Miley Cyrus’s life, morals, upbringing, and example have been brought to question all over the internet. I know several youth ministers who are planning to tackle “Miley’s moment” this week at youth group or Bible study. As I have watched the internet chatter on and on about Miley, within each Facebook post or the comments at the bottom of each blog you will find someone wondering why we are not also talking about Robin Thicke.
Miley was the brightest star on the stage that night. She was sensationalism and sexualization wrapped up in too little clothing. But Miley was far from the only female twerking on the stage that night; at least 20 other woman danced around the stage twerking as back up dancers to accent Miley’s performance. Pop music is laced with sexuality.
Then, Robin Thicke enters the stage and the choreographed performance to be the male sexist objectifier to Miley’s sexuality while singing “Blurred Lines,” a rapey little number.
I wish that Robin was unique, that we were shocked that a married man would participate in such actions or sing such a song. I’m pretty sure Mike Seaver’s dad would not have performed that number (Allen Thicke who played the dad on Growing Pains, is Robin Thicke’s father). Miley is not the first Disney childhood and teenage star to do something sensational at the VMAs (see Britney and Christina) nor is she the first sensational performance at the VMAs (see Madonna).
Was Robin basically ignored because he simply did what our society expects? Lord, I hope not, but I fear it to be true. This comment was in the “Miley’s dance won’t hurt Robin Thicke” article in USA Today, “Look at the way he regained his relevancy: by releasing a video with topless women dancing all around him,” says Billboard editorial director Bill Werde of Thicke’s meteoric rise after years of modest success. Why do topless women or sensational performances have anything to do with “our relevancy”? Because Miley and Robin’s “moment” represents bigger issues within our society.
Miley only represents half of our societal issue. Robin represents the other half. There are male and female issues at play.
Miley and Robin are easy to throw stones at because they are on the big stage with bright lights, but if we take a close look at our society and our churches we will see the justifications of moments like this all over the place. You know where to look: beer commercials, pop music, movies, and all the other popular societal scapegoats. But as you glance around, don’t miss the men standing around, eyeballing the women and teenage girls. The women scrutinizing each other’s dresses. The problems are too many and they run too deep for simple explanations.
The same week as the VMAs, a Montana judge sentenced a teacher to ONE month in jail. The teacher raped a 14-year-old girl who then killed herself because the trial was going public. The judge said the victim was “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher, referring to her as a troubled youth “older than her chronological age,” reports USA Today, quoting the Billings Gazette.
Some would say “she was asking for it.” NO! She may have been seeking attention, but it was because she needed someone to love her deeply for who she was. Others would say “he is just a boy and can’t control himself.” NO! He needs to be shown a better way and that she is a beloved Child of God.
The reality is that this Friday night, teenager girls will be twerking in your town trying to get attention. Boys will be standing there like Thicke did, even if it is not choreographed in advance. Will we show them another way?
We must teach our young people that they are God’s beloved. We must teach them to see others as God’s beloved. They must know they are created in the image of God and God loves them. We must see with the eyes of Christ.
I’m grateful for Jason Sansbury’s response and article “I was Miley Cyrus’ Youth Director. Sort of.” and how it calls us to be grace filled.
How will you respond? How should the church respond?
A Call to Action
“Miley and Robin’s moment” creates space where we can address these societal issues. The church must respond and we need a greater response than condemnation of action and more moral rules. Here are some ways that you can respond:
- Honest Conversation: engage youth in real conversation about why all the buzz about Miley
- Theological Reflection: consider doing a lesson on the Theology of the Personhood where you can share that we are God’s beloved and created in God’s image. Where is God’s action in this moment? How would Jesus respond?
- Gender based discussions: I’m confident that girls’ small groups across the country will be talking about Miley’s performance this week, but will the boys’ small groups? How can you address these issues? Don’t leave out Thicke’s role in the performance, especially with the boys.
- Personal Testimony: share a personal testimony about when you felt you had to do something to gain others’ attention and how that impacted you.
- Parental Tools: provide your parents a resource to talk with their teenagers about their responses to this situation and to sexism in our country.
Offer a Resounding “No!”
One of our roles as youth ministers is to be a resounding “no” to our youth. Not a no of judgment, morals, or rules, but a resounding no that slices through the false reality that says you need to do anything to get God’s attention. A resounding no to treating anyone inhumanely. While we shatter those false realities, we point them to a loving and gracious God who created them and said “it is good!” A God who knows them intimately and loves them abundantly.
May every youth and everyone come to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord!