- (Photo: Reuters / Rick Wilking)
- (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
While courts continue their church-state separation rulings that take religion out of public schools, young people have now gravitated to popular culture to find religious examples and values.
Imagine a world where parents tell their children to listen to that Justin Bieber interview because he openly talks about his Christian faith. A youth minister somewhere probably shows Broncos games to a ministry of sports fan and uses Tebow as an example of God's work.
It may not be such a peculiar thing to think that young people turn to pop-culture to find religious values and teachings.
Ever since his days at the University of Florida, Tebow passionately expressed his faith in God. Fans also saw the same God-fearing man win a Heisman Trophy, two national championships, and produce one of the most celebrated careers in college football history.
Now in the NFL, Tebow starts of almost every post-game press conference thanking Christ. After his improbable victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he had more than 400 total yards on the top-ranked defense, he started a press conference saying, "first of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He's done so much in my life."
He calls his opponents, "Brother", sings gospel songs during games and popularized a praying gesture that became known as "Tebowing."
Bieber has also loudly proclaimed his Evangelical faith. He has been sporting a large tattoo on his calf of Jesus Christ and in a V magazine interview, he said that he has regular communication with God.
Cathleen Falsani, who wrote "Belieber: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber," believes that Bieber's recent physical transformation is an act of him settling into his spiritual life.
"I think that's what we're seeing Justin do now, whether it's in his choice of body art or in how he has, in recent months, been more explicitly vocal - unprompted, largely - about his faith," Falsani said.
Former Disney star and singer, Demi Lovato, has also talked about her faith, using Twitter. After some time in rehab, Lovato told her fans that it was God that helped her get her life together.
Young people like this who promote their faith for their fans to see are helping to bring Christianity into popular culture. Whittier College Religious Studies professor Joseph L. Price told Fox News that young people are impressed by the position and appearance of these celebrities.
"Simply because of their popularity and prominence they are perceived as heroes and role models," Price said. "When celebrities express appreciation to God for their talents this generation will see it as aspirational."
The surprising movement of Christianity to pop is happening as courts are embroiled in church-separation battles to remove the church completely from public schools. In the early 1960's, the courts banned the promotion of religion in public schools and in 2011, the courts ruled that churches could not use public school buildings to conduct religious meetings in New York City.
According to a 2011 New York Times report, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit voted 2-1 that there was a "strong basis to believe" that allowing the religious service to be conducted in schools could be seen as the kind of endorsement of religion that violated the First Amendment establishment clause.
Jane L. Gordon, a New York City lawyer, called the ruling "a victory (for the) city's schoolchildren and their families." She said that the Education Department was "quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse city identified with one particular religious belief or practice," according to The New York Times.
While many schools continue to bar God from the classroom, pop-culture icons have found a hidden benefit to their faith-based promotions.
Ann Neuman, editor of The Revealer Website at New York University's Center for Religion and Media, said that being Godly can be good for marketing, according to Fox News.
"Bieber's godliness makes him particularly safe and acceptable to tweens and their parents," Neuman said.
She believes that by aligning themselves with God, fans may view them as a martyr, which can also be appealing. She says that having God in your corner means that He still loves you even when you're criticized for a bad concert or bad game.
"It also means a devoted audience for your product of fellow believers and a ready parable of both success and failure," Nueman said.