Miley Cyrus Nude In Wrecking Ball Video—Her Former Pastor Speaks Out

Miley_Cyrus_Wrecking_Ball_PastorBased on the number of views, I suppose I’m one of the last people on earth to watch Miley Cyrus nude in her Wrecking Ball video. You’ve probably watched it, whether you will admit it or not. If you have not, to fully understand this blog post, (and if you plan to comment) you might want to watch it HERE.

Knowing that Miley had once attended my church, yesterday a pastor friend asked my thoughts on her new video. I sheepishly admitted that I did not know what he was talking about. I do now.

In the sake of full disclosure, let me say that Miley was one of hundreds of youth that attended the mega-church near Nashville where I served as Pastor of Arts. Her Dad (and her sister) were kind enough to sing for several of our Christmas Eve services. Billy Ray and I once had lunch to discuss the challenge of mentoring young artists in todays crazy world. He briefly mentioned Miley (she was around eleven years old at the time—a year or so before her Hannah Montana audition) and that he believed she had the talent to do something special one day.

As I watched the video, I was riveted—not by the nudity, I’ve seen much more on the beaches of Florida where I lived for twenty years—but by the shocking rawness of the message. On the VMA’s I was embarrassed by an awkward child wanting to be an adult. Here, I saw an adult desperately wanting the magic of her childhood back. It would be very interesting to know who really came up with the idea for this video. Was it the controversial director Terry Richardson or was it Miley herself?

The video seems an intriguing use of the medium for Miley to give us all a message. Here’s my interpretation. “Thank you for screwing up my life and thank you for making me an object. First, you made me an object lesson for your kids, then an object of ridicule, so now I’ll make myself an object of your desire.” Our psychosis as a culture makes it impossible for us to resist. She embodies all we have been taught to desire—youth, beauty, fame, fortune and talent. And she (or her influencers) know it.

It’s one of the saddest videos I’ve ever seen, not because of Miley’s nudity but because of her nakedness. It’s as if she’s saying, you’ve stripped everything away anyway, so I’ll just leave nothing to your imagination. I’ll take away your fantasy and replace it with reality.

If we judge the video as art, I think it passes the test. Thomas Aquinas says “Three things are needed for beauty: wholeness, harmony and radiance.” James Joyce says, “Art does not start as something beautiful, but from experiences that are rough and raw. What transforms these experiences into art is how one can recreate the esthetic emotions felt by the artist.”

If we judge the video as layered art, I think the case can be made that it passes that test as well. It certainly has the layers to present Dante’s four levels of meaning. Literally, she has been wrecked. Allegorically, she rides the ball (the world) that has wrecked her. Morally, she is stripped naked. Anagogically, she is ashes on the ground.

It didn’t seem a video about unrequited love to me. Perhaps that’s because I’m in the throes of editing chapter eight of my memoir which speaks to a childhood filled with accolades for my performance rather than who I really was. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. I do not pretend to know the magnitude of angst experienced by Miley Cyrus, but a child star, no matter in front of hundreds or millions, never has opportunity to be truly loved for who they are.

If we choose to moralize the video, well now, that’s a different matter altogether. We humans are all too capable of judgement on the surface level.

It has been interesting to hear the cheap shots Nashville (my home town) throws at Miley. But we should not forget she is our prodigal daughter. For now, at least, Ms. Cyrus is fair game, and Nashville loves an inquisition.

But perhaps the harsh questioning should begin with us.

Have we made Miley or has Miley made us?


44 responses to “Miley Cyrus Nude In Wrecking Ball Video—Her Former Pastor Speaks Out”

  1. Brian Schrauger Avatar

    hi randy. i came across your essay yesterday on facebook where a mutual friend had posted it. your perspective was so refreshing, i shared it on my wall too. the response of several christians was stunning. i finally posted my own opinion in the discussion thread at fyi, we have a number of friends in common. just sent you a friend request.

    regardless, thank you for composing and publishing this essay. thanks be to God

  2. Laurel Peters Avatar
    Laurel Peters

    The ‘church’ so often judges by actions. It’s easy, it’s black and white (to some). We have no idea what her personal life was like. When someone acts out there is a reason for it and the ‘church’ should be helping to solve and LOVING the person without the whole judging thing. When they have judgement in their heart, even if they are trying to do something good for someone, it just doesn’t work. Ask me how I know ;)

    I am not sure why I clicked on this, I haven’t been very interested in what any pastor has had to say for over ten years. (I was a Christian artist for 10 years before that, I got a snootful of stuff I’ll deal with for a ling time) I am SO glad I decided to click! You surprised me with your insight and lack of crappy dogma (some of which I have read in the responses to you here. I’m glad you were in Miley’s life for the time you were and pray that she will remember what she learned from you.

    1. Laurel Peters Avatar
      Laurel Peters

      …sorry for they typos, my dad just passed a week ago and I have no idea why I even tried to type anything right now :P

  3. Kendall Avatar

    Saw this on the feeds the other day and finally got around to reading. Well done. I had not seen the video until you linked to it. And even then I just watched it with sound off since the music sounds like every other pop song to me and gets in the way of the message. Being designed for a visual experience, the sound off drives your points home. You don’t need the music or words to see the sense of despair, satire, and anger in her journey and loss.
    Nice work.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks so much, Kendall, for joining our conversation and for your complimentary words.

  4. Jim Barzee Avatar
    Jim Barzee

    I watched the video before I read your article. The video made me sad. Sad for Myley Cyrus. Your article put into words what I was feeling. It seems like Myley is desperately trying to prove to the world that she is not a little girl any more, and this is the only way she can think of to do it. Unfortunately, there are those around her that are willing to exploit that for their own personal gain. I pray Myley finds the true source of the tremendous gift she has been given by her Creator; the one who knit her together in her mother’s womb; the one who knew her before she ever drew a breath. As a father of a 24 year old daughter who is a prodigal as well, I share this song I wrote for my daughter. I pray for Myley’s mother and father as well.

    1. randy Avatar

      Agh, Jim. My heart goes out to you. Thanks for your transparency and for enriching this conversation.

  5. Sarah Avatar

    Pastor Elrod,
    I am a graduate student in psychology at UCF in Orlando, FL. I have been studying the effects of the Hollywood entertainment “machine” on the lives of child actors. Obviously, the recent activities of Miley Cyrus have garnered my attention and curiosity. From my perspective, Miley’s actions are a brilliant marketing strategy. Every controversial appearance or action has preceded the release of a new album, music video or single. She is covered on nearly every network and her album sales go through the roof. This is a very common strategy in the entertainment industry. I am honestly amazed that it continues to work.

    I do find the whole perspective of the church community on situations such as this to be quite interesting. While I have investigated the beliefs of many faiths, I have not come to any conclusion that any one in particular is better than another. I was a little intrigued by your post in that I rarely find many pastors who openly discuss the actions of their congregants in blog posts or websites. I realize that I am no expert in theology, but my understanding of most faiths is that pastors & priests are typically individuals in whom their congregants confide. Do you find facilitating discussions of a congregant’s actions in a public forum to be a successful means for assisting in their spiritual growth?

    1. randy Avatar

      Sarah, thanks for your comments. I’m no longer a pastor nor am I any longer Miley’s pastor. I would never offer commentary on a blog of someone’s words to me without their permission. These words are my own. I think I was clear about that.

      I understand what you are saying about the marketing strategy. And that’s why I wondered aloud who is guiding whom.

  6. Sharon Avatar


    It’s me again. I wrote you last night. I am still dealing with all the hurts of my past and decisions I made. My church never reached out to me when they knew of what I was going through. Have you thought about addressing Miley personally. I know Sinead O’ Connor did it (you might need to read the correspondence between those two) Sinead did it but from a very judgmental point of view and it really blew up in her face. I think by contacting her personally or even writing an open ended letter to her would quite possibly bridge the gap between reality and her celebrity life. Obviously not in a way that would put her on the defense or question her morality but a way to reach her and let her know that she is loved regardless. I just know she has to be feeling torn inside maybe not but it might be worth at least a try. Just a suggestion. Thanks again. Miley has really been on my mind as I try to go through the pain of my own life and how I was shunned. I think Christians are so quick to judge by placing themselves on a spiritual ladder above others. I love this quote “don’t judge me for my sin just because I sin differently then you do”

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks, Sharon. Maybe Miley or Billy Ray will read this and they will initiate conversation. I don’t know her well enough and celebrities of their stature are (rightly so) suspicious of everyone and their agenda. This post is what I thought I can do to help. I am still in recovery from my own crap and hurt and still working on myself. I empathize with your upbringing. Agh. The book I’m writing (a memoir) has really proved cathartic. I hope you continue to experience healing.

      1. sharon baney Avatar
        sharon baney

        randy, I need your prayers today. I had initiated contact with my ex husband’s girlfriend to tell her out of compassion about his hiv status. I talked with her for 5 hours to discuss at length what happened. She believed me enough to get him and her tested. She just hung up on me when I called to check on her and said that he did not have it. I am utterly devastated. worse pain I have felt in years because everything I thought to be true is now in limbo. I felt lived in devastation because of what he did to me. Not sure who to trust right now. I have to wonder if Jesus is ever going to let me be free of this pain. your prayers would be appreciated. I pray for your recovery too:)

        1. randy Avatar

          Sharon, you got them.

  7. DG Avatar

    “First, you made me an object lesson for your kids, then an object of ridicule, so now I’ll make myself an object of your desire.”

    But “we” didn’t make her an object lesson… she did that. She’s the one who chose a career in show business, isn’t she? We didn’t put her on television. If we had, we would be mercifully able to take her off. No, she is the one who decided to make herself an object.

    1. randy Avatar

      Sigh. “If we choose to moralize the video, well now, that’s a different matter altogether. We humans are all too capable of judgement on the surface level.”

    2. Jo Avatar

      DG, I absolutely agree with you!!

  8. Amy S. Avatar

    Since I live under a pop culture rock these days, I didn’t know much about “Wrecking Ball,” so I after reading your post, I watched the music video. I have to admit it’s the first song I’ve liked by Miley in a long time. As for the video, well, it’s not raunchy. I like your interpretation of this video and agree with it. Like watching Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan meltdown, I felt a deep sadness for Miley as well. It’s like she’s not even a real human person created in the image of God, just a pop culture joke. Bebo Norman wrote a really good song called “Britney” on his self-titled album which says, “We sell the beauty, but destroy the girl.” So, so true.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks so much for having the courage to join in, Amy. I’ll have to listen to Bebo’s song.

    2. Jo Avatar

      I don’t know how I got to this site….I do a lot of cruising around the internet and following rabbit trails! Amy, you said the video wasn’t “raunchy”? This is just a thought: I’m more than old enough to be your mother, possibly even your grandmother, and I am just SMH about that. Also SMH about all the ‘interpretations’ and ‘analyses’ of this video. Why don’t we look at it for what it is–it’s to raise the hair on the back of men’s necks (and other body parts), and do sexually suggestive scenes. Oh, that’s NOT the purpose or point of it? Poor child, she has been so mistreated and misunderstood? Since when have such videos been a cry for help? She’s an adult. If she wanted to make changes in her life, she has the money and likely the backing of family to do so. I’m so sorry that I appear so calloused and cold, but I’m not going to make excuses for her.

      1. randy Avatar

        Jo, “If we choose to moralize the video, well now, that’s a different matter altogether. We humans are all too capable of judgement on the surface level.”

  9. josh Avatar

    interesting. Enjoyed reading this.

    …but what about the whole licking-the-sledgehammer thing?

    1. randy Avatar


      I’ll leave that to your interpretation. ;) Not sure about that myself.

  10. Shay Avatar

    I think that it is art
    I just see a hurt girl, not the nudity.
    The nudity is symbolizing that she has nothing left.
    People in this world are just way too judge mental and close minded.
    I will always defend and love Miley until the day I die.
    She saved me from my depression and she helps me get through everyday.
    I Couldn’t even tell you how much I love her.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks so much, Shay. That’s what art does. It is a window to the soul.

  11. Brian Jennings Avatar

    I’ve noticed that in many times and places, after being offended by something or someone, my initial response is anger. But later, a more mature response emerges – compassion. It will be responses based out of compassion that will help us see beyond the surface, and help people find the healing they so badly need.

    Thank you for sharing this. Keep living in compassion.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks, Brian. So true. So rare.

  12. Jen S Avatar
    Jen S

    Thank you for writing this. I couldn’t put into words how the video affected me and how the song seems very meaningful, and I think you’ve hit upon it.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks so much, Jen. I truly hope so.

  13. Sharon Avatar

    I am Miley 20 years later:) I went to a conservative Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church School until I graduated. Lost my virginity. Became a stripper. Married an abusive man that had hiv and didn’t tell me. Went through years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Divorced. Remarried. Long story short. I can completely empathize with her. I am just now finding out why I felt so shamed. Most of it came from the church. I have not been back in 20 years. I totally expected you to berate her like all the other Christians I have read on posts. I was really surprised by your insight and compassion. I am learning little by little to trust the church and Jesus again. Thanks for your post. I have always felt like unconditional love is what has been missing from the message I received about Jesus and perhaps that is what Miley is struggling with too. Feeling unworthy and judged. The shame will destroy a person. I am building up a little bit each day but it is a long journey. Been praying for Miley. I asked my step daughter what she thought of Miley and she said. “she makes great music” I thought how wonderful that a 14 year old girl can see past everything and like her for her God given talent. I am so tired of the morality bullying that some Christians feel is their right. Thanks again.

    1. randy Avatar

      Oh, Sharon. Thanks so much for your honesty and transparency. I strongly feel those of whose who have walked deep valleys (and mine is nothing compared to yours) are the ones through our insight and compassion that can “help others learn little by little to trust the church and Jesus again.”

  14. Lori Avatar

    Hey Randy,

    Just watched the video for the first time. You said, “It’s one of the saddest videos I’ve ever seen, not because of Miley’s nudity but because of her nakedness.”

    I would agree, and from what I saw, it seemed to me about – love lost and innocence lost. Of having given herself completely to someone(s) and having been ultimately rejected, either romantically, or by way of public judgement.

    One thing I found enlightening, too, was that she says she came in like a wrecking ball…. plowing through, as it were. She says she “should have let you in”… she wanted to break down the walls, yet she herself had walls of her own. She feels wrecked.

    And this IS art,. Like a painting that people come to see, -to step into emotionally in an effort to connect with the artist – to feel what they feel and try to interpret just what that is.

    My heart hurt while watching Miley’s video. Agree or disagree with her recent antics and her raw nakedness in Wrecking Ball, I believe we’ve helped to create her as an object to be admired, held up as an example, or to tear down/ berate. Either way, it’s a disservice.

    1. randy Avatar

      Thanks so much, Lori. I agree.

  15. Trae Avatar

    Very fascinating and interesting post. I grew up in a family of artists, and minored in art history, so I can separate art from morality, and I see no artistic value in what she does (just my personal belief). Here’s what has lingered in my head for a long time with her: Has she believed a lie? What lies has she believed about herself and her worth in this world?

    1. randy Avatar


      Thanks for joining the conversation. I really don’t know how to respond to your opinion. What lies have we all believed about ourselves? “Who among us…”

  16. Chris Jeub Avatar

    The last time I investigated the muck of pop rock was with Lady Gaga. I was not impressed. I got the impression that Lady Gaga was merely pushing buttons and raising hairs for nothing more than ratings and fame. Madonna always seemed the same to me. Not a lot of depth, just rebellion with fabricated causes.

    But it seems Miley has a deeper story. There’s a redemptive message that is perhaps under the surface. If you focus on the nudity and the tongue (ug, that tongue, for the love of all things, put it away, please) you miss it. I get what you mean by moralizing it: that’s too quick of a judgment.

    1. randy Avatar

      Maybe Lady Gaga is too eccentric for me. Madonna’s video “Like A Prayer” moved me deeply. But Miley’s video moved me in a totally different way. Thanks, Chris.

  17. Kaylie Ernst Avatar

    Randy, Wow. Amazing insight. I understand the video now! I can appreciate it. Ashes on the ground…and now God will breath life and build up! In Jesus name. Thank you for sharing this article. ~Kaylie Ernst

    1. randy Avatar

      Aren’t we all ashes on the ground? Thanks, Kaylie, for joining the conversation.

  18. Joe Avatar

    Great thoughts, Randy. I had to stop and read that fifth paragraph a few times and remember that, even when we turn artists (especially young ones) into objects of praise that we point our own kids to, we’re still making them objects. Miley’s story is definitely a sad one and you absolutely nailed it with that statement. Thanks.

    1. randy Avatar

      Yes. Thanks, Joe for joining the conversation.

  19. Aaron Matthew Kaiser Avatar

    Wow. What an incredible insight. Yes, I saw the video when it came out and I didn’t see any more than a story of unrequited love, but I think there may be some of the other messages you mentioned here, even if Miley didn’t realize it. Part of me has been looking at her recently and saying to myself, “she really does want to be the next Madonna, doesn’t she?” And at the rate she’s going, she will be.

    1. randy Avatar

      I agree. Thanks, Aaron. BTW, are you Ashley’s brother?

    2. Ed Smith Avatar
      Ed Smith

      Excellent insight, and thanks for this. I consider Miley, as you do, a prodigal. I anxiously await the day she returns to Christ….the things she can do for the cause of spreading the Gospel would be staggering; and I pray this happens before she has too many scars….
      My thoughts: Phil Donahue once said on his talk show that TV is a reflection of society, that it doesn’t affect it. I vehemently disagree with that way of thinking. If that was right, why do companies spend millions of dollar to purchase a 30-second advertisement on the Super Bowl? Why advertise anyway if media does not affect its listeners / viewers? While TV can somewhat depict life in our country, it cannot adequately and accurately depict our lives. The Andy Griffith Show was not typical small-town America; although we loved it. Neither is the Simpsons a real-life depiction of much of anything. Certainly Star Trek is no representation of the future! I’m sure our posterity will laugh their heads off at the “simple minded” movies of our day, if the Lord delays His return that long.
      I do not think Miley is a product of Hollywood, TV, movies, superstars or anything else she might have come in contact with. I do think she was TEMPTED by those things, and likely fell headlong into that temptation and sin, but she was not FORCED to do them. I also wonder what role the church played in all of this? Did she get the depth of training and understanding of the Word of God sufficient to live in her heart? Or did she get “lip service?” I’ve been a pastor for 36+ years now, and I’ve seen a lot of the latter. Ill-prepared Sunday School teachers and youth workers. Half hearted efforts by the church to “do something for the youth.” etc…. I don’t know your church, and I’m certainly not judging….just speaking openly and trying to be honest.
      I think the thing to do now is to band together and pray for Miley….and a host of others who are in similar situations. She is OUR child since she was raised in the church….we must pray without ceasing for our kids who go astray. Pray that God keeps them safe and brings them home. I have a son who is running from Christ, too. Please keep him in your prayers, too.

      1. randy Avatar

        Thanks so much, Ed for your insight.