I know that some of what I have said here will be offensive. But my intention is not to write an inflammatory post to annoy people or justify my going to a Gaga concert. I wasn't sure if I was going to post anything about my experience of the Born This Way Ball because I felt that it would be self-indulgent and I'm not sure that the internet, of all places, is appropriate for this kind of thing but after thinking about it a bit more; I thought that I would share a few of my thoughts. I don't claim to offer anything comprehensive nor is this post exhaustive.
First of all a quick side note: age appropriateness should always be a consideration and it was either plain naivete or foolishness to bring kids to this show. The show is NOT for children, it is overtly sexual and the parents who brought their children to the show have a l0t more to explain than the birds and the bees. Good luck talking about S&M and girl-on-girl oral sex with your 9 year old.
To put some of the rest of this post into CONTEXT: On 14 June 2012, after posting on Facebook that I had just bought tickets to Gaga, I was lambasted by Christians for supporting “the Whore of Babylon” and her “evil kingdom”. I was told that “I shouldn't spend my money investing in her depraved kingdom and not being concerned about the advance of God's kingdom.” All while having no concern about whether this rebuke had any basis in loving relationship, previous knowledge of my character or if it might be offensive to me whatsoever.
I was then given a link to a Vigilant Citizen article (1) on some deluded connection between Gaga and the Illuminati (I regrettably even mention that ridiculous and completely idiotic website). Somewhat of a cyber war ensued over that post and it got UGLY. That conversation made me angry and I didn't speak to any of it then; I just let people fight amongst themselves.
Nonetheless, I got dressed up like a little monster and went to the concert with a bunch of friends. It was a fantastic show, absolutely mind-blowing in fact, and I had a really amazing time with my friends. The post-show Steers mission was also great. I have a new found respect and appreciation for Lady Gaga and as hesitant as I would have been to say it before watching the show, she is truly a great performer and artist.
Naturally at such a high profile and controversial event; we were stopped by a multitude of Christians (who they were representing, I will leave unmentioned) and we were given pamphlets, quoting some wildly out of context Bible verses, explaining some bizarre symbolism and just how “evil, self-confessed Satanist”, Lady Gaga and her music is.
Knowing that this would be as obvious of an eventuality as the pelvic thrusting, scantily clad and sexually charged, synchronized dancing that would take place a little later on; I prepared for this in advance, thinking about the theological implications that such an unbiblical and narrow minded worldview could have on the world around us.
This kind of unthinking 'preachy' behaviour offends the friends I care deeply about. And quite frankly, it offends me and I bat for the same team (Well maybe just a similar team, but I won't get into that). This kind of thing says that “If you are Christian; check your brains, appreciation for common grace and your love for your friends in at the door. Don't tell people the truth because there are no logical justifications for faith, ignore your own fallibility and just criticize and shame people into repentance, they'll love it ”. INFURIATING, dumb for days and completely antithetical to the faith that Jesus calls people to. (2)
All this does is re-iterate the oppressive hyper-moralism that not only is enforced in many Christian communities and is unfortunately a lot of people's only experience of what Christianity is (it certainly was my first experience) BUT it is something that Jesus, himself, speaks against. The underlying philosophy behind this line of unbiblical thinking is two-fold:
1.) Insular conservatism, otherwise known as, "Let's all sit, in candle light, at home with our 14 children and make our own clothes instead of going to a secular event or even daring to connect with a person that could potentially threaten our beliefs or way of life."
The old and still incorrect “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy reigns here. This position assumes that the evil of the extrinsic world will taint the faith of a Christian. The idea is, “if you put garbage in, all you gonna get is garbage out.” But Jesus says the exact opposite is true.
Look at: Luke 6:45
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the OVERFLOW OF HIS HEART his mouth speaks.” (Emphasis mine).
The fruit of our lives (whether in holiness or sin) is always inextricably tied to the root of our hearts. If our hearts are prone toward sin in certain ways, we will find a way to sin. Sin indeed corrupts but the sin is not so much “out there in the world” as much as it is in the heart of every person. The outright rejection of things like pop culture, falsely assumes that sin is mostly what we do rather than who we are. (2)
The call of conservatism is sometimes to separate yourself from everything except Christian culture and you'll separate yourself from sin but this is extravagantly misguided because Christian culture can be equally as depraved, insular, judgmental and Godless as secular culture can be. Especially when Christians insist on idolatrously clinging to the kind of hyper-conservativism that Jesus would abhor.
I am not negating the fact that there are moral absolutes or that as individuals, we have certain proclivities to sinful behaviour. Because there are personal legalisms that we need to be wise about. (If you know that you struggle with pornography, don't watch shows like 'True Blood' or 'Game of Thrones' that have gratuitous sex scenes in them; or like me, if you struggle with biting your tongue then don't watch shows like 'House' that fuel your cynicism or like 'How I met your Mother' that offer you material that feeds your inappropriate joke making.)
We need to know our weaknesses and be open about them, we need accountability and strong friendships where there is space to call each other out on things that aren't right (Proverbs 27:6). We need friends that don't share the same beliefs and values as us. Friends that we can disagree with yet love all the same. And ultimately we need to be wise and discerning about the points at which we choose to engage popular culture.
Here's an example from the concert: In an opening scene, fully clothed, Gaga lies on a table while a man pretends to perform oral sex on her. Later on Gaga appeared on stage as a part that made up a motorcycle and a female dancer began to straddle her and ride her around stage. My friend behind me said jokingly, "Well...that's not Christian." I had to laugh because the situation was ridiculous and I said to him that neither was lambasting someone for going to a pop concert.
I also thought about how the Bible depicts a mutually satisfying sexual relationship in Song of Solomon that portrays a married couple performing oral sex on each other (Song of Solomon 2:3). Imagine we just decided that we were fine with talking openly about biblical oral sex and not just pretending that we never think about it or pretending that Christians only ever have sex in the missionary position? When last did you have or overhear a conversation like that?
The greater offense for me in this situation, would not be involving myself in popular culture but for my friends to think that I'm unapproachable or that they'll offend my moralistic sensibilities if they ask me a difficult, possibly controversial question. I am not a moral person. I stuff up far more than I get things right and yet I still bend towards self-righteousness. In light of God's grace and kindness towards me, in spite of all my sin, how could I even think that self-righteousness is a legitimate option?
Why do we continually bend towards self-righteousness and the judgment and criticism of others? I know that some of the answer lies in the fact that we are not born good or moral and we are reminded of this everyday as we wrestle with conflicting desires. (If we were born good the world would look very different and I wouldn't be studying to be a social worker because my chosen profession would be obsolete).
Another part of the answer is that people take themselves far too seriously, carrying around a sense of self-importance, aiming to be treated like gods. An example of this from the concert is that a group of people standing next to us were tuning us and cursing at us for talking too loudly and accidentally bumping into them after being pushed. Seriously? You come to a concert with over 50 000 people and expect people to not touch you or talk too loudly? Incredible.
The one thing I am; is more than happy and open to talking about all sorts of things but the shadow that this extreme moralism and culturally imbedded self-importance imposes is sometimes too great to shake off. It often cripples people from even being able to talk about difficult issues or things that they struggle with. It has no place in Christian culture.
2.) The 2nd issue is that it encourages people to believe that their goodness and worth is tied up in how they behave. Classic 'works righteousness' and it goes, "Let us work on our self-righteousness before we come to Jesus", “Clean your life up before you even think of coming to Him".
This issue came up because Gaga spoke about gay rights, racism and a plethora of other issues. My thoughts in response to this are that the average person, Christians especially, know nothing about the LGBTI community and I'm not too sure why this is still the case in 2012. Possibly because of the perpetuation of homophobia in all culture and the reality that a lot of people are too homophobic or indifferent to care.
Or maybe it's just that people feel threatened, I'm not sure. But it's an entire group of people that are constantly relegated to the fringes of society and that still battle the injustices of unequal rights for marriage, among other things; and I can say with surety that the 'Christian' (and I use that word tentatively here) community is largely responsible. I mean how long is going to take to achieve equal rights for same sex marriage?
Lastly, in the presence of a God who knows you the best, knows every misguided, ill-informed, maligned intentioned, self-sabotaging or hurtful thing you've ever done and still loves you more perfectly than any other; your sexuality and sexual activity becomes secondary. But in response to and in relationship with this God, your ideas about, thoughts on and desires for sex change along with the way you see everything else in your life.
I am not advocating hyper tolerance here or relativism by any means because being too tolerant leads to licentiousness and people get hurt. Freedom and love can only ever flourish within boundaries. But whatever sinful thing yours or my depraved heart might delight in doing, pales in comparison to the ultimate power that Jesus has over that sin. You don't have to clean up your life before God loves you, He already loves you and the resounding message from Jesus still remains, "come as you are."
(1) Original article I was sent on Facebook: http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusiness/lady-gaga-the-illuminati-puppet/
(2) Check out 'Is faith really blind?' by Michael Ramsden, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXif7BYMA3w
(3) Adapted from a post about Halloween on The Resurgence. For a more in depth look check out http://theresurgence.com/2011/10/31/what-christians-should-know-about-halloween
The opinions expressed in the above post do not represent that of athousandlittlewars but of Jess Klette in her personal capacity.