If you’ve listened to the radio or watched the recent MTV or Much Music Awards, you’ll know that Katy Perry is a pretty big deal!  And as with any hugely successful pop culture star, there’s a tremendous amount of influence that they have  (whether wanted or not) on their fan base.  I’ve been a big fan of Katy’s talent and charisma…but not the image she’s portrayed.

There’s been a lot of mixed messages sent by Perry during her rise to fame, yet no one can deny the influence she has on young teen girls across the globe.  Most people would chalk the lyrics up to ‘harmless’ fun aimed at lightening the mood on teenage angst.  Whatever the intent, the message is being heard and applauded by thousands of teen girls (and boys) whenever Perry’s songs get airtime.  

With this in mind, that’s why I was stoked to see this week’s Youth Culture Window article in my inbox.  Jonathan McKee switched things up a bit this week, and decided to write an open letter to Katy Perry.  Now whether he actually intends to send this to her, or this was just a cool way of making a point to the Christian audience, I applaud the manner in which he approached it.  Normally when a Christian speaker/author/pastor/influence sends a letter out to a media culture star, it’s one that unfortunately sends chills down my spine.  There’s several examples I can use, but I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to already failed attempts at sending a ‘sincere’ message.  McKee uses tact, grace, humility, honesty, and love with Perry.  But McKee also challenges and encourages her with the influence she has over so many young teen girls listening in and absorbing the messages through her lyrics.  

Too many times we’ve seen so-called well-intentioned ‘Christians’ throw jabs and spew venom at culture’s big names that rub them the wrong way.  I’m not saying some of those ‘big names’ don’t deserve to be called out, but I wish those wanting to use the bible as a can of mace would hold it up to themselves as mirror first.  You might just see a few less ‘holy’ grenades tossed!

I hope Katy Perry does get a hold of this letter, and I hope she takes some time to receive the compliments, encouragement…as well as taking the time to reflect on the legacy she is in carving out after each album and video release.  So without further blabbering…I defer you to Jonathan McKee’s article, Dear Katy Perry…


Youth Culture Window: Dear Katy Perry

An article from Jonathan McKee at TheSource4YM.com

Dear Katy Perry;

Part of my job is studying pop-youth-culture and helping parents and youth workers teach young people discernment. Obviously, much of your music has flowed from the iPods of teenagers around the world in the last few years. Songs like, Teenage Dream, California Gurls and Last Friday Night. You’ve got some amazing talent, and people are resonating with you. The Billboard records you’ve setspeak loudly.

It was probably a rough road getting there, gaining the attention of the world, deciding what people want to hear…deciding which lines you’d cross, which ones were too sacred. I can’t imagine the pressure you must face knowing that the world is watching your every move, knowing that some are waiting to criticize and judge.

That’s why I want to encourage you.

You’ve made it. People know you can sing. They like your music. They like you. So I guess that kind of leaves the ball in your court. You have their attention, now… what kind of role model do you want to be for them?

I was impressed with your newest song and music video Part of Me. Maybe it’s because the song affirms people to not let others drag them down. Or maybe it’s the pro-American soldier inference (I have a brother-in-law with the Marines in Afghanistan right now). Or perhaps it’s that I simply wonder what that “part of you” is that fame and money can’t take away.  As your lyrics say…

                          Throw your sticks and stones
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me

I see the good in you (not to get all Yoda on you or anything). I see the desire to inspire. So…what do you want to inspire people to do?

Katy, you have an awesome position of power right now. Like it or not, you are a role model for literally millions of young people around the world. You are being watched. What legacy do you want to leave? I know you’ve probably received more advice and “coaching” than you’d ever want. One of the previews for your upcoming movie showed your mom saying, “I’m not gonna watch you if you have half your clothes off.” The preview then contrasted her words with an image of you lying naked on a cloud. It can’t be easy navigating these waters of discernment with a critic around every turn. Yet, you’re the one at the helm. On one hand, you want to give your audience what they want and make them smile, but on the other hand, you know that young girls are watching you, and you don’t want them to ever think thattheir value only comes from their sexual appeal or behavior over that of other characteristics. And as much as it might make your audience chuckle when you tell the story of waking up hung over on Saturday and wondering what happened Last Friday Night… what if the message young people are hearing the loudest is when you say, “This Friday night, do it all again!” Do you really want young girls going off to college resonating with that lifestyle, knowing all the risks that accompany that behavior? Or is there a “part of you” that wants to inspire people to do more than that.

I don’t want to go through your past lyrics and jab at you. That’s not my intention. Frankly, I don’t care about your past, I care about your future. You have the power to make a huge difference in the lives of young people today. It wouldn’t necessarily be the most popular road; at times it probably would mean refraining from telling people simply what they want to hear. But do you want to tell people truth, or what they want to hear? Because there are plenty of artists out there who will tell people anything they want to hear, making lies sound like the truth. You have the power to do so much more.

I know you were raised in church and probably even recognize this passage. In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul writes:14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.I can’t help but wonder what that part of you is that people can’t take away. I know that you know God, know his love for you, and you know what He desires for you. He’d love for you to speak truth.

The choice is up to you.

Thanks for the song, Part of Me.  I hope to see more songs like it.

From one imperfect individual to another, struggling through these tumultuous waters,

Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKeeJonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, and youth ministry books like Ministry By TeenagersConnect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
  1. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    Hi! I think this is one of, if not the FIRST, non-judgmental letters getting across a point without being blasted like a taser gun with Christianity. Excellent letter. I agree that to get this message across to young people, you must meet them where they live. In a kind way. 🙂 Great job, good post.

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