Justin Bieber

Vogue does Justin and Hailey Bieber, their pre-marital abstinence and hipster churches

Vogue does Justin and Hailey Bieber, their pre-marital abstinence and hipster churches

There’s been a glut of news pieces recently about hipster churches that attract famous people such as pop icon Justin Bieber and new wife Hailey Baldwin.

According to this month’s Vogue cover story, complete with gorgeous photography by Annie Leibovitz (see above), the couple opens up about their marital struggles.

There’s a bunch of features out there, all of which have Bieber’s name in the headline (good for SEO), asking if the recent glut of Hollywood celebrities finding religion is ruining Christianity.

The big takeaway from the Vogue piece was the couple admitting they both refrained from sex before getting married last fall, mainly because of their faith. That one admission, hardly a shock to anyone who knows basic Christian doctrine on sexuality, made headlines in other outlets.

In an odd way it proves that at least some teachings are getting through to people who go to a new breed of megachurch that specializes in the rich and famous.

Sprinkled amidst the Vogue piece were observations about the churches Bieber/Baldwin attend, including the Manhattan branch of Hillsong, a church network originating in Australia. The couple is also connected with Churchome here in Seattle because its pastor, Judah Smith, is one of Bieber’s mentors. Vogue noted this:

On a rainy night in Beverly Hills, a thousand or so 20-somethings in leather jackets, hoodies, skater T-shirts, and stoner pajama bottoms filter into the Saban Theatre for the weekly Wednesday service of Churchome, Judah Smith’s Seattle-based ministry, which is part of a new wave of evangelical congregations attracting young Angelenos. High fives and bro hugs ripple through the auditorium.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

New York Times feature on Zoe Church of Los Angeles asks: Can churches be too hip?

New York Times feature on Zoe Church of Los Angeles asks: Can churches be too hip?

I have to say, this is one clever article. I rarely run into news reporters (other than religion-beat pros) who know anything about Hillsong and Mosaic.

What follows is a New York Times piece about a Seattle pastor who moved to Los Angeles to start a new church and who’s succeeded quite well. But added to the story are little hints that at some point, this young pastor has sold out to the zeitgeist. We all know the William Ralph Inge saying: "He who marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next."

But for now, marrying what’s cool in 2018 is paying off nicely for the pastor (I guess that he was ordained by someone, although the story doesn't say) at the heart of this story. It starts like this:

LOS ANGELES -- On a strip of Wilshire Boulevard, not far from where the rapper Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in a drive-by shooting some 20 years ago, a black plastic pool had been placed on the sidewalk outside the El Rey Theater. It was a balmy December afternoon, and the theater had been transformed into an assembly for Zoe Church, a two-and-a-half-year-old evangelical congregation that got its start in a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard.
Today was Baptism Sunday and nearly a dozen adults signed up, cheered on by a crowd of mostly 20-somethings who were gathered behind a metal barricade. Chad Veach, the 38-year-old founder of Zoe, who moved to West Los Angeles from Seattle in 2014, chewed gum as he danced to a pop gospel playlist blaring overhead. “Let’s go!” he shouted, clapping. A pair of muscular men dunked a woman in the waist-high water. She surfaced, arms pumping the air, as a friend snapped photographs that were later posted on Instagram…
Zoe -- pronounced “zo-AY, like, be-yon-SAY,” as Mr. Veach often says -- is one of the newest in a wave of youth-oriented evangelical churches making their homes here. While most are content to have a church and a campus or two, Mr. Veach is claiming nothing less than Los Angeles County and its population of 10 million. “We’ll have many locations,” he said of Zoe. He is opening a San Fernando Valley campus on Sunday and plans one more per year for the next decade or so.

Then come the mentions of Hillsong and Mosaic. Then there's the fact that this new church draws 1,600 people per Sunday and that the pastor has major connections with pop star Justin Bieber.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

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.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

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 …

Please respect our Commenting Policy