Journalist for Life

C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Socrates, Kierkegaard, Bieber. Or something like that. Up until quite recently I haven’t regarded 16-year-old pop sensation, and little girl heartthrob, Justin Bieber as a particularly great moral philosopher and academic ethicist, but I have to admit that I think I got it terribly wrong. Jest aside, the Canadian kid who makes pre-teens weep and scream at a mere toss of his hair has shown himself to be an impressive young man with more courage and integrity than many powerful and important people three and more times his age.

Interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine a few months ago, he was for some obscure reason asked his opinion of various political issues – odd, in that he’s young and a singer, not middle-aged and a statesman. Still, he responded well enough. The North Korean state, he suggested, had a bad system of government, and the Canadian healthcare system was better than the American one because in Canada it was free, and because some of the people he knew in the United States had been terribly hurt by the unfair demands of private medical insurance.

Okay, it’s not particularly deep stuff, and medicine in this country is not free but paid for by our extremely high taxes. But the boy’s heart was obviously in the right place and he was trying his best to do, say, and feel the right thing. Then came a question about abortion.  “I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby” he said. Actually Justin it’s not “like” killing a baby, it is killing a baby. But let’s go on.

Obviously smelling blood, and realizing that it was the blood of the unborn, the bully reporter asked what Bieber would do in the case of rape. “Um. Well, I think everything happens for a reason” replied the Biebs, “I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

It’s not the right answer, not the most clever of answers, not even a convincing answer. But this is a 16-year-old pop star for goodness sake, and he’s probably never thought about it before. He could have turned the question on the journalist and asked if abortion was wrong in any and every case other than rape, or reminded the person that rape represented such a tiny percentage of the reasons for abortion that it hardly even registered, or that even when the horror of rape occurred, it was the rapist and not the child who ought to be punished.

But he didn’t, because his skills are in singing and performing and not in polemics and apologetics, and that is absolutely fine. What is not fine is the audacity and hypocrisy of the reporter from Rolling Stone, who asked an irresponsible question with, surely, the sole purpose of making Bieber look foolish or simply gaining another thoughtless voice in support of womb-slaughter.

The Stratford, Ont. kid, though, is better than that and has a moral voice as well as a singing one. He stood up for what he believed and dared to say that killing the most vulnerable members of our society simply because we can is wrong. His enormously popular hit “Baby” was about young love rather than the right to life but, wow, irony sometimes wakes us up like a divine alarm clock.

So what of the journalist and the line of questioning? We’ve all seen the usual people announce to interviewers that they are “pro-choice” and when they do there is never a probing and challenging follow-up question. Never a, “but what about those cases when unborn babies are killed because they are disabled, or black, or female?” Never a hint of disapproval or a questioning of the interviewee’s intelligence or worldly experience. Never an attempted ambush, hijack or opposition. I’d guess that the interviewer was incredulous at Bieber’s disapproval of abortion and rattled off the first cliché that came to mind. I’m surprised he didn’t follow it up with some reference to incest and abuse.

Look, if you don’t want an answer don’t ask the question. Rather like when in 2009 beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean politely refused to give her support to so-called same-sex marriage, the knives have been sharpened and are even now being tossed in the direction of a good, innocent person’s back. I hope he has a strong support system around him, because there is no sin in the modernist world like the pro-life sin. Sing it loud Justin, sing it loud.

Coren’s new book is Why Catholics Are Right (McClelland & Stewart). He can be booked for speeches at