The Parable of Miley Cyrus

Photo courtesy ABC News

On August 25, 2013, a young woman attempted to spread her wings, and the world rejected her. I didn’t personally watch MTV’s Video Music Awards (“VMAs”), but I observed my friends and other reacting to the risqué performance of 20-year-old Miley Cyrus, of Disney fame. I don’t mean to disparage my friends with this post—not my intention. But I do want us to use the unfortunate miscalculation of a 20-year-old as a mirror for us and as an instrument to gauge our empathy.

I attended a small Bible college in the south suburbs of Chicago. Upon arriving on campus, I learned that our college had four elected class chaplains. I ran, of course; and I won. Well, I hesitate to say that I really “won” anything, because I messed things up. I wanted to make it big. I wanted to knock the socks off my class and find myself beloved by my entire college. And so I decided to preach my first sermon without notes. I gazed into the smiling faces of my classmates. And their smiles turned to quizzical smirks. And smirks turned into scoffs. I had no clue what I was supposed to say, but I had the floor for another 15 minutes. You know how you feel really good when you preach a well-crafted sermon that resonates with the congregation? This didn’t feel like that. I felt like Miley Cyrus the day after the 2013 VMAs. I didn’t bother running for class chaplain the next year. I only felt shame and embarrassment.

I’m convinced that we beat-up on people like Miley Cyrus because we have all had Miley Cyrus moments. We risked it all, and we fell short. We tried to make it big, but we failed big. And we know people were talking about our howler for days.

So, first, an admonition: cut the ego out of ministry. In fact, know that your inflated ego precludes ministry, and vice versa. It is one thing to use spiritual gifts for a higher purpose, and it is quite another thing to take center stage and knock the socks of those to whom we minister. Just don’t.

Second, a devotional thought: we all are in need of mercy. When our voices changed mid-sentence, when we bombed that important exam, when we failed our children or parents or friends, when we forgot our sense of mission, we were humbled. But God offers a hand of pardon. We are all redeemed. In our pain and anguish and shame, we hear the voice of the Messenger say, “Rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).

I will remember that failed attempt at a sermon forever, but I use that instance as a mirror. I can see how my own ego crippled my ability to minister to my peers. But I am covered in the mercy of God, and I am emboldened to share that mercy with others—especially Miley Cyrus.

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3 thoughts on “The Parable of Miley Cyrus

  1. That was a very well thought out & powerful article. Well said (I think we all needed to hear your words!) Nice Job!

  2. Daniel,
    Thank you for your post’s perspective. It is a point of view that we don’t often consider, that celebrities are human, and in need of grace just like the rest of humanity. I, like you did not watch the VMA’s, but based on the press’ reaction to the performance, what kind of mixed signals is our society giving off? As a historian, I often think of these performances in terms of how they will reflect centuries from now on our generation. When these videos are unearthed 200 or 500 years from now, they will reflect what ‘we’ found entertaining. These will be essential examples of our culture. Do we accept this? Do we reject these examples of ourselves? And if we reject them, how do we go about making that change?

  3. Daniel, thanks for your insights, that remind us all just how ‘human’ each one of us is. I saw the performance ‘after the fact’ and was more saddened than shocked – and as you inferred, it is important for all to see ‘ourselves’ in her misquided attempts. It is already ‘old news’, as the industry and culture dictates – so remembering that God does offer that hand of pardon, and so should we – to each other ‘always’… is what we should hold onto, instead of the twerking and the fallout opinions. It’s a new day, and we have a chance to constantly move forward, mistakes and egos behind! Good for you Daniel, for reminding us* Peace to you, Be well 🙂

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