GQ

OK, Daily Beast, let's try this 'Despacito': You CAN question Bieber's faith, with a little respect

OK, Daily Beast, let's try this 'Despacito': You CAN question Bieber's faith, with a little respect

When the GetReligion team receives an email referencing coverage of a news story, the subject lines are generally subdued. When tmatt wrote asking, "Anyone wanna jump on this hand grenade," we all knew it would be, for want of a better phrase, a real hot tamale.

So we arrive at the young life of one Justin Drew Bieber, age 24, the pop sensation whose current mega-hit single, "Despacito," ("Slowly") would remind a listener who knew both Spanish and the Bible more of the sensual verses in the Old Testament's Song of Solomon than, say, a Keith Green worship piece.

But there's another side to the "Biebs," as he's known to millions of fans. He's a Christian, or so we're told from time to time in the media. And the latest bit of media fanfare came last week from The Daily Beast, which often seems to vie for the coveted "Least-Respectful of Faith" title in the news business.

Their religion coverage is uneven at best, downright snarky at worst. Some of it is news. Some of it is clearly biased editorializing.

This time, the website asks, "Is Justin Bieber Sabotaging His Career for Jesus?" And the text leaves little room to doubt what they're thinking:

... On Tuesday, Hollywood’s least-holy gossip site ran a story explaining that, according to sources connected to Hillsong, Bieber’s church, the singer is taking a professional step back because he has “rededicated his life to Christ.” The update continues, “Bieber’s decision seemed to come out of the blue, but our sources say it was squarely based on what Bieber believes is religious enlightenment.”
Attending more Sunday services is one thing, but opening your own franchise for the Lord is quite another. According to TMZ’s “inside source,” Bieber “may be even planning to start his own church,” which sounds like a magical place where DUIs are automatically stricken from your record and Selena Gomez is always willing to give you a second chance.

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GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

Does Justin Bieber actually have a church?

Several readers dropped the GetReligion team notes that GQ just came out with a l-o-n-g feature on the Australian-based Hillsong Church and its Manhattan branches. As the prelude says:

“It’s where the cool kids spend Sunday morning after Saturday night at the club. For ye of little faith, it’s hard to make sense out of Hillsong. Is it legit? Is it a hipster cult? And why’s everyone wearing Saint Laurent? GQ’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner joins the flock to find out if Christianity can really be this cool and still be Christian.”

Who would not read this story after such an intro? Turns out that Brodesser-Akner is Jewish and visiting Hillsong, to her, is like covering life on Jupiter. But she does so nonetheless in a breathless, first person, words-piled-on-words style that somehow works in this quasi-novel of a piece. And atop it she asks the pertinent question: "What would cool Jesus do?"

We’re not sure how to answer that after finishing the piece, but we do know this:

About five years ago, Pastor Carl got a phone call. Carl is one of the lead pastors at Hillsong NYC, a mega-church so reputedly, mystifyingly cool that cable-news outlets cover its services like they’re Kardashian birthday bashes at 1 Oak. On the other end of the line was one of Carl’s best friends, Judah Smith, another mega-pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Seattle Seahawks. “I need you to help me with a young man,” Pastor Judah said, and Pastor Carl rushed to agree, because helping is Carl’s thing, and the young man was, yes, Justin Bieber …

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At this point, why would journalists ignore faith issues in Colbert's life? (updated)

At this point, why would journalists ignore faith issues in Colbert's life? (updated)

As far as I am concerned, there was journalism about comedian Stephen Colbert before the GQ cover story by Joel Lovell -- "The Late, Great Stephen Colbert" -- and then there is journalism on this subject after that piece.

It's not that this was some kind of stunning investigation into Colbert's career, his finances, his alleged politics, etc., etc. It's not even that this story covered totally new material about Colbert's faith and family history.

Trust me. I've had a research folder open on Colbert and Catholicism since 2005 or thereabouts and I've read most of the crucial speeches and interviews in which he talks about his beliefs. I have a pretty big collection of iTunes selections and Comedy Central URLs that feature revealing quips and comments. I've written some columns on this guy and led seminar sessions focusing on the debates about his work.

What made this interview special was the depth of the comments and the way in which they linked the wounds in Colbert's past to the strengths of his comic sensibility today. It was really quite stunning, even for people (I've heard from some) who didn't take Colbert all that seriously in the past. 

After that interview, why would journalists for a major news organization -- The New York Times leaps to mind  -- fail to explore the God questions (and answers) that haunt this guy? In a major magazine feature before his arrival last night on CBS, this is what the Times team offered while trying to talk about the "humanity" that Colbert has hidden in the past:

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