Faith and Fame

March 20th, 2014
Katy Perry

Turn on any popular radio station and you are bound to hear a Katy Perry song. Seems like every song she records dominates airtime and keeps her at the top of the charts. In some ways she sings anthems for her generation; in other ways she leads her generation’s parade of questioning, doubt, and reflection on faith and the spiritual life. Young (and even some older) people love her catchy songs and sweet public persona. However, many may not know that she started out as a Christian artist, singing songs to and about her love for Jesus Christ.

Katy is the daughter of Pentecostal evangelists and had a self-described sheltered upbringing. When her Christian music career was slow to take off, she went the route of pop music. The change from being surrounded by fundamentalist Christians to the world of pop music shook up everything she believed in and set her on a faith journey that now leaves her speaking more about her new questions than the answers she had memorized while growing up. Her breakout song, “I Kissed a Girl,” declared her independence from her fundamentalist Christian upbringing. She has been quite public about her faith journey, her relationship with her parents, and what she now believes about God. Today, she does not profess Christianity, but describes being “open” to spiritual experiences—“I’m not Buddhist, I’m not Hindu, I’m not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time.” (See http://lauraturner.

Doubts and Questions

Perry’s journey exposes something to remember for those who work with young people in the church. Sometimes in our quest for communicating the gospel to kids and our need for them to “get it,” we may give them a false notion that once they choose Jesus they have reached the end of the journey—that they have found the answer to life’s biggest question. But the truth is that choosing Jesus is the beginning of the journey. Along the way there will be more doubts and questions and opportunities to choose Jesus in a million different ways. Helping them in their teen years to embrace faith as a journey is a gift we can give their adult selves. Katy Perry started with answers and is now deconstructing what she thought she knew, searching for something more authentic to her newfound freedom of expression. Perhaps if she had been encouraged to ask questions and voice her doubts along the way, she would have more to stand on firmly now.

Of course Katy Perry is not the only famous person to speak publicly about her faith. Tyler Perry of the Madea movie brand is openly Christian. Actor Mark Wahlberg speaks freely about his Catholic faith. The band Switchfoot is a mainstream band of Christians that has married great rock songs with lyrics about a life with God. These folks share more in common than just fame; they all had to decide how much of their childhood beliefs would stick into their adulthood—an adulthood that would be under the microscope of Hollywood. They also had to decide what their faith meant to them and how to speak about it publicly.

Grace for the Journey

We can help teens have a firm faith to stand on in adulthood when we encourage them to embrace faith as a journey, one that will grow and deepen through seasons of questions and doubts. Of course we want our kids to choose Jesus. Let’s help them discover that there is grace in that choice to struggle, doubt, question, and seek. Let’s assure them that God doesn’t give up on us or turn away from us when we ask questions. In fact, God is full of grace and meets us with guidance and care—there is even grace for Katy Perry as she wrestles with what to believe.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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