Conversion is an ongoing process that relies on God's endless patience and grace, Pope Francis…
The inspiring — and surprising — conversion of Justin Bieber
The other day, I was driving along a fairly busy stretch of road with my two youngest daughters in the backseat when I noticed flashing lights ahead. Traffic slowed to a crawl, and as we got closer, I saw that there were multiple first responders at the scene of an accident — police cars, an ambulance, a fire truck and a tow truck. As we drove past, I slowed down even more to get a good look. One vehicle had rolled onto its side, and the front end of the other was caved in.
“What happened, Daddy?,” my 4-year-old asked from the seat behind me.
“Two cars got into a wreck,” I said as we drove by, still gawking.
“Are the people OK?” she asked, sweetly.
“I think so,” I said. “Everybody looks fine.”
I’m not alone in slowing down to stare at the misery of others, and generally, curiosity is more my motivation than compassion. We as a society do it all the time. We want to be entertained, and if that entertainment comes from the misfortunes of others, well, so be it.
The infatuation we have with celebrities is a case in point. Their lives are not really real; they’re lived two-dimensionally on a screen, and when we close our computers or put our phones in our pockets — once we’re done being entertained by their breakups or arrests or whatever other sad events in their lives have made headlines — their lives cease to mean anything to us.
A friend and co-worker recently shared with me a profile of pop star Justin Bieber in GQ magazine. Bieber’s personal life was a wreck for years — and one at which we couldn’t stop gawking. Every misdeed was breaking news on Twitter or TMZ or People magazine. The headlines told you everything you needed to know: He was a rich, entitled, wildly immature kid. To wit, during a trip to Amsterdam in 2013, Bieber visited the Anne Frank House, which serves as a reminder of the horrific struggles not only of a young Jewish girl and her family, but those of millions of people during Nazi occupation in World War II. A clueless Bieber wrote in the museum’s guestbook: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
He was 19 years old at the time. He’s 27 now, married. In the GQ article, with the headline “The redemption of Justin Bieber,” the singer speaks openly and honestly about the life he lived then, the life he’s trying to live now, and how his conversion has been sparked by his developing faith. He talks about the emptiness he felt — despite all the money, fame and success. “You wake up one day and your relationships are [messed] up and you’re unhappy and you have all this success in the world, but you’re just like: Well, what is this worth if I’m still feeling empty inside?”
He’s found meaning and fulfilment in forming a relationship with God. “He is grace,” Bieber told GQ. “Every time we mess up, He’s picking us back up every single time. That’s how I view it. And so it’s like, ‘I made a mistake. I won’t dwell in it. I don’t sit in shame. But it actually makes me want to do better.'”
I’ve always been a sucker for a redemption story, but even more than that, I’m uniquely interested in people who are living their conversion in real time in the public eye. It takes courage, especially in this day and age, when so many of Bieber’s fans and peers are rejecting God instead of praising him.
Justin Bieber speaking the truth about God being the source of happiness and fulfillment is unexpected, and while you might not like his music, or his past, his message is inspiring — and well worth listening to.
“I came to a place where I just was like, ‘God, if you’re real, I need you to help me,” Bieber said, “because I can’t do this on my own.'”
None of us can. Our lives are all wrecks without God.
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.