When Justin Bieber strode onto the stage of the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on Sunday (Aug. 7) night to accept a Teen Choice Award, he thanked his fans profusely, then quickly turned his attention to something more eternal.

“I wanna say that anything is possible if you set your mind to it,” the Canadian superstar said, grasping the award’s blue-and-yellow surfboard that towered over him by several inches. “You gotta keep God first and always remember to keep family first.”

Then, pointing toward the crowd with a sweeping gesture, Bieber added, “Jesus loves every one of you!”

It’s hardly unusual for celebrities to give God a shout-out at award shows. In fact the phenomenon has become so ubiquitous that one critic wondered whether throwing out “God props” had jumped the shark.

But what young Bieber said is different. It wasn’t the rote “I want to thank Mylordandsaviorjesuschrist” that we’ve heard so many times from the awards podium, often uttered by artists collecting prizes for music or films that would be hard-stretched to conceive as honoring the Creator.

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