Tim Tebow: Media Phenomenon

With the long-anticipated news yesterday that the New York Jets had severed ties with Tim Tebow, it seems likely that both his NFL career and his flash of celebrity have timed out.  And I’m irrationally disappointed about it.

Look, Tebow has myriad gifts, among them exceptional athletic ability, legendary leadership, and a great attitude.  The skills needed to play quarterback consistently in the NFL, however, appear to be missing at this point, at least according to the experts.  And since quarterback is nothing more and nothing less than a job, I can’t justify my disappointment that he may not excel at a job for which he lacks the requisite skills.  I don’t sit at home and worry about engineers who can’t remember calculus, nurses who can’t manage to administer the correct medication, or office assistants who can’t type, so why should I worry about a quarterback who can’t get the ball to his receivers?  Nobody else gets to keep a job they can’t do, so why should Tebow be any different?

The answer, of course, is he should not be.  But he is and we all know it.  And the reason why he warrants such special consideration provides an informative glimpse into the relationship between evangelicalism and media.

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Many have argued that Tebow became famous because he’s an evangelical and a self-promoter, but that’s false.  Tim Tebow’s fame began for one reason only: he won football games in college.  Not only did he experience mammoth successes, he earned them.  Tebow played well, he led even better, and he was a major factor in two national championships for the University of Florida during his time there – a fact confirmed when he was awarded the Heisman.  This is all easy to forget now that he’s struggling to put the football where it needs to be in the NFL, but in college, Tebow had enough skill to excel.

He became a media phenomenon – as opposed to being merely famous – because his evangelicalism was so unexpected: the handsome, muscular, national champion and Heisman trophy winner of a Florida university is supposed to be a self-involved party boy; he’s supposed to exist as the perfect archetype of all things jock, and we’re supposed to revile him accordingly, unless he ends up leading our favorite team to greatness.  Instead, with bible references in his eye black and a commitment to evangelizing the Philippines, he torched the stereotype and surprisingly managed a feat still greater: he proved interesting.

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Tebowing was a thing.  Now it’s not.  For some reason, some people seem to think that the originator of Tebowing ceased to be fascinating the minute dropping to one knee and posing ceased to be interesting.  I don’t understand why.  For one thing, you may have Tebowed in your life – hopefully before it stopped being a thing – but Tim never did.  He prayed.  He didn’t Tebow.  And the fact that some people can’t tell the difference is everything if you want to understand why he didn’t stop being interesting when his initial luster wore off.

To me, Tim Tebow remains interesting for several reasons, but none more vital than his ability to say, ‘no.’  His faith – that which so many missed when he would drop to his knee and pray – both required and empowered him to abstain from an unrivalled cocktail of temptations, and in his apparent success at rejecting such alluring opportunities, he became fascinating.  Look, even Solomon, when given all the fame and wealth life had to offer, turned into a debauched cautionary tale.  But this home-schooled Florida evangelical looks like he’s threading the needle and walking a path not even Solomon could manage, and I admit I’m not ready for the ride to end yet.  I want to see more because I’m still interested, and because I believe Tim Tebow might actually be able to handle the pressure of being such an icon.

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I’ve never met Tim Tebow, so I don’t know if he truly lives the spiritually upright life he clearly wants to live, but I have the strongest of suspicions he does.  The clearest evidence for this hides in plain sight in many of the media stories about him; at this point we’ve seen and read five uninterrupted years of stories about his humility, hard work, endless optimism, financial generosity, indomitable leadership, and general good-guyness.  The subtext of these stories, of course, is often that his poor passing is a shame, because he’s such a nice kid.  In fact, it often seems like journalists don’t know what to do with the fact that he’s so nice, so they visibly battle to fend off the clichés.

Which makes sense, if you’ve never heard of the fruit of the Spirit.  Since most readers of this blog have heard of the fruit of the Spirit, however, you can join me in observing that when the media report on Tim Tebow’s character, what we’re actually seeing is people who have no concept of the Holy Spirit trying to describe what it does in a person (in this case Tim Tebow) guileless enough to let the Spirit work.  When the media see optimism, we can read between the lines and see faith and hope in something far larger than an NFL paycheck.  The newspaper articles describe him as upbeat in the face of major setbacks, but we see joy, patience, and peace.  The television reports describe him as media-savvy and polished, but we see gentleness and self-control.

Sadly, however, in this case the fruit of the spirit seem invisible to those who aren’t already familiar with them.

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Tim Tebow would never have become so iconic if he weren’t an evangelical, and in that way, his evangelicalism has equipped him with a platform virtually impossible to earn via merit alone.  But as we reach what may be – but maybe not! – the end of the TIM TEBOW era, we can observe at least this one thing: no matter how large his media presence, he couldn’t control his message.  He prayed, and the media saw Tebowing.  He lived the fruit of the spirit in full view of America, but it emerged from the media filter as niceness.  His life story remains interesting, but it gets told in such a way as to make Mr. Rogers seem bacchanalian next to Vanilla Tim.  And therein lies the lesson.  As much as we may dislike admitting it, the media can never be a promotional tool for evangelicalism, because the media cannot tell stories they do not understand.  And Tim Tebow is exhibit A.

All of which make me more than a little disappointed that it may be over; I had hoped it would last until everyone could see what I see.  At any rate, that’s why I don’t care how he throws the ball, and that’s why I want more Tebow.  I want him to prove me wrong.

The Library of President W

Yesterday the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened in Dallas.  If you follow the news at all, you’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of the five presidents still living – and their wives – smiling at the ceremony.  As I reflect upon the tenure of our most evangelical President, I admit that while my feelings about his presidency remain mixed (he saved millions of African lives, but what about New Orleans?), I find the man himself fascinating.  So permit me to join the cacophony and share a few thoughts and reflections about President George W. Bush and the opening of his library.

The longer a President has been out of office, the bigger their smile as they wave at the ceremony.  Did you see the photos?  George W. Bush looks a little nervous, which makes sense since it’s his shindig.  Obama looks smug.  Clinton, meanwhile, looks pretty excited by the hoopla, while George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are smiling like freshman girls asked to the senior prom.  Seriously, I don’t think they could smile any bigger if they were trying to prove they still had all their teeth.  This may have to do with the evolution of media, of course; Barack Obama and George W. Bush – being presidents in the age of the internet – are accustomed to today’s media, and thus wary of it.  George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter never had to deal with the modern press, so they smile and enjoy it, absent the Pavlovian conditioning that makes the younger Bush and Obama fear it.  Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is Bill Clinton.  When he’s on the verge of death, the doctors should probably leave the defibrillator on the shelf and grab a camera to revive him instead.  Follow that advice, and he may live forever.

Speaking of living forever…  Jimmy Carter still looks good.  I saw him working his butt off at a Habitat for Humanity project in South Africa in 2002, and I’ll never forget how much the secret service agents were sweating in the heat while the (then) 77-year old moved in fast forward.  With that said, I remember reading news stories that President George W. Bush’s resting pulse was in the 30’s during his presidency, and that he could outrun his supremely-fit protection detail.  Add in the advanced age to which both of his parents have thrived, what are the odds that George W. Bush might live long enough to one day attend the funeral of a former president who wasn’t even old enough to vote for/against him?

Every major newspaper has run a story this week on how President Bush isn’t loathed like he was at the end of his term.  This isn’t to say that he’s not loathed at all, and to be fair, most of the newspaper articles I’ve read struggle to hide the authors’ conflation of shock and horror that equating President W with Stalin or Pol Pot will no longer go unchallenged.  But even the liberal elites who give us news and have always felt that Vice President Gore got jobbed in ’00 have noticed that by demonstrating class and leaving politics when he left the White House, President Bush began a rehabilitation-by-absence.  It also doesn’t hurt that he turns out to be a half-decent painter, with subject matter suggesting introspection impossible for someone with the IQ the media have always assumed he has.  Best of all for his rehabilitation: the Tea Party hates him.  Could anything be more endearing?

While we’re on the topic, this re-evaluation of W was inevitable.  Look, President Bush might have been a total idiot, and he might have been unfathomably evil.  But he couldn’t be both, so sooner or later his reputation was guaranteed to rebound.  Evil of the type generally attributed to President Bush requires inspiration if not genius.  Idiocy of the type attributed to him precludes the capacity for exceptionalism of any kind.  These are mutually exclusive attributes, and history notices things like that.  Consequently, his reputation had to improve with time, and it has.  Even progressives have begun to gradually concede that he was neither despotic villain nor half-wit.

Also, as with all political stories in America, the unspoken and unnoticed truth has to do with fear.  Our opinions of former presidents always rise after they leave office.  Explanations for this abound, including the fact that our memories always dull with the passage of time.  We may remember our last fit of apoplexy, but given time, the intensity of our feelings when we think about it tends more towards ‘mildly distempered’ than ‘blackout angry.’  So it is that our animosity towards former presidents subsides as a matter of course, and most of the media reports have acknowledged this.

What the media haven’t acknowledged, however, is the role of fear in politics.  Massive numbers of people harbor indefensible distrust and malevolence towards President Obama right now, but let me suggest that it generally has less to do with who he is or with what he has done than it does with fear of what he might do.  The Affordable Care Act has its problems – some of which won’t emerge for a few years yet – but it’s not nearly as frightening as what many Republicans fear/imagine Democrats might do to compensate for those problems.  The strength of that fear has a direct correlation to the strength of their dislike of President Obama, and the day he becomes former President Obama, the fear will evaporate, yielding a corresponding moderation in their dislike of him.  We hate presidents when we’re afraid of them, but once they’re finished in politics, it becomes possible to evaluate them absent that fear, and that always aids popularity.

Just don’t expect to read that in your newspaper.  If news were food, fear would be MSG, and the media refuse to admit that they stoke it to help their bottom line.

Bush, despite what you’ve heard, was a moderate.  And that explains everything.  Democrats and the Tea Party both despise him.  He was very conservative – he’s a southern evangelical, after all – but he wanted to soften immigration laws, he massively expanded entitlements by making medicine affordable for the elderly, and he saved the United States from a depression by passing Keynesian policies before leaving office.  He was also preposterously unpopular, and in his wake, the Democrats became more progressive, and the Republicans continue to be cannibalized by reactionary Tea Partiers.  The dearth of moderates in our current political climate has everything to do with what happened to Bush; his personal unpopularity doomed an entire generation of moderates, and the parties responded accordingly.  We probably won’t have a functioning congress – an entity always glued together by moderates – until it’s OK to be moderate again, and that probably doesn’t happen until Bush is fully rehabilitated.

I still find his personal story inspirational.  President Bush made some terrible decisions as president.  The thing is, I’m sure not even he would dispute that.  This is a guy who was an alcoholic ne’er-do-well into middle age, but became president by 54.  Infallible he ain’t, and his willingness to explain how faith in Jesus transformed his entire life rings true.  It’s the only rational explanation for his transformation and rise, and oh-by-the-way, it makes perfect sense that many of the people who reject the veracity of his faith are the most perplexed and incensed by his ascent.

At any rate, Bush is a sinner who freely admits that fact, but reached the pinnacle of American politics anyway.  He’s a politician who generally kept his word, which counter intuitively made things worse.  He managed to enrage the entire political establishment, but no group hates him more than the anti-establishment Ron Paul types.  And in spite of the unprecedented scope of his late-presidency unpopularity, he seems like he’d be a fun guy to take a vacation with.  And I don’t even think that about most of my friends.  As I said, he fascinates me.

America’s Moral Police

What do you know about ethical journalism?  If you’re like me, you barely have enough time in the day to consume as much news as you’d like, which precludes any time at all to worry about how the news reached you.  I ask, however, because it’s been on my mind as two stories unfolded over the past two weeks.

The first has been the bombing of the Boston Marathon.  Well, the bombing yes, but also the coverage of it.  In watching the unfiltered and surreal footage of the aftermath of the bombings, I noticed three groups of uninjured people.  The first group of people moved almost immediately to aid the injured.  The second recognized the danger and moved away to escape.  The third group, however, appear only fleetingly on the various videos I’ve seen.  They’re the ones who neither ran neither to nor from danger, but instead continued filming it.

Like most people, I’d like to imagine I would have been in group one (probably assisting my nurse wife).  Like most people, there’s a very strong possibility I would have actually been in group two.  In either case, however, I can comprehend the mindset of such a person.  Group three, meanwhile?  This is harder for me to understand.  Media professionals regularly risk their lives in order to inform the rest of us.  That’s their job, and it’s a service for which someone who consumes as much news as I do should be thankful.  And I am.  At the same time, however, how can you ignore someone who might be bleeding to death while filming their agony?  How can you watch police try to reach them, without setting down the camera to help?

I’m not condemning them.  Again, that’s their job, and it’s a moral dilemma faced by professional cameramen and photographers frequently.  Perhaps more importantly, it’s a moral dilemma about which they have each spent thousands more hours ruminating than you or me.  So I’m not bringing this up in order to denounce the choices they made, but only to highlight the fact that theirs is a job filled with ethical quandaries that you and I do not navigate.  Being in the position to make that choice is something I can’t grasp.  And that’s one part of the coverage that has really been on my mind this week, since all the footage I’ve consumed has been the product of a choice I don’t think I could have made.

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My second preoccupation, as you might guess, is the business with Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic in Philadelphia.  In case you haven’t heard, Gosnell ran an abortion clinic in an underprivileged area of Philly, where he broke most or all of the relevant imaginable standards, regulations, and ethical concepts.  I won’t belabor his atrocities (Google them.  But not on a full stomach.), but I do want to point out the present media war over how they were covered.  Conservatives argue that the lack of coverage until recently – when conservative media forced the issue – is evidence not merely of liberal bias in most media organizations, but also of an agenda underlying such bias.  The media organizations under attack, meanwhile, have begun covering Kermit Gosnell in response to the explosion of criticism, albeit usually in the guise of a larger narrative about what is and isn’t news.

In short, although details of Gosnell’s barbarism may now be found in a variety of news stories from myriad content providers across the ideological spectrum, the main story to the conservatives is liberal bias in the news, and the main story to those who don’t self-identify as conservative is the news process.  So the media have uniformly decided that the real story is themselves.

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Some countries have moral police – they’re called mutaween, and they’re more often referred to as morality police, religious police, or vice squads, but you get the idea.  They enforce Sharia law in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, and they occasionally make our news for taking rash actions that kill people.

Inasmuch as any group fulfills a similar moral-watchdog role in the United States, that group is the media.  How do we know about Gosnell’s misdeeds?  The media told us, however reluctantly.  How do we know when a politician has gone crazy enough to need to be removed from office?  The media lets us know he’s sexting people.  The media never explicitly enforce an ethical or moral code on us, of course.  But in choosing which moral or ethical aberrations to report, they choose what popular opinion has the opportunity to police.  In that sense, they help all of us make moral and ethical decisions about America, so they’re as close as we get to moral police.

But if it’s the media that watches our culture and highlights (so we can eliminate) the most grievous offenses, who watches the media?

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Since this is an evangelical blog, many of you who read it are profoundly conservative, and will want me to know that the conservative media watches the mainstream media – that’s who watches our moralizing press.  At the risk of offending you, however, that’s bull.

There are two types of media in the United States, but the mainstream/conservative dichotomy is irrelevant if not total fiction.  The dichotomy falls between those media outlets that earn profits, and those that are incrementally failing because they do not.  Hats off to Fox News for finding their own profitable niche, but if ad revenue falls and hiring progressives will stop the bleeding, they’ll hire more progressives.  That’s business.

The problem, of course, is that this means all news operates in the service of profit, which inevitably leads to conflicts of interest at best, and outright exploitation at worst.  Returning to the topic of the Boston Marathon, some cameramen were getting amazing footage, and I have no problem with them filming.  Posterity required it.  But the guys who didn’t get great footage but continued to film anyway – and there were plenty of them – might have better used their time trying to save people’s lives and limbs.  Of course they couldn’t stop filming, because each network/paper/news source wants its own footage.  So instead of helping people, they film the suffering from afar, and the suffering – which they might’ve helped alleviate – generates profits.  Just another day at the office for a journalist.

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So the news plays an absolutely essential role in our culture.  Also, in order for news to exist, it must be profitable, and sometimes those in the media must dispassionately observe horrors rather than alleviating them so that the media can fill its role in society (and turn a profit).  But since this is a complicated moral choice and our society makes most complicated moral choices with the aid of media scrutiny, how are we to know when to trust the choice the media has made about its own coverage?  Are we really supposed to believe that the media, as a profit-driven enterprise, can – let alone will – cover itself with the same diligent rigor it applies to everyone else?

So that’s the problem that the Gosnell trial and the Boston Marathon have me pondering.  It’s nothing new, mind you, but I thought I’d share.

There are no easy answers.  Non-profit journalism could be one, but non-profits go astray too.  More regulation is another option, but that would risk making media a government instrument.  Democratization of information is another (think Wikileaks), but that underestimates the value of context and analysis – raw data is often misleading, and I for one appreciate people who take the time to communicate the bigger picture.  So what’s the answer?

Got any ideas?

Something Unforgivable

If I told you something was an “unforgivable moral fault,” what would come to mind?  Murder?  Rape?  Child molestation?  Genocide?  Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Whatever comes to mind, I’m willing to bet it has the capacity to shock. And yes, Jesus did say the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12), but that’s somewhat off point at the moment, since the quote in question escaped the lips of someone dramatically less famous and less holy than Jesus.  It escaped, for the record, from the lips of the President of France, Francois Hollande.

And now that you know the unforgivable moral fault took place in France, how much more scandalous do you imagine it?  Want to change your guess as to what it is?

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Politicians love to exaggerate, because exaggerations make for great soundbites.  With that said, you don’t often hear them bandy about phrases as absolute as ‘unforgivable.’  For one thing, the crafty politician needs wiggle room in case future election results hinge upon escaping from such absolutism.  For example, the most beloved leader of the United States in my lifetime was either the guy who conveniently couldn’t remember anything about Oliver North or the guy who wanted to argue over the definition of ‘is.’  Political success requires elasticity, and the word ‘unforgivable’ is anything but elastic.

For another thing, of course, success in politics requires strength, and acts of forgiveness always create an opportunity for someone somewhere to label them acts of weakness.  So in lieu of forgiveness, we hear about lessons learned, regretful mistakes that can never repeat, and justice.  Wow do we hear about justice.  But not so much with forgiveness.

Similarly, we don’t often witness politicians denouncing forgiveness, either.  They may not be permitted to forgive, but they can’t very well deny it, either, because that just looks indelicate at best and cruel at worst.  And cruelty doesn’t fit with the desired emphasis on justice.  So language about forgiveness is saved for extremely rare occasions, and usually only broken out after massive national tragedies.

Except in France, where one specific incident of tax evasion (and lying) is what President Hollande denounced as the “unforgivable moral fault.”

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Admit it: France being France, you thought the unforgivable would be dirtier.  Kinky, violent, unprecedented, or some horrifying combination thereof.  Instead, it turns out that the French budget minister had secret international bank accounts.  It stinks of corruption, and he was part of a government trying to implement a top tax rate of 75% for the rich in France, so his hypocrisy impresses.  Moreover, I should add that he’s been lying about the existence of such accounts for 20ish years, including to the French parliament.  With all of that said, however, I want to assert that nothing could be less shocking than the news that a European bureaucrat had a secret Swiss bank account.  It’s akin to learning that your next-door neighbor has indoor plumbing.

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Of all the conceivable moral faults, greed may be the easiest to undo.  Zaccheus, you will recall, made four-fold restitutions and gave ½ his wealth to the poor, which so satisfied Jesus himself that he declared salvation had come to Zaccheus (Luke 19).  It’s possible from the passage, understand, that Zaccheus could have remained a very wealthy man; he didn’t have to suffer, he just had to exhibit generosity and humility.  With that in mind, the idea that French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac’s greed and lies were unforgivable doesn’t pass muster.  If he gave ½ of his Swiss francs to the poor, he’d be celebrated as a philanthropist, and could probably coast on that reputation with parting with any of his Euros (which I assume to be considerable in number).  But then, that’s not the point, is it?  That’s not why President Hollande is so outraged; in this case, the crime is less important than the victim.

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Western democracies all self-identify as secular.  That means different things in different countries, but in France, it means political discourse must exclude religion.  Even in trying to decide matters of right and wrong; even when a politician wants to explain a personal conviction.  Whereas an American politician might articulate a position on an issue – immigration, for example – by citing their religious convictions, this is unthinkable to the Frenchman.  In French politics, there is one consideration and one consideration only: France.

You might think that’s true in the United States, but let me explain.  In the US, the debate over immigration is over what’s right and what’s wrong; one side values the law, the other focuses on valuing people, but each focus on what seems morally correct to them.  In France, immigration is an issue too, but the concern is much narrower: immigrants to France are supposed to become French, and to the extent this does not happen to the satisfaction of the French, immigration is problematic.  France is no melting pot, understand.  France is French and it is for the French, and the highest value – the ruler against which all policy questions are measured – is Frenchness.  France is god to the French.

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So who is the victim of Cahuzac’s crime?  France, of course.  Hence the outrage.  For a French budget minister (who I believe oversees the French version of the IRS) to defraud the almighty state of France is analogous to a different Bible passage altogether: Acts 5, in which Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter (and the Holy Spirit) and die for it.  Remember that story?  They didn’t steal, they didn’t hurt anyone, they didn’t do anything wrong except lie about how generous they were being to the church.  But that was enough for them to be struck dead, because – as Peter explains – they each lied to God.

Which is, in a sense, what Cahuzac did.  He didn’t lie to God, necessarily, but he did lie to Frenchgod.  And apparently that is as unforgivable as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Other Open Letter to Justin Bieber

Dear Justin,

In my earlier letter, I suggested that vision is vital preparation for the final judgment.  I meant what I said, and I’ve repeated it here so that it might percolate in your mind.  You see, when we talk about vision, one trap that seduces us far too often is thinking of vision as some mystical or intangible blessing from the spiritual realm.  Don’t fall for that; I describe vision as preparation because that’s exactly what it is.  It’s a plan or a strategy for life; vision, properly understood, is a purpose or a cause to which you devote yourself.  And it looks to me like that is the main thing missing from your life.

I understand your life is unlike the life of anyone I know, but that’s the whole point.  Your abilities and your possessions will master you if you do not master them, and the mastering of them requires devoting you and all you have to a purpose.  You already know you’re reaching the point at which you’ll have to make changes; your days as a youthful phenom are nearing their end, and while whole bad-boy thing may permit you to prolong your musical career for a few years, it’s a path that inevitably leads to rehab, but only after it destroys either most or all of the hope in your life.  You can harness your gifts for a purpose/vision greater than yourself, or you can end up a bankrupt and broken rehab recidivist by age 27.  This isn’t exactly a difficult choice.

There may not be a limit to what you could do for other people with your money and fame – Jerry Lewis is an unfunny accident of history, but look what he achieved.  It’s trite to tell you that you can do anything, and for most people it’s a naked lie.  But not for you.  The only limit is your vision; to that end, consider these possibilities as you continue to ask God to give you a vision:

1)  Write the music the church should be singing.  Before David slew Goliath, he was a musician.  And long after he became the great king of legend – a king with a powerful army, significant wealth, a large family, and more than a few beautiful wives – he still wrote music.  In fact, that’s what the Psalms (roughly ½ of which he wrote) are: songs.  David’s music has lasted for 3,000 years so far, and it has formed the backbone of two religions for most of that time.  All of which means that David would have been immortal even if he’d never become the greatest of kings, and raises the question of whether or not something similar could be within your reach.  After all, isn’t your youthful ascendancy reminiscent of David?  Why not write the songs that will minister to God’s people for the next few millennia?

2) Start a music academy.  Think about Michael Jackson’s Neverland, and how he (allegedly) used it like candy to draw children into his, ahem, grasp.  Now imagine the same type of escapist retreat put to use to teach selected musicians to write and perform music.  What young artist wouldn’t want in?  You could use it to support the arts in your native Canada (for most of us, the phrase “Canadian Arts” brings to mind nothing but aggressive forechecking and creative pronunciations of the letter ‘O’).  You could use it to train a generation of songwriters for the church.  You could use it to enrich yourself with your own music label, while making the world sing in perpetuity.  These are all realistic possibilities.

3) Use your money to support the faith you claim to hold.  Pastors and missionaries (at least the evangelical ones) get paid like violent felons on work-release.  You can’t change that everywhere, but you could endow a few dozen new pastors (or missionaries).  Through them (and their ministries), your efforts could change thousands of lives.  Compare that with the legacies of other teenage pop-stars, and I think you’ll agree it would be a win.  Also, Jesus will probably see it that way too.

4) Spend the rest of your life giving.  You could always spend your life giving away what you have, and if you did it judiciously, you’d never be in want.  Obviously, this applies to your money, but I’m talking about more than that.  You can give away your time, and you could give away your talents too.  The best part of this idea, meanwhile, is that you don’t have to give it all away to the same thing year after year or even day after day; you can continually change it up, so you never have to get bored.  Not many humans ever reach this freedom to eliminate boredom through innovative charity, but you’re there.  Why not enjoy it?

The visions outlined above are merely four of thousands of options, each of which could be completely in line with what you have yourself claimed is in your heart.  Most importantly, each of these visions is bigger than you.  That’s the key to living a meaningful life, after all: live it for something or someone greater than yourself.  Do that, and you can avoid becoming another cautionary tale of talent wasted and youth gone Lohan.  Alternatively, you can stick with your present path and we’ll be able to use Bieber metaphorically instead of Lohan.  How’s that for a legacy?

Your foolish friends will tell you that you have it all.  You don’t.  But if you follow the steps outlined in my first letter and start pondering your vision, you can acquire the missing piece.  Just remember to make time to listen after you ask Jesus for a vision.

Hope this helps stimulate your thinking, and I’m glad we could have this talk,

Aaron