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bieberJustin Bieber has come to South Africa with all of the fanfare and idolatry that has followed him everywhere else in the world. From the reports that I have heard on the news, this has been a major event for many in our land. Shame.

In Cape Town, many began lining up nearly 36 hours before the show in order to ensure that they got a good seat near the front. Some of those early birds were parents who were showing “sacrificial love” for their children. Shame.

I heard one mother who was being interviewed say that, if Justin Bieber proposed to her daughter (whom, of course, he had never met) that night, she would gladly give her permission. Shame.

In fact, what I have read and heard can only be described as “unbelieberable.”

This nineteen-year-old Canadian pop sensation is clearly one of the most narcissistic individuals on the popular stage of our day. Recently, upon visiting the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, he wrote in the guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Well, Justin, I seriously doubt it.

I, along with my family, had the solemn privilege to visit the home of Anne Frank many years ago during a long layover in Amsterdam en route back to South Africa. We caught a train from the airport to the Frank’s home for what proved to be a moving experience. As we walked through those rooms, it was disturbing to contemplate the savagery of the Nazi worldview and the consequent holocaust. To even think of oneself after an hour and a half exposure to such horror (matched by Anne’s heroism) is unthinkable. Yet apparently it is not unbelieberable—at least not for Justin.

Now, the purpose of this article is not to sit back and throw stones at this young man but to draw our attention to the shameful parenting that exists in our country. Yes, shameful.

When parents inculcate a culture of idolatry—of anyone or anything—then they are failing in a huge way. Such failures are bound to affect our society in the years to come.

Though I don’t watch a lot of television shows, I have seen enough on the three channels that we do get (for some reason E-TV does not like our antennae) to know that idolatry is alive and well. The most popular seem to be those that show you how the rich and famous live. The not-so-subtle undertone is that if you are really important, then you will dress like her, have beautiful teeth and smile like him, or live in a really swank home—either in the wealthier parts of Cape Town or in the north in Gauteng. (We southerners, of course, know where the truly important people live!)

Then, of course, there are those conspicuous, unapologetic and more honest shows like Idol. At least there is no pretence that they are seeking to promote anything other than idolatry.

Many years ago, Neil Postman wrote his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death. He argued in this (well worth reading) book that most Western cultures were moving away from the value of words (and thus from reading) to the deceitfulness of images. In fact, I found it fascinating that he, a presumed unbeliever, argued for the value of words from the Ten Commandments. Further, he even argued that he saw the church dangerously moving away from proclamation to things such as drama, and emphasising image rather than the concrete text of Scripture itself. He lamented that a day was coming when people would stop with any meaningful thinking and would simply be manipulated by images. That day, at least for many, has come. Frivolous, shallow and empty pop culture has topped meaningful cultural engagement. In other words, there are too many “beliebers.” And, yes, parents are the primary cause.

Now I seriously doubt that BBC has any beliebers—at least, I hope not. (And if there are any, I am happy to help you to apostatise to become an unbelieber!) Nevertheless, I want to urge parents to so shepherd their children that they will become thinkers. Help them to grow up with an ever-increasing ability to look beyond fashionable haircuts, tattoos and trousers that are about to fall down, and rather to become young people of substance. Anne Frank understood serious issues of life and death, and no doubt her parents helped to foster such depth of contemplation. It would be a stretch to say the same of Mr Bieber. And what about your teenager?

A father by the name of Andrew boasted on a blog about the Bieber concert: “My daughter (15 years old) had the time of her life!! Standing in the front row in Golden circle. . . . Now, let’s hope she can move on and focus on school work and start listening to some quality music. . . . Then again you [are] only young once.”

A young lady by the name of Shannon replied, “Your [sic] right, I’m madly in love with Justin Bieber and I unfortunately never got the chance to go, but that’s amazing of you as a father to have done that for her.” Really? “Amazing?” Does this make him a great father? By what possible definition? I am not saying this man does not love his daughter and that he was not intent on doing something special for her. What I am saying is that he needs some help with his thinking.

You see, when this father said, “then again you [are] only young once,” I simply want to say, “Yes—that is the precisely the point!” Since our children are only young once, let’s use the time wisely to shape them for higher aspirations than worshipping, from the Golden Circle, a self-absorbed young man who is increasingly revealing his disdain for the righteousness of God.

While our children are young, guide them so that they will become passionate with that which is virtuous and pure and noble and biblically holy rather than with that which is fallen and fading (1 John 2:15-17).

When our children were young, we banned the viewing of some popular TV shows that most would have seen as innocuous. Jill and I were persuaded that the subtle message of worldliness was potentially poisonous to the spiritual and intellectual wellbeing of our children. We were not trying to be killjoys. Rather, we were seeking to protect our children’s appetites. We wanted them to develop a hunger for that which is substantive and wholesome, rather than that which is superficial, worldly and ultimately useless. In other words, we sought to raise our children so that, when the world was gaga (that is another article that needs to be written!) about the likes of the latest pop cultural icon, they would conclude that it was simply unbelieberable.

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