Her personal pilot said the young star had a sincere faith and moral convictions. He felt confident she would not trade her character for fame.
At age 11, Miley auditioned for a new Disney Channel television series about a schoolgirl with a secret double life as a teen pop star. She received the lead position and Hannah Montana premiered in 2006. The show quickly ranked among the highest-rated series on cable. This propelled Miley to teen idol status.
Through her Hannah Montana years, she maintained a kid-friendly image for the most part. But as she grew out of this role, she quickly began to distance herself from the squeaky clean image with risque performances, drugs and blatant immorality.
I wish the pilot's prediction had been correct...but it was not. Miley has turned her back on the Bible truths she was taught as a child. She is very vocal about where she stands in matters of faith. Here are some of her quotes.
(referring to Noah's Ark) "That's [expletive] insane. We've outgrown that fairy tale, like we've outgrown [expletive] Santa and the tooth fairy."
"I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn't involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that's legal, I'm down with. Yo, I'm down with any adult—anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don't relate to being boy or girl, and I don't have to have my partner relate to boy or girl."
"You are all stardust. You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded, because the elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, all the things that matter for evolution) weren't created at the beginning of time. They were created in stars. So forget Jesus. Stars died so you can live."
"I love my parents, but they are conservative [expletive] mother [expletive]."
Miley is an example of a kid who is raised in church, makes a profession of faith, appears to follow Jesus for awhile, but then turns away from his or her faith in their older teen or young adult years. Miley is not alone. The stats show this. And though the stats vary from report to report, one thing we do know...it's a problem that the church continues to grapple with.
Why do kids turn away from the faith? What causes them to say, do and belief the exact opposite of what they embraced as a child? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are factors that it can be traced back to. Here are some of them.
I John 2:18-19 says, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."
One reason kids turn away from the faith is because they were not true believers. They knew about Jesus, but they didn't know Jesus. This is the critical difference. A child can memorize verses, sing the songs, listen to the Bible lessons, go to church and keep a set of rules...but if they don't have a personal experience with Jesus, then their faith is not real.
God doesn't have any grandchildren. He only has children. A child must own their faith. If they are riding on dad and mom's faith, when they are on their own, the child's lack of faith will soon become apparent.
One of the keys to seeing kids make a true profession of faith is taking time to help them clearly understand the decision they are making. Far too many kids have went forward in a service, been "announced" to the church and baptized without a clear understanding of what they are doing.
We must present the Gospel clearly and then pray as God draws kids to Himself. Our job is not to push kids to make a decision, nor is it to hold kids back. Our job is to simply walk alongside them and share the Gospel. As we do this, God will draw them to Himself.
Kids have the ability to spot fakeness. When they see their parent's life at home doesn't match their parent's life at church, it has a negative impact on their faith. And when they see hypocrisy in the life of church leaders, it has a negative impact on their faith.
Proverbs 13:20 reminds us how important friends are. You eventually become your friends. Many a child has been influenced away from the faith by their friends. Whether it's making bad choices in high school to be accepted or the influence of new friends in college, relationships are a key to the path a child takes.
As parents, we must know who our kid's friends are and help guide them toward relationships that will strengthen their faith and away from relationships that will sabotage their faith.
For most kids, fame will not come calling, but for the few who do experience it, it can put their faith to the test big-time. The pressure to compromise for success, can cause kids like Miley to trade in their purity ring for popularity, wealth and notoriety.
Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Notice He didn't say it's impossible, He just said it's hard. It takes a very deep faith to survive fame. Ideally, the fame can be used to spread the Gospel and make an impact for Christ, but that's hard to sustain when you're in a culture that demands the opposite if you want to stay on top.
Katy Perry is another example of this. You can read more about how she has turned away from her faith in this article.
I have found that many times, when a child makes a decision to begin a relationship with Jesus, later on, in their teen or young adult years, they come to a point where they have to make a decision about fully surrendering to the Lordship of Christ or not.
I am not talking about "getting saved" again. I believe a child who sincerely asks Jesus to be their Lord and Savior enters a relationship with Jesus and that is forever. But as they grow older and their life expands into more areas of choices, relationships and plans, they are faced with a decision of following God's will or doing their own thing.
I am an example of this. I accepted Jesus when I was six-years-old. It was very real to me and I knew what I was doing. I can still remember what happened like it was yesterday. Later, in my teen years, God brought me to the point of making a decision about whether I was going to fully surrender to His plan for my life or not. It was not a matter of salvation, but a matter of surrender. I really believe if I had said "no" to His working in my life, I would have opened myself up to walking away from Him to some extent.
I believe in many instances, a young person who turns away from his or her faith does so because they are brought to a point of surrender and are unwilling to totally yield to God's work in their life.
We must teach kids that we must daily take up our cross and follow Jesus. On our journey with Him, He will reveal more to us along the way. It's at these points of revelation that we must continue to surrender to His Lordship if we want our faith in Him to continue to grow deeper.
FOUNDATION THAT IS WEAK
A weak faith foundation will be exposed once its put to the test. The college classroom will shake it. The dorm room will put cracks in it. The temptations will make it shift. The tragedy that doesn't make sense will crush it.
We must be proactive in bringing up the tough questions and helping kids grapple with the answers by digging into God's Word. You don't want the first time they face those questions to be in a college classroom.
We must be very strategic in what we teach kids...making sure they have a solid knowledge of the foundational truths of the Bible. A shallow understanding of God and His Word will be swept away by the tide of postmodern culture.
FAILURE TO APPLY GOD'S WORD TO EVERY AREA OF LIFE
Kids who turn away from their faith have often compartmentalized their faith. This is why you will see someone stand at an awards show or athletic event and thank God for helping them while living a lifestyle that is the exact opposite of His plan. This is why you will see someone stand with their hands raised in worship on Sunday and then find out they are sleeping with their boyfriend during the week.
As they try to justify their lifestyle, the "God" compartment of their life slowly fades away. Eventually a vibrant faith is reduced to only an occasional mention of God. I believe this is what has happened to Miley. She didn't wake up one morning and say, "I'm going to deny God's Word today." It was a slow fade.
We must teach kids that God wants to invade every area of their life and that Matthew 6:33 is His desire. He wants us to put Him first in every part of our lives. And as we surrender to His Lordship, we find the peace and purpose that we are looking for.
FOCUSING ON WHAT WE'RE AGAINST MORE THAN ON WHAT WE'RE FOR
Tolerance is a huge part of the fabric of the next generation. The roots of this tolerance can be found in postmodernism where "every man does what is right in his own eyes" and there is no absolute truth. If there is no absolute truth, then no one has the right to say someone's lifestyle or choices are wrong.
Kids have been swept up into this line of thought and anyone who stands for truth is labeled "judgmental, a bigot or intolerant." Couple that with Christians who are very vocal in standing for truth without balancing it with love and you've got a recipe for faith erosion.
When kids grow up only hearing about what the church is against and not what we are for, they will begin to see church leaders as hatemongers instead of people with a heart for others.
We must speak the truth...in love. That is the key. Truth and love are like the wings of an airplane. The plane can't fly without both wings balancing each other out. We must love people to the truth without compromising the truth. The "in love" is what will draw kids to the truth and ignite their hearts to help others experience it.
The next generation wants to make a difference. They are confident and ready to lead. We must point them to what we are for and let them create ways to make an impact in those areas.
If we stop with what we are against, the next generation will walk away. But if we give kids the opportunity to build bridges constructed with a heart of love for others, they will engage and go on mission to love others to the truth.
8-year-old Miley will be sitting in your class this Sunday. 10-year-old Miley calls you "mom" and is watching what you "say" with how you live your life. 12-year-old Miley has questions she's grappling with but won't bring them up in class unless you do.
Let's help kids walk toward faith and not away from faith.