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I’m not going to bother explaining what happened at last Sunday’s VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. If you are internet-savvy enough to have found this article you most likely had to surf through myriad waves of pictures, blogs, and witty social media comments referencing the “incident” simply to get to this url. Thus, I’m assuming you are not only familiar with the incident, but also with America’s response to the incident. While most of the internet attention has gone to Miley’s performance I believe there are five reasons Christians should be more troubled by the response to her performance than by the performance itself

1. The Response Reveals a Righteousness Problem

arrives at the Billboard Music Awards 2013I first learned about Miley’s performance while sitting in my living room with five fellow Christians on Sunday night. Several of them were following their social media feeds during the VMA’s when they discovered the posts and pictures. Our immediate response to the information about Cyrus’ behavior was to laugh at her and make fun of her. In the days following I would find that this response was a common one amongst Christians.

Why do we find it so enjoyable to mock Miley? Could it be because our hearts are not filled with love for our neighbor? Proverbs 24:17 tells us, “do not rejoice when your enemy falls.” If we should not find pleasure in the fall of an enemy how much less should we find pleasure in the fall of a young woman we do not even know? Could it also be that we don’t really think of celebrities as God’s image bearers? Is this why our consciences are convicted when we mock or ridicule our co-worker yet we feel no such conviction in mocking and ridiculing celebrities, as if they are somehow less human?

[Tweet “Why do we mock Miley? Do we realize that she is made in the image of God and has intrinsic worth?”]

2. The Response Reveals a Sexism Problem

The overwhelming majority of the criticism for what happened at the VMA’s has been aimed at Miley Cyrus. Miley certainly put herself in a position to attract the majority of the attention. Yet Miley was not the only artist exploiting sex and female sexuality with vulgarity. Male R&B/pop artist Robin Thicke was onstage with her, willingly participating in the previously rehearsed spectacle and receiving every one of Miley’s not-so-subtle sexualized advances. And this “shocking” performance should not actually have been shocking to anyone. The various sexual actions that Miley referenced visually are all referenced sonically on the lyrics of the song she was “dancing” to, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Thicke’s song is every bit as vulgar and exploitative as the visual performance that accompanied it and it was not written by Miley Cyrus; it was written by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. – three men. Further, in many ways, Cyrus was only imitating the music video that accompanies this song.

[Tweet “The fact that no one criticized Robin Thicke, Pharrell or T.I. reveals a sexism problem in the culture.”]

So why is the overwhelming majority of the criticism aimed at Miley and not at the three men who wrote the perverse song or the man who performed with her? Could it be the sexism in our culture and in our hearts? A sexism that harms men by excusing them of behaviors they ought not be excused of? A sexism that harms women by simultaneously demanding they be sexual and condemning them for being so?

3. The Response Reveals a Racism Problem

In truth, there was nothing especially original nor noteworthy about Miley Cyrus’ performance. Such actions have been present in hundreds of rap and R&B videos for more than a decade. Yet there has never been comparable public outrage over any one of them.

So why is Miley receiving such backlash for something that MTV, BET, and VH1 have showed countless times in their “urban” video rotation? Could it be the racism in our culture and in our hearts? A racism that wrongly believes black women are hyper-sexual beings who are “freaks” by nature and should not be expected to behave otherwise? A racism that wrongly believes young All-American women (read: white) like Miley are sexually pure by nature and do not behave like she did on Sunday night unless some outside force has corrupted their innocence? Could it be that the “shock” over Miley’s performance is less a result of what was done on stage than it is a result of the race of the one who did it and our false and often unconscious presuppositions about “black sexuality” and “white sexuality”?

[Tweet “Why is Miley receiving backlash for something MTV, BET, and VH1 constantly portrays “urban” women doing?”]

[Tweet “Could it be the “shock” over Miley’s performance is less a result of what was done on stage…”]

4. The Response Reveals a Sexual Immorality Problem

There are a number of factors that shape an artist’s performance. But for a highly produced, ratings focused, wow-factor-seeking show like MTV’s Video Music Awards the dominant factor is the audience. MTV and its performers spend significant time and money trying to produce a show that will please the audience because a pleased audience equates to increased revenue and fame for station and artist alike. It was with the audience in mind that MTV, Robin Thicke, and Miley Cyrus planned, rehearsed, performed and aired the segment as they did. In other words, they did what they did because they believed we wanted to see it.

And they were right. The ratings for this year’s VMA’s increased by 66% over last year’s.

So why is Miley the primary recipient of our criticism? What about the millions of professing Christians who watched the broadcast on Sunday and the many who have since posted photos or videos capturing the immorality? What about the millions of Christians who helped create the culture within which such a performance can exist by spending money on websites, magazines, movies and music that celebrate sexual immorality? Could it be the sexual immorality in our hearts that has allowed such a culture to exist and has convinced artists like Thicke and Cyrus that it will benefit their careers to package and sell sexual immorality?

If the answer to any of the questions in any of the five sections above is “yes” then may God have mercy on us and lead us to repentance. May God remind us that the vulgarity in our own hearts is immeasurably worse than the vulgarity displayed on stage at the VMA’s.

[Tweet “May God remind us that the vulgarity in our heart is  worse than what was displayed on stage.”]

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