A Response to “Lady Gaga vs. Religion?” (From: Jesus- meetpopculture)

For the original post from “Jesus-meetpopculture“, click this link.


Gaga has certainly amassed an immense fan base, and has, as you say, a ‘religion’ (I’d say she certainly preaches a gospel) based on inclusivity, tolerance, peace, and love.

There are certainly positive associations with Gaga’s ‘religion’ (e.g. inclusivity), along with other that aren’t too terribly positive.  But the negative ones (e.g. sexualization) aren’t articulated too often in popular circles, which I would say is a commentary on society/popular culture as a whole.

I find it interesting that you ask the question whether or not Gaga has created a ‘religion’ or a ‘non-religion’.  I’m not sure whether you addressed if her ‘religion’ was actually non-religion in your post, but I would say that it is certainly not non-religion.  Her persona/message – a gospel if you will – is full of religious qualities: outlining a belief system, including narratives/symbols (her own or stolen), and promoting a certain lifestyle.

Peaceful Future T-shirt graphic

She, as you say, envisions a future with a more peaceful religion for the younger generation.

Jesus too, includes poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes and tax collectors – outcasts – not only to listen to him, but he invites them into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This can easily be seen as a gospel of inclusion.

I would also say, strangely, that Gaga, when envisioning a more peaceful religion, echoes Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).  Specifically when he teaches his: “You have heard that it was said…  but I tell you…” message.  He contrasts the ‘old’ ways and teachings: “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy”, with “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44)

In these two ways, Gaga shares similarities with Jesus.  And if Christianity is the by-product of followers Jesus, I’ll be fascinated to see what ends up with followers of Gaga…

Of course, there is that whole thing with Jesus dying, resurrecting, and being the Son of God… that helps with establishing a lasting following.

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Many Christians, myself included, struggle with the problems of religion, in the same way that Lady Gaga does. (I like the interview a lot, I also like how she separates the church from religion, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation)

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Lady Gaga: a good Christian? Or a great Christian?

After viewing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” music video (dir. Francis Lawrence) for the first time, I’m not sure of how to precisely describe the experience.  It was artistic, full of imagery, and sexually explicit.

Beyond Gaga’s characteristic “†” and a brief crossing of herself while dancing, my curiosity of how this video was directly related to the “Christianity” part of “Christianity and Popular Culture” was only satisfied when professor Harris informed us that Gaga is a self-proclaimed Christian.

But seriously.  Gaga.  A Christian?  

This Gaga?

 

 

 

Or This Gaga?

When seeing images like these and scantly clad in her music videos, I question how “Christian” she actually is.  American Christian values promote modesty and censorship of sexual content, especially in movies and on television.  I struggle with labelling Gaga a Christian because much of what she produces could be considered soft-core pornography.

In my search of a quote to confirm her Christian-ness, I found Gaga’s thoughts on religion in an interview with Larry King.  (Interview clip)

“I’m very religious, I was raised Catholic, I believe in Jesus, I believe in God, I’m very spiritual, I pray very much. … At the same time, there is no one religion that doesn’t hate or speak against or be prejudice against another racial group or religious group or sexual group.  And for that I think religion is also bogus.  So I suppose you could say I’m a quite religious woman who’s confused about religion.” – Lady Gaga

Never once does she say she’s a Christian.  Her struggle with being religious and hating the bad things religions do, is something that resonates with many people – myself included.  I wonder though, if she’s playing a part.

In the same way, Johnny Cash was a musical legend (which Gaga is in the making), and he embodied being a: rock star, country boy, folk hero, preacher, poet, drug addict, rebel, sinner, and saint?  I thoroughly appreciate what he has to say for himself:

“I’m still a Christian, as I have been all my life,” … “Beyond that I get complicated.”

and,

“I am not a Christian artist, I am an artist who is a Christian.”

In the “Bad Romance” video we see Gaga wanting the love of the world (the music industry and/or fame), struggling when taken, offering herself up, her ‘baptism’ into that world (drinking the vodka), and forced to dance in slavery.  We see her overcome “the man” and literally burn him.

But we also see images of her weeping – a terribly sad and repentant Gaga?

In “Judas” we hear:

Jesus is my virtue/And Judas is the Demon that I cling to

Therefore: Gaga is both fond of and despises religion.  She preaches a gospel of extreme inclusivity.  She, “Dream[s] of and envision[s] a future where we have a more peaceful religion, or a more peaceful world.”

If Gaga purported herself as a Christian – already believing in Jesus and God, promoting peace, and loving others – would she be a good christian? or great?

Response to: Hanging out with Jesus Christ’s post on “Feelings of Discomfort and Strictly North American”

[See “Hanging out with Jesus Christ’s” original post here]

The Family Guy episode, “Dream of Jesus” most certainly displays the ‘Jesus is my friend’ tenor of American Christianity, and I too find the dinner table scene quite hilarious.

 

I think the “feeling of discomfort” which you describe, imbued by your Catholic aunt, when seeing Jesus portrayed without sanctity or holiness and so casually is felt by many.  Her conceptualisation of a sacred and holy Jesus, deeply rooted in her faith, has certainly stayed with you.  Many in our generation may not have ‘Christian’ parents, but the chances of our grandparents having this conceptualisation are much greater.  Their thoughts, I’m sure, have an impact on our thinking – especially as youngins’.  And so, though we often laugh at Jesus’s behaviour on screen – especially with lines like, “Peter, I think you may be my saviour” – there is certainly an underlying feeling of, at the very least, discomfort at the derision of the sanctity and holiness of Jesus.  I certainly feel it.

 

Your last point on the idea of the friendly, “local neighbourhood Jesus”, figure that appears in American Christianity is strictly limited to appearing in North America is something I completely disagree with.  Saint Young Men (聖☆おにいさん Seinto Oniisan), is a Japanese manga series that tells the story of Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha as roommates in Tokyo taking a vacation on Earth.  The four volumes of the series have sold over 2.6 million copies and it was the tenth best-selling manga series in Japan for 2009.  In it:

“Jesus is portrayed as a care-free, generous, and humorous “sei-jin” (holy man or adult in Japanese) … Jesus is very friendly to his apostles. But because Jesus is even nice to Judas, this makes Buddha worry.  Whenever Jesus’ emotions are at a high or low peak (due to finding something funny or being scared), miracles may happen unexpectedly.  Jesus is a devout follower of drama shows, and reviews them on his online blog.”

(Read more at the Wikipedia article to enjoy the hilarity).


This is one extremely fantasic(ally hilarious) example of Jesus being portrayed in a similar fashion of the “friendly Jesus” or even more liberally than found in American Christianity — outside of North America.


Not about Harry Potter

In reading, “Harry Potter and the Functions of Popular Culture,” none of the thoughts I came away with were about Harry Potter.

I was more absorbed in the primary reason for popular culture that Kidd isolated — capitalism.

Today, my roommate (a composer and fellow musician), asked me for my opinion on an introduction for something he was working on.  I knew he had been working on the soundtrack for a video game, so I was guessing it was for a specific map or level.  The synth had the slightest distortion, the timpani sounded awesome, the strings came in perfectly — I really liked it.

In finding out that this particular introduction was for a ‘CD-only promotion’, I had to let him know what was wrong.

The synths took too long to build, the timpani didn’t come in soon enough, the stings weren’t catchy enough.  I told him, “If you’re trying to sell me something, you’ve got 8 seconds, and you really only sold me two notes.”

A couple minutes later, I said to him from my room, “It’s too bad we have to write music to sell it.”  He agreed.

Popular music, as a manifestation of pop culture, has certainly generated norms, established boundaries, created rituals, produced innovation, and even led the way for social change — all components of social cohesion, a “necessary and healthy element[s] [of] modern society.”  Right?

For arguments’ sake:

Pop culture — ‘the man’ in his desire for prosperity, in this case, has set a standard for music: we won’t listen to something if it doesn’t catch our attention in 8 seconds.  It limits us…

Things that have the potential to be art, like most ‘things’ pop culture, aren’t necessary or healthy for a role in social cohesion.  Social cohesion in art is conformity.  Art flourishes in non-conformity: diversity.

Diversity is also healthy and necessary for social health, is it not?


An aside:

The music of heavy metal music is not a threat to children, nor rap music as a threat to society, nor even the medium of the music video as a framework that justifies rape and other forms of sexual violence.  It is the content.

Is it even logical to compare Durkheim’s argument for crime as a necessary and healthy element of society because of its function of social cohesion with popular culture?  I think crime threatens society in a much different way than popular culture.


Article: Harry Potter and the Functions of Popular Culture, Dustin Kidd, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2007

Toward a Definition of Popular Culture

I never thought that to define “popular culture” would be such a struggle.  Defining pop culture as “commercial culture based on popular taste” seems adequate.  Yet, Parker argues, quite correctly, that common definitions, “suffer from a presentist bias and cannot be applied to pre-industrial and pre-capitalist societies.”

Parker starts his article in referencing Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964, saying that popular culture is similar to pornography: we may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it. Soon after, he references what Tony Bennett wrote in Popular Culture: a Teaching Object,

“The concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theoretical blind alleys.”

 

Here’s my (wonderfully grotesque layman’s) version of the compiled definitions of Pop Culture:

  • there’s lots of it(?)
  • it’s good(?) (but not too classy)
  • it’s massed out by the man and his devices(?)
  • ‘we the people’ made it(?)
  • it’s made to ‘stick it to the man'(?)
  • there is no pop culture, Bennett is right(?)

an image from the google search "pop music artist"

But I ask, “Do we know it when we see it?” Sure, that last hit song by (insert pop artist here) that came out on the radio is it.  We can look at how well it does on the pop charts.  It’s measurable – it’s popular.

But is it good? And who decides, or does that matter?  Does ‘the man’ produce music? or do ‘the people’? Is the music part of resistance to culture?  (maybe if it’s grunge or punk).  All of these questions make us question what pop culture really is.  I can think of plenty of things that fit the bill for: “I know it [as pop culture] when I see it”, but too often they, like our pop song example, only qualify for one or two of the definitions.

We’re left with Bennett though.  How can pop culture be both: something we know when we see and yet confused and contradictory in meaning?  It can’t, right?

I’ll say that it can.  Though the differentiations are potentially confusing, there is a difference between culture and pop culture.  How distinct and clear that difference is though – remains to be defined.

Virtually useless is infinitely better then actually useless, because if it weren’t, professor Harris would be in some serious trouble.

Better thinking

After watching a splendid sermon entitled “Anti-Intellectual” by Michael Krause, in Southridge Community Church’s UnChristian series, there were many things I agreed with and was intrigued by.

One such thing was a quote (turns out, so says the internet, that it’s rather popular… I’ve never heard it) by St. Augustine from his “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” written in 408 AD. (His meaning of the word literal is different than what you’re thinking):

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens and the other elements of the world, the motion and orbit[s]… about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such and embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

Now, there’s probably a lot of things I could follow up with after this quote, but I think it’s rather obvious that since the 5th century there have been plenty christians who’ve done such disgraceful and dangerous things.  Least of these things would be the Kirk Cameron Banana video.

I’m just going to keep things simple and in thought with the sermon.  I apologize if these things are rather redundant.

  • Scriptures are not to be treated as science textbooks.  Therefore, don’t give the creation story in Genesis 1 a timeline of 7 “earth?” days (or a timeline at all – St. Augustine would say it all happened at once).  Giving it such a timeline is similar to agreeing with the Sun rotating around the Earth as written in the book of Ecclesiastes.  On this topic Galileo says:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

  • The primary role of scripture is to describe the redemption of the universe through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through the spirit filled community of the Church.
  • To in-errants, theologically, the age of the Earth is a matter of indifference.
  • In reading Genesis 1, one must engage with the history of the ancient world – especially the text of the creation myths of other cultures, engage with systematic interpretation of the genre of literature that Genesis 1 is, and engage with all that modern science has validated.

Nearing Michael’s conclusion he states that Genesis 1 both is and is not history, its definitely not science, and is primarily theology.  Disagree with this because of better thinking, not less thinking.