Conversing with the Culture: “We Can’t Stop,” by Miley Cyrus

20130910-145050.jpgExcerpt of Lyrics:

To my homegirls here with the big butt
Shaking it like we at a strip club
Remember only God can judge us
Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya

What happened to Miley Cyrus? I’ve heard enough people ask this question over the past couple of weeks. She used to be so young, so innocent, and now she is twerkin half-naked in front of millions of people on an awards show. “She used to be so pure,” I hear them say. The truth, however, is that she never was innocent and pure. That is the truth for all of us, by the way. The outward change in the way she expresses herself in her career, however, results from the fact that she just desires to be ‘grown up’ and be recognized as such. The sad reality is that what she is trying so hard to become is exactly how the world defines ‘grown up’ these days. Her role models are Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and she desperately wants to be seen in their light. Elements of her youth, however, linger in her music about young ‘love’ and partying, which is the theme of the song, “We Can’t Stop.”

Tragically this song by Miley expresses the overwhelming worldview of most young people today. The opening lines of the song, “It’s our party we can do what we want,” offers a succinct summary of that worldview. All of life for people this age includes two rules: no accountability and no authority. Well, maybe just empty authority. How sad is it that a young girl would actually be proud of “shaking it like we at a strip club?” What does that say about young women of our culture? I hear all the time that Christians and conservatives are on a “war against women.” I say instead that it is pop culture that has been on the front lines of such a war for a long time. Do the lyrics of this song actually characterize how young women desire to be viewed? And I’m the one who hates women and is on a war against them because I stand for life and fight abortion? Really?

This song presents a version of accountability that has been radically shaped by the Fall. It states that the only person I am accountable to is myself. Anyone who would dare offer a rebuke are just “haters,” and within this shameless culture of self-promotion, there will always be “somebody” that “loves ya.” After all, that is the tainted definition of friendship in this culture: anyone who simply accepts you for “who you are” and enables you on your journey of self-actualization. But to that, I have to ask what is the outcome? The lyrics of this song answer that question loud and clear.

I say that no authority marks the worldview of this generation, but I guess it would be better to call it flimsy authority. That is what parents have offered, and young people have embraced it. In an effort to help young people grow in self-esteem we have largely removed any and all barriers to their behavior, choosing to call even the worst behavior “self-expression.” Their parents’ generation not only tolerates this, but seems to celebrate it. The truth is, their watching the perverse display of their children expressing themselves only serves to stoke their own youthful and sinful fantasies, wishing they too could shed the shackles of adulthood and join in the party. The best they can hope for is simply that their children will look at them as friend and not as oppressor. After all, who wants to be a “hater?” Instead, effort is given to providing ‘safety’ along this journey and ‘safe places’ for their self-expression to take place.

What has been the response of young people been to this? Miley sings, “We run things, things don’t run us.” Sad, but all too true. In most homes within our society, it is the children and not the parents that seem to run the show. So, how has this picture of authority shaped this generation’s view of God? The same. God is viewed as a pal, and as Lady Gaga has expressed, He has created us to be “born this way.” And of course, “we were all born superstars” and “God makes no mistakes,” making him just another enabler and celebrator of our pursuit of self-actualization. One can affirm that Miley (mildly) recognizes God as judge when she writes, “Only God judges us,” although she seems to indicate through her reaction to this that his judgment does not mean too much. Either she thinks that, like her parents’ generation’s version of authority, God’s authority is flimsy and empty, or that his judgment is nothing to fear. Either way, her view of God and his judgment is absolutely wrong. God is a righteous judge and his time of judgment looms. And unlike what can be said of most parents today, the writer of Hebrews declares, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

So, how does the gospel speak back to Miley and her lyrics?

First, young women should understand just who they are as God’s precious creation, having been made in his image. They should not have to sacrifice their purity and self-respect on the altar of acceptance and attention. When girls allow Miley’s lyrics to affirm them in these kinds of vulgar displays for attention, the relationships that result will only bring about brokenness and further loss of identity. The boys that Miley would attract through the playing out of her lyrics will be ones who have absolutely no desire to actually know her, but rather just want to touch and experience her. Have young women in our culture willingly made that trade? They would rather be experienced and desired (sexually) more than being known (personally)? We wonder why there seems to be so much broken relationships that leave women wondering why men do not want to commit and seem to show no desire in actually knowing them on a deeper level. Ladies, find your identity in Christ, who has accomplished what is necessary to redeem you and restore you to what you were really created to be: a daughter of the most high God. Truly seek to be known by him as you seek to truly know him.

Second, the lie of liberation through having no accountability and authority are simply lures on Satan’s hook. These lures are not new. Remember, his very first deception of Eve centered upon a promise of liberation. “Eat this fruit and you will not surely die, but rather you will be like God!” We all, in our sinfulness, desire to be like God. Our sinful hearts all desperately desire to join in singing the refrain, “we run things, things don’t run us!” Eve lusted after God’s authority, wanting to decide for herself what is right and wrong instead of submitting to God’s authority for such things. But the fact that self-determination and self-actualization as the highest form of truth is a lie. Really, as Ephesians 2:1-3 asserts, those outside of Christ are in bondage, blindly “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” What you believe to be liberation through self-actualization is really bondage to flesh and sin that will ultimately lead to eternal spiritual death.

Third, God’s judgment is his to determine, not ours; and he already has. I am afraid that stars like Miley Cyrus who have claimed Christianity at points of their career have bought the lie that their level of success in their industry holds a direct correlation to God’s view of them. She is growing in her success and fame, therefore God must be judging her favorably by blessing her. I would suggest to Miley that this is unbiblical and dangerous. We must never base God’s judgment of us on our circumstances in life. After all, according to Scripture, “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God does not operate based on karma. Karma does not exist. Instead, John 3:17-19 offers a straightforward teaching concerning God’s judgment:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light haas come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.

God will not display his judgment towards Miley’s actions through her level of success. After all, what is it that brings about ‘success’ in a sinful world? No, Miley stands condemned already. One day she will face that judgment, and her only hope is in having Jesus stand as her substitute through faith in his accomplished life, death and resurrection. And actually, the statement that “only God can judge me” is less than biblical in the first place. No, we are not to stand in judgment over people, creating a perch of self-righteousness. But, based on what is said about the true nature of gospel and the transformation it brings to a person’s life, I believe we can clearly discern (or judge) whether there exists the fruit of true salvation in someone’s life. This song alone clearly indicates to me that Miley definitely does not have a heart to live for God’s glory, nor any evidence of the Spirit’s abiding, transforming and convicting presence in her life.

So, what does Miley need? To clean up her act? To go back to her ‘innocent’ roots? No, Miley needs the rescue that can only be found in Jesus. She needs the radical transformation that only the gospel can provide. She has bought the lie that this life is all about her and her pleasure. She has sadly placed all of her hope in attaining the same status as ‘stars’ like Lady Gaga. It is clear that she is willing to pay whatever the cost to attain that treasure. The saddest part about that is that millions of young girls are are following her lead.

I Married my bride, Erin, in 2003. We have 3 children: Emma, Elijah, and Lydia. I have served full-time on staff at Westwood Baptist Church, in Roxboro, NC, since summer of 2006 as Pastor of Students & Discipleship. I am currently enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, pursuing my Doctorate of Education.

2 thoughts on “Conversing with the Culture: “We Can’t Stop,” by Miley Cyrus

  1. Reblogged this on Among the Outlaws and commented:
    As the dad of a beautiful little girl and the big brother of three beautiful sisters, I have real concerns about the lie society is selling to young women about their identity and self worth. Instead of liberating them (as it claims), it is holding them in bondage and leading them down the long road of heartache and shame.

    Young ladies, please know that each of you are a works of beauty fashioned by a most excellent God. He doesn’t make junk! Don’t fall victim to thinking that you must sell yourself out in order to find acceptance. Find your true identity in Christ and allow everything else to flow out of His love for you. Doing so will allow you to find the true freedom to be who you know you are supposed to be.

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