What We Should Be Talking About When We Talk About Miley Cyrus

On Sunday night, Miley Cyrus made history with one of the most distasteful performances ever at the VMAs. A feat, for sure. On Monday, my Twitter and Facebook feed filled with observations and criticisms. People seemed genuinely shocked and disoriented. How? Why?

I believe what Miss Cyrus did at the VMAs was wrong, drenched in darkness, and driven by a deep and wide separation from the intention and glory of God. I am appalled by the objectification of women, the slandering of God’s perfect and prismatic gift of sex, the debasement of the beautiful, and the shaming of innocence.

But I am not surprised. And I do not blame (at least not in the finger-wagging way) Miley Cyrus.

Over the past almost forty hours, Miley Cyrus the young woman has become Miley Cyrus the hastily composed, hardly dressed effigy—her performance Sunday night the sum total of her parts. And as all good effigies do, it’s drawn every ounce of attention away from our own guilt and complicity and focused it on a single, one-dimensional “person.”

Right now, to so many, Miley Cyrus represents everything wrong with music and culture, even the world.

But at the same time, right now, Miley Cyrus is a girl, sitting on a couch somewhere, trying to make choices and build a life. She’s a person, a flawed, hurt, confused person. As my husband so wisely says, “People are stupid. But they want to be good.”

What I want to say is this:

The problem is not Miley Cyrus. The problem isn’t any one person. Not Lady Gaga or Keisha or that guy who sings “Same Love.”

The problem is always, always sin—sin in Miley onstage and sin in you as you listen to her songs on the radio and sing along or read articles about her on-again, off-again love affairs in the check-out line.

Sin is what you saw in graphic detail on your television on Sunday night. And sin is what you see most every other night, too—on tv and in your chair.

“The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” I Timothy 5:24

I am never surprised by sin. I may be surprised to find it, lurking in places I’d tried to keep pure, but I’m never surprised by the magnitude of its reach or the burden of its consequences. I am not surprised that sin, left unchecked, destroys—decency, social expectations, trust, people, civilizations, worlds.

I am never surprised by sin, but I am always opposed to it. Aggressively and actively opposed. Like a soldier in a war, opposed. Like an antibody, opposed.

I’ve heard people debate whether or not we can love the sinner and hate the sin. I don’t know what there is to debate. I hate the sin in me. I hate what it does to me, the way it shackles me. I hate it in my husband, frustrated, and I hate the hints of it in my girls. I hate hearing my baby girl cry, “I don’t want to be ugly” when she says something mean. I hate hearing my oldest ask, “When will I always make good choices?” 

I hate sin. And I love the people it enslaves.

Because I do, and because I serve a God who hates and loves, too, I fight for freedom. I fight for me, and I fight for you.

I fight by speaking helpful truth. I fight, trying and trusting. I fight with prayer and I fight in confession. I fight with vulnerability.

I fight alongside and under the command of Jesus Christ who “came into the world to save sinners.”

Tonight, thinking about sin and the scale of the mountain we all climb, I read these words from a friend: “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat or a ladder.” And I’m reminded…

Don’t just stand there pointing out sin, obvious and dangerous. 

Get involved. Fight. Help.