Britney Spears, who the secular media can't seem to get enough of, is continuing to draw criticism over her music, her questionable parenting, and more recently over photos showing the pop star coyly sitting on a priest's lap in a confessional booth.
The black-and-white photo – part of the album artwork featured in Spear's fourth album, released on Oct. 30 – have not sparked the level of outrage from Catholics as Madonna's past provocations, but has caught the attention of Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who called the pictures a "bottom of the barrel" stunt.
"This is all the puzzle pieces coming together. This girl is crashing," said Donohue in a New York Daily News report. "She's not even allowed to bring up her own kids because she's not responsible enough. Now we see she can't even entertain."
Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications of Catholic League, called the photographs a "cheap publicity stunt."
The images were a ploy to get the media talking about her album instead of her music, she told MTV.
"All we see is how troubled this girl is now, especially with her family, losing her kids, with her career on a downward slide," McCaffrey added. "She should be focusing on singing and dancing and trying to be an entertainer without mocking a Catholic sacrament."
While Spears has many critics, a megachurch in Kentucky has decided to show the star support, love and compassion. Members at the Southland Christian Church in Lexington have gathered letters bearing messages such as "Britney, Jesus loves you," "The congregation of Southland Christian Church loves you as Jesus loves you," and "We are praying for you."
"If she were your next-door neighbor in the same situation without the money and success, wouldn't you care about her problems? Wouldn't you pray for her and offer her support and encouragement?" Southland senior pastor Jon Weece asked members of the 8,000-person church.
In a world as fallen as ours, sin abounds. And where there is sin, there is judgment. But also, where there is sin, there should be compassion and prayers.
The response by Southland Christian Church should be applauded. While it is easy – and perhaps natural – to condemn what is wrong and to blast what is evil, the more correct and often harder approach, as Jesus revealed to us, is to embrace sinners and to pray for those who we could consider as our enemies. And as followers of Christ, we have been called to do the latter more so than the former – which should be left to God.
"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:17-19)
"If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." (1 Corinthians 3:12-13)
The Britney Spears case is simply one example of how Christians can help turn around people and situations while revealing the image of God's love to an unbelieving world.
This week, students nationwide kicked off a campaign aiming to break the widely-held belief that Christians hate gays.
While the participants of the annual "Allies, Too" campaign commit to the belief that "sexuality was purposefully created for marriage between a man and a woman," students have been encouraged to stand up for what both Christians and gay-rights advocates agree on – true tolerance, safety, and respect. And they are speaking out against harassing or using demeaning language against others, including LGBT persons, while pursuing dialogue and sharing their faith with gentleness and respect.
"We are followers of Jesus Christ, dedicated to communicating His love and His offer of relationship with God to everyone, without exceptions," according to an "Allies, Too" core principal.
This year's campaign comes after recent Barna Group study found that the majorities of both young non-Christians and young churchgoers say present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual."
"As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians," the Barna report stated.
Young Christians largely criticize the church, saying it has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else and that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.
Among other common impressions, 23 percent of young non-Christians said "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today's society no longer looks like Jesus." Young born-again Christians were just as likely to say the same (22 percent).
With developments such as these, every Christian should make greater efforts to turn the tide – engaging in actions that will spur change and reveal more clearly the image of God.
Honestly, condemning sin may not change anything. Praying, however, can change everything.
Believers should ask themselves if they are simply condemning sin or if they are truly praying for those caught up in sin.
When Christians go from strictly pointing out problems and identifying sin to praying and making efforts to fix what is wrong, we will witness the world change and the image of God more clearly revealed in the ones whom He has called to be His hands and feet – to reach out to the lost.
Are we on the field, playing on God's team? Or are we just hecklers in the crowd?
Those are questions every Christian should ask themselves.