Confession #46: A Missionary’s Response to Miley Cyrus

ImageI realize I am few days behind here, but you’ve got to give me credit here for even knowing what I am talking about. MTV, VMAs, Miley Cyrus, and the knowledge of a pop culture event that happened just this week- well, have I mentioned that I am an oversees missionary living in Haiti? Props to me, right?

For days my Facebook feed has been blowing up about Mileys “sexual performance”. Friends of mine are sharing their own opinions on their statuses. Some are forwarding blogs they are finding on the Internet where experts are trying to diagnose what has gone wrong with the once innocent child star.  Some are even calling others to join them in a special time of prayer for little Miss Hannah Montana.

Intrigued by the numerous amounts of people reacting to her performance, Hunter and I decided to look it up on YouTube. After we got past the horrid hairstyle she was sporting (Is that style “in” these days because perhaps I am just out of the loop.) we both just sat there in disbelief. “Did she really just do that? I kept asking. “Yeah, I think she did,” Hunter would say with a slight laugh. When it was over Hunter got up and said, “Well, I guess that is her way of telling the world she is not Hannah Montana anymore.”

Being a nanny in college, my afternoons were spent doing three things:

  1. Tutoring
  2. Taking kids to football and cheerleading practice
  3. Watching countless hours of Hannah Montana

That said, I am all too familiar with the good old side of Miley Cyrus. And being from Nashville myself, I have also rooted for her to do well. And although performing at the VMAs may be considered “doing well” by the world’s standards, I am not sure if I would agree.

I think one of the main reasons why Miley’s performance bothered me the most is because of my job at Emmaus House. Here I am, working daily with teenagers and trying my best to teach them that keeping their body pure and sacred is the way to go. And then here comes Miley, the same age as many of our Emmaus Youth, and counteracts that philosophy in a single four minute performance.  

And as I sat there and watched her performance on YouTube (twice) the first thought that ran through my head was that I hoped that none of the Emmaus Youth would ever see this video. First of all, as an outsider looking in to the American culture, I think it is slightly embarrassing. Giant teddy bears dancing sexy-like on stage? Really? Second, I know our teens see pop stars glamorizing sex all the time through their music, music videos, TV-shows, and movies, but Miley just took it a whole new level. And I don’t want to have to explain to them that although her performance was on a popular TV channel, accompanied by other popular artist, and concluded with applauses by popular people, her ways still aren’t good ways.

You see, in Haiti, our teens have such a skewed perception of Hollywood. In many of their minds, Hollywood ranks as high as Washington D.C. as far as value in America, and celebrities might as well be high-ranking politicians. I have had many of late night talks with our youth about their ideas of celebrities in America. I don’t know where they get their ideas, but they truly believe that Americans young and old bow down to those who live in Hollywood. I know there are some crazed fans out there, but the majority of us…well…we really don’t care. But our Emmaus Youth, they don’t believe that. But what would I know? I was only born and raised in America, right?

So if they saw Miley’s performance, I fear they might believe it was good simply because a celebrity did it. After all, America made Miley Cyrus popular for a reason, right? So whatever she does must be good! Logical, I know. And I would rather not have another “Not All Americans Love Celebrities/ Not All Celebrities Are Good Role Models/ If They are Singing about Sex, Have Sexy Clothes On, and Are Dancing In a Way That Looks Like Sex, IT ISN’T GOOD” talk anytime soon.

I am thankful that I have actually never heard any of our Emmaus Youth talk about Miley Cyrus before. She is defiantly not on their list of favorites by any means. So I don’t actually think we will run into this problem. But just because they may be sheltered from this one video, they still have a plethora of others at their finger tips. Why? Because we live in a world with thousands of Mileys- girl and boys versions. Mileys who don’t know God the way they should and who don’t respect themselves enough to allow themselves to become His holy temple.  And these are the celebrities our teens look up to. And that breaks my heart.

As Christians, what is our responsibility to this? Do we sit back, watch Miley, judge her, and move along with our lives? No, I don’t believe that is what Jesus would have us do. I think He wants us to find the Mileys around us in our own world. Love on them. Teach them. Be a model to them. Be overly gracious to them. And be Christ to them. The Mileys of the world- they need Christ. And the first place they will discover Him is through Me and through YOU!

I pray that my Emmaus Youth never see Miley’s VMA performance. And if they do, we will cross that bridge when it comes. Our Emmaus Youth are youth of honor and not of this world, and I will fight so that her influence will not make a mark on them. They are too precious.

But I cannot protect them forever. One day they will leave Emmaus House and they will be left to make these decisions on their own. So Emmaus House, if you will, is like a training ground. Daily Jonathan prepares them spiritually in the Word. Vivian works hard to prepare them with life skills such as how to manage a home. Gerome advises them with their career plans and mentors them as needs arise. And Hunter and I counsel them with their short-term goals. In other words, the five of us work as a team to prepare them for the real world outside of Emmaus House. A world where they can choose to watch Miley Cyrus all day long if they’d like. And so we prepare them, which is no easy task, but one we are all happy to do.

So yeah, I am a missionary here in Haiti and I am guilty of watching Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance not once…but twice. And you know what, I am actually kinda glad I’m over here in Haiti and can shelter myself from pop culture if I so choose.  Because let’s face it: A Christian life is just easier without it. Now if only I could convince the Emmaus Youth of the same…

~ Jillian 

4 Comments on “Confession #46: A Missionary’s Response to Miley Cyrus

  1. I love, love, love your paragraph that begins “As Christians, what is our responsibility to this?” Beautiful thoughts. Thanks!


  2. I could only watch it once. Very disappointing, not just her part, but the part of the the male singer, fully clothed. I went to a video of his to see what was up and was APPALLED, that virtually nude models were dancing all around him and other fully clothed male singers. What does this say about our girls (especially those that become models), who do this to get famous and what does it say that producers then hire these girls because they fantasize about having sex with them, whilst earnest hardworking actors learning their craft can toil their whole careers waiting tables and waiting for the big break, and the break doesn’t come. If you are gorgeous and get naked, you can be successful. The system is corrupt. You are right, all we can do is set the most positive example and hope it influences someone, anyone, to take the high road, not the gutter, and love Mother Earth, not the almighty dollar. Keep up the the good work, Jillian! – Kaye


    • I believe it becomes a hard line for many young women to walk. They want to be thought of as beautiful, want to be noticed, and thus, to make people notice and talk about them, they reject modesty (because that road takes longer for people to really listen). So keep loving and being an example (and realize that its not going to change over night, but over long-term).


  3. Loved your response. I work with Campus Crusade on a college campus so I’m very familiar with girls living life like this and it is so heart-breaking! Your suggested response is just so great, thank you!


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