It’s the summer of BDE and quick engagements. Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin are exciting but not particularly shocking because of a lot of the reasons Kathleen pointed to here: young, hot, Christian.
Both Hailey and Justin come from religious families and since he repurposed his life (if Behind the Music ever comes back and they do a Justin Bieber episode, egging his neighbour’s house will play out prominently in his story), his longest relationship is with Judah Smith who, along with his wife, heads up the City Church in Seattle, which may explain his and Selena’s date in Bellevue). In late June, Hailey and Justin were hanging out at what looks like Jude’s home.
There also Chad Veach and Rich Wilkerson Jr. (the Jennerdashians go-to). But the bible bro we associate most with him is Carl Lentz, the “hot pastor”, who has been publicly linked to Justin for the past 5 years or so, particularly around the cancellation of the Purpose tour. There’s no clergy competition here – Judah introduced them and Judah and Carl are tight. Together, Judah, Carl, Rich and Chad form Justin’s very own Pastor Posse.
I’m particularly interested in the pop culture ascension of Carl Lentz, so much so that I wrote about his work with Hillsong, an Australia-based mega church, for Cosmopolitan a year back. Part of what piqued my curiosity was this amazing piece in GQ by, WHO ELSE, Taffy Brodesser-Akner.
The gist is this: Carl is hot. He’s cool. He wears YSL. He is down with the kids* (and lots of athletes and celebrities). He preaches not from a stuffy pulpit, but from the Hammerstein Ballroom. He and Justin been close for a very long time, going on vacation and attending conferences and wearing the same glasses.
The media attention Carl receives has been closely tied to his relationship with Bieber, and he hasn’t been shy about discussing their bond during his public appearances, like on Super Soul Sunday (he explained how he baptized Biebs in a bathtub – there was no way not to go with alliteration on this) and in a Facebook live interview in which he clarified that he’s actually not Justin pastor’s (that would be Judah), but more his friend and Biebs is the Michael Jackson of his generation in terms of fame.
When TMZ recently asked Carl Lentz his thoughts on Justin’s engagement, his response was surprising. Or rather, non-response. For once, Carl did not want to talk about Justin. TMZ, a reliable Justin source with lots of “insider” info, said the two had a falling out a few months ago.
But over what? Selena? Hailey? Money? All of the above? None of the above?
This has been one of the most influential relationship in Justin’s life, so it’s certainly worth an analysis. Let’s rewind a little, to a November 2017 Post Malone interview in Rolling Stone.
When I ask Malone about Bieber, he calls him “a f-cking awesome, great dude” and “a genuine friend.” He adds, “He’s gotten super-religious recently. Real culty.” He’s referring to Hillsong, a megachurch that Bieber belongs to. “It’s not culty!” Ashlen interjects. “It’s a total cult,” Malone continues. “He’s already given them, like, $10 million. Those are the worst kinds of people. I used to be super-religious. I believed in God. But now I see through it. It’s nice to support something you believe in, I guess, but people are spending so much money, and God doesn’t care that your church has a fucking gold roof.” I ask if he’s shared these thoughts with Bieber. “We don’t talk about this stuff,” he says. (A source close to Bieber denies that he’s given $10 million.)
While it’s an interesting observation, it didn’t seem to affect Justin’s relationship with Post Malone (who continues to get frequent shout-outs on Justin’s Instagram) or Carl Lentz. In late December, PEOPLE reported that Carl was providing Justin and Selena with couple’s counselling.
Moreover, Justin still attends Hillsong services (in late January with his mom, in February with Selena, and in mid-June in Miami with Hailey); if donations were an issue, it would stand to reason that he would cut ties with a church he thought was squandering his money.
If it isn’t business, it’s personal. And while TMZ has a lock on all things Bieber, this seemed to catch even them by surprise. There’s no breakdown or timelines, just a vague “few months” mentioned. So what’s happened in the last few months? Justin reconciled with Selena, then split, then got back together with Hailey. If it’s been a “few months” it would probably be mid-or slightly-post Selena, as Justin and Hailey haven’t been together that long.
As mentioned above, PEOPLE reported that Carl was providing Jelena with guidance as of late 2017. Could their breakup have had an effect on Carl and Justin’s relationship? This is a possibility, but I consider it unlikely as Hailey also attends Hillsong and is very friendly with the Lentzes, particularly Laura (who is also a Lead Pastor with Hillsong and actually grew up in the church). There seems to be a lot a genuine and mutual adoration there.
What else has happened in Justin’s life? His father got married in late February. Selena was his date. Carl Lentz is 39 and often categorized as a father figure to Justin. But Justin and his father Jeremy (who is 43) seem pretty tight too, especially in the last few years. And while mom Pattie has always been vocal about her Christian beliefs (Justin once said that Pattie would play Judah’s tapes to him as he fell asleep and would often try to introduce him to church folk), Jeremy doesn’t seem to have that much of an interest in the Pastor Posse. He doesn’t follow any of them on Instagram. Justin is papped with his dad with some frequency, but I couldn’t find any crossover with Carl or Judah (if you do, send them to me). Could there be some weirdness there? Maybe.
Or maybe Justin and Carl grew apart. Or got into a fight over a foul during a pick-up game. Maybe Justin got tired of Carl name-checking him. Maybe they had a dispute about beliefs. Maybe it’s money. This gossip buffet has a bit of everything.
What we know for sure is that breaking up with a friend can be traumatizing – certainly as traumatizing as a romantic break-up. Justin and Carl were often described as “inseparable.” Now Justin and Hailey are inseparable. In making the decision to get engaged, Justin would certainly have turned to his spiritual entourage for advice; going by the timeline, it appears Carl wasn’t part of that discussion. (Or, another possibility, the voice of dissent?)
It’s certainly been a season for change for Justin, all of it is very fresh. On May 12, both Justin and Hailey liked a photo Carl posted. Hailey continues to like and comment on Laura Lentz’s posts. Justin and Carl continue to follow one another on Instagram. Like most of Justin’s breakups, this one doesn’t seem permanent.
But how will they move forward? If Justin and Hailey continue to spend time in New York, how will they avoid Carl’s services at Hillsong while still attending the church? (As mentioned above, Justin and Hailey were in Miami attending a Hillsong service as part of Rich Wilkerson Jr.’s Vous conference. I couldn’t find any mention of Carl speaking or attending.)
And there’s one more entrée that we can add to the buffet. Remember those photos of Justin getting super emotional during a phone call? They were posted on July 12. TMZ posted the video of Carl’s reaction to the engagement on July 13. By all accounts, both Justin and Hailey’s families are happy and there’s no drama there. So who was on the other end of that intense conversation? Justin is riding high right now – only something very important and very personal could cause that kind of sidewalk angst.