Youth, Grace, Ignorance, and Justin Bieber


Over the weekend, my wife looked at me over her laptop and said, "Oh my God, did you hear what Justin Bieber wrote in the guest book when he visited the Anne Frank House?"  

You probably have by now, but just in case:

So, one of the world's biggest (and youngest) Pop Stars visits a site that in many ways is sacred ground and offers the lamest, most ego-centric, poorly stated sentiments one could possibly imagine.

It makes me shudder to think what he'd say if he visited the 9-11 Memorial…

Anyway, one of the things that comes up in the article is a statement by actor and writer, Simon Pegg.  He quite rightly remarks that when he was 19 (Bieber's age), he wasn't the most sensitive or articulate of persons, either; and most of us aren't at that age.

That might hold some water with me if we weren't speaking about Anne Frank, a writer herself, who at the very tender ages of 13-15 composed her diary that has been such a prolific work for so many.

So at an age quite younger than Bieber's, she runs eloquence rings around him with her writing that are truly embarrassing.

Forgive me, but blaming an ego-laden comment on youth in a setting like the Anne Frank house is simply no excuse.  I know young people Bieber's age and younger that would have the sensitivity and maturity to understand Anne Frank's journey, the sanctity of the space, how her fear, courage and suffering were a mirror to the horror experienced by millions in one of the worst atrocities in modernity….

And that ISN'T the time or place for trite phrases, let alone remarks that turn the focus back to the Self….can you imagine?

I had the deep blessing of visiting the concentration camp in Dachau when I was in Munich many years ago when I wasn't much older than Bieber.  

Would it have even occurred to me to sign the guest register there and say something about MYSELF?!?  It would be akin to me writing, "Wow, lots of bad stuff happened here to some good people.  Had they known me, hopefully they would have thought I was wonderful."

Kinda makes me go….


Grace, Empathy, Compassion, Selflessness, Introspection…these are not qualities only relegated to adults.  Children and young people have these qualities in spades, too; especially if they are nurtured and tended by equally compassionate adults around them.

To say that his youth and essentially his ignorance towards grace in a sensitive situation are to blame lets him off the hook way too easily.  I know young people half Bieber's age who would have said something far more articulate, grace-filled, and selfless.

Not to mention appropriate….

Jesus blessed children (a big taboo in his day) and cherished them, and so should we.  One of the ways we honor that truth is giving them hearts and minds that respond accordingly to the world around them.  We have profound roles in that process as parents, aunts and uncles, teachers, coaches, friends at church, and mentors.

I can only shake my head in disgrace at the lack of sensitivity and overflowing ego that would lead anyone, regardless of age, to take something as horrific as the Holocaust and turn it around to be about themselves.  Maybe that's the world Bieber lives in, but it isn't mine and it certainly isn't the world as informed by my faith.

Maybe it was just a poor choice of words, but in a world where privacy is almost non-existent and everything we do and say can be broadcast around the world in a second's time thanks to social media, we need to take extra care with our words and our actions.

Or as someone remarked to me just yesterday, "Act as if you are the only Bible someone will ever read."

Got that, Bieber?  I don't care that you're "only" 19…..grow up.  You could learn a thing or two from Anne Frank without considering whether she'd dig you or not.

My money's on "not."

Peace,  Shawn





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