because of their beliefs doesn't say a whole lot of good for evolution. Neither group has a clue if they are right. My guess is that both groups are both wrong and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.....as it usually does.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Sister T.

      Try being born without a mother, dilwad.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • I'm Right....Get Used to It.

      Try getting some intelligent logic....dumba$$.

      September 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ed

      Some where in the middle? So you're guessing that the TRUTH is somewhere. Are you retarded???

      September 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • S. Freud

      OMG, a real psuedo intellectual, engaged in mental masturbation who loves to expose himself to the masses under the guise of "intelligent logic". Don't look now but your Oedipus complex is showing

      September 26, 2011 at 3:34 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.