By Richard Edmondson
Is Lady Gaga the embodiment of “Christian values”? Mention of the performer’s name likely would not conjure up such an image in most people’s minds, yet this is the view expressed in an article published yesterday by the Washington Post.
In an American context where the media equates religion with social conservatism, Lady Gaga represents a welcome, non-fundamentalist Christianity. She is the closest pop culture version, in values if not tone, to her fellow Catholic, Pope Francis. She champions Christian values not of exclusion and discrimination but of empowerment, grace and self-acceptance.
It’s a rather astonishing paragraph–and I say this neither as a critic nor as a fan of Gaga. I’ve in fact paid little attention to her over the years for the reason that there always seemed better things to do with my time than watch videos of writhing, moaning women set to mundane pop music. But that someone could cogently express such a view as that expressed in the paragraph above, with it then being published in a prominent American newspaper (or what passes for such these days), is testimony to how far things have fallen–fallen in terms of the degradation of American culture and also the degradation of Christianity in America.
When I was growing up, the concept of a “model Christian” was someone who was active in the church, who was honest and spoke truthfully, whose word was their bond, and who, like the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable, extended a helping hand to those in need. If she was a woman, she additionally was a devoted wife and mother. It was a simpler time then, of course. And today the world is far more disordered. The simple times are gone, which means we need an expanded definition of what it means to be a model Christian–necessary in order to meet the challenges and complexities of today’s life.
My own definition, for what it’s worth, would include all of the traits listed above, with a few additional ones besides: the ability to feel compassion for all victims of injustice; the courage to stand up for what is right and just, even if it comes with a personal cost attached; being conscientious by using the teachings of Jesus as a measuring stick for discerning truth from propaganda (anything which does not measure up should be tossed out); and perhaps most importantly of all–following the path of true Christianity, as opposed to Christian Zionism–the darkest, deadliest, and most dangerous heresy in the 2,000-year history of the Church.
How all or any of this applies to Lady Gaga I’m not sure. The Washington Post article, which was published on Super Bowl Sunday, speaks of her “influential contributions to the theology of human sexuality.” Which makes one wonder: is there something holy or theological about sexuality? Some religions have indeed held this to be the case.
Within the Hindu faith, for instance, are certain branches wherein a focus on sex and eroticism can be found, the Kama Sutra and certain Tantra texts being prime examples. Little of this can be found in Christianity, however. And even among Hindus, not all agree that tantric sex is a legitimate path to God, with some viewing it as nothing more than a distraction. Nonetheless, the Washington Post would apparently have us believe there is something “theological” about Lady Gaga’s gyrations.
The Washington Post has been among those mainstream media outlets most heavily implicated in the spread of fake news. It was the Post which told us that the Russians had hacked into the US power grid, and the Post also which publicized the infamous PropOrNot website whose mission supposedly was to expose “fake news.”
The Post article on Gaga was written by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, who is credited with a theological background and who “writes at the intersection of faith, public policy and pop culture.”
Graves-Fitzsimmons lauds Lady Gaga for her advocacy of LGBT rights and cites the song “Born This Way” as “the hymn for LGBT Christians that is sorely missing from your average church hymnal.”
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
He also believes expressions of her faith in God can be found in other songs she has recorded and indeed “throughout her discography,” as he puts it–and he even goes so far as to extol her as a “prophet” no less.
“Lady Gaga has also played the part of prophet,” he asserts. “She publicly came out as bisexual and spoke at an LGBT rights march on the Mall in 2009. Her appearance at the Super Bowl will be particularly prophetic due to her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault.”
Elsewhere in the same article he applies the label “prophet and pastor” and avers that she “will lead us all in worship” at the Super Bowl.
“It may not look like your grandparents’ church service, but her values do reflect those of Jesus Christ,” he reckons.
You can go here to see Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl should you wish to judge for yourself. And people might also be interested in a Mark Dice commentary on the media’s response to the performance. It seems there is a raging controversy now over whether the show may have included a veiled criticism of Donald Trump.
I am of course not sufficiently familiar with Gaga’s “discography” to comment on her work as an artist. What I can say is that if advocating for LGBT rights is all it takes to become a “prophet” these days–while saying nothing about the occupation of the Palestinians–then we’ve lowered our standards on this along with everything else. I take this view because advocating for LGBT rights involves zero risk to your career, and certainly won’t get you sawn in half–the fate, according to legend, which befell the prophet Isaiah.
For Graves-Fitzsimmons, the crux of the matter seems to come down to which God you pray to, and maybe here at least he has a good point.
“She (Gaga) prays to an affirming God with expansive love, not a narrow-minded magician in the sky who damns nonbelievers to eternal conscious torment.”
Hopefully, by implication, this could mean also that the singer would not, and does not, direct her prayers to a narrow-minded God of vengeance who favors one small group of people over the rest of humanity–although I doubt we’ll see commentary of this nature in the Washington Post anytime soon.
Perhaps I’ll close this post by simply recalling the story of the woman caught in adultery, as told of in the Gospel of John. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery,” said the Pharisees as they brought the woman before Jesus. “In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Jesus’ famous reply was that he who was without sin should cast the first stone. Surprisingly, perhaps, not a single Pharisee claimed to be sinless and stepped forward or hurled a rock. Instead they all melted away, at which point Jesus looked at the woman and asked, “Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she tells him.
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin,” he replies.
It’s wise advice for all of us, and perhaps Lady Gaga should give it some thought as well.