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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Religion Against Itself: Lady Gaga, God, and Love

By Peter Kline


I’d like to offer a theological read of Lady Gaga’s project. But let me begin with a little about me and why I’m interested in our current queen of pop.

I’m what you’d call a “religious person.” I attend church on Sundays, I have a seminary degree, I preach and lead worship regularly at my local church as well as at the local jail, and I’m currently studying for a Ph.D. in theology. And yet, I don’t particularly like religion. In fact, I’m often rather disturbed by it – as one is often disturbed by one’s own family, I suppose. I recognize that all religious speech and action – including my own – is always only a hair’s breadth away from ideology and propaganda (and usually it just is ideology and propaganda). In our current cultural and historical moment in the West it cannot help but be this way. Once religious language and institutions lose their taken-for-granted authority – which they have in modernity – all attempts simply to carry on with either the language or the institutions necessarily take on an air of insecurity and desperation about them. (This is not to say that pre-modern religion was any less ideological, only that in modernity we have become self-conscious about the ideological nature of religion).

I say this as someone still committed to Christianity. By “Christianity” I don’t necessarily mean “the Christian religion,” although my commitment to Christianity has and will, I think, be played out amidst all the trappings of “the Christian religion.” Christianity, for me, is reducible to one claim, and my belief in the truth of this one claim is what keeps me wading through all the muck and nonsense of the Christian religion – including, again, the muck and nonsense that I myself produce along the way. The claim is this: that poor peasant from Nazareth named Jesus, executed for blasphemy, is somehow the Mystery at the heart of all things. 

And so I’m constantly asking: is there any sense in which religious terms like “God,” “Jesus,” and “worship” can be categories of truthful and liberating (rather than ideological) speech and action? Which is to say, can they be rescued from “religion,” from the quest to secure ourselves against our finitude by pretending that “God” or “transcendence” or “eternity” or “the holy” is within our grasp as some identifiable bit of the world – whether it be a nation, institution, person, text, idea, or ambition?

It is for these reasons that I find myself deeply fascinated and compelled by Lady Gaga’s project – precisely as a religious person, as a theologian. The terms I just mentioned, (“God,” “Jesus,” “worship”), are terms not infrequently employed by Gaga herself. It is the way she inhabits and enacts these categories that compels me. We are often told that there is nothing really new in what Gaga is doing, especially with regard to religious themes and symbols. She is just another disgruntled post-Catholic who employs the images and tropes of religion for shock value. The standard (and by now tired) line is: she’s just doing what Madonna did.

But this is to fail to understand and appreciate Gaga’s project and the role of religion within it. She can’t be categorized or written off as a disgruntled post-Catholic who finds that the only way to deal with her religious upbringing is to profane it. This is a fundamental misreading of her art. There’s something much more subtle going on, a positive and appreciative appropriation of religious identity, but with a twist. Gaga’s performance of religious themes and identity is utterly sincere and serious. She’s not just after shock value. I’m convinced of this. The twist, though, is that this sincerity and seriousness is not entirely sincere or serious about itself.


This is the paradox and irony at the heart of Gaga’s entire project: a kind of earnest flippancy. I remember vividly one of her sermonettes at the particular Monster Ball I attended in Nashville. With a fiery conviction that would outdo any southern preacher, she proclaimed to us: “Jesus loves every fucking one of you!” And I have no doubt that she was aware of the signs being picketed about outside the arena before the show, urging “homosexuals” and other “sinners” to “repent.” Gaga assumed the role of counter-preacher, and she wasn’t kidding around. But her sermonette didn’t lead into some moralizing or tear-jerking song. It led into a raucous performance of “Boys, Boys, Boys,” as if to say, the only proper theological response to bigotry and hatred is to dance in its face to the tune of a (seemingly) vapid pop song.

It is this holding of one’s convictions firmly but of oneself lightly that is Gaga at her best. It is a posture that embraces finitude, contingency, and freedom. The problem with “convictions” and “ideas” – even and especially good and right ones, like, “Jesus loves every fucking one of you!” – is that they quickly imbue the holder of the conviction with a felt eternity and transcendence of contingency. We wield our convictions and ideas to shield us from the actuality of life, from the threats of having actually to live with and for others in all their singularity and finitude. (If I’m aware of the plight of the poor, convicted about the injustice of their lot just enough to vote for the politician who has the best ideas about how to help them, that is enough). Gaga seems to intuit something of this, which is why she holds all of her ideas and convictions (and there are a number of them) ironically and absurdly, being always ready to drop the chatter and simply sing and dance with and for her fans.


This is why the performative core of Gaga’s art is constantly undoing its own conceptual pretensions, even and especially with regard to its religious dimensions – in a way that parallels, and here is my central claim, the way in which the performative core of Christianity undoes its own religious pretensions. What is the performative core of Christianity? It’s that mutilated blasphemer dying on a Roman device of torture and execution. What is the performative core of Gaga’s art? It’s that bloodied pop-star hanging dead before the murderous gaze of the MTV audience at the 2009 VMAs. This, I submit, is the central religious image in her entire oeuvre – a figure we’d like to make capital off of (whether religious or cultural), but who instead confronts us with our own violence, and in doing so calls us to freedom.


Jesus was put to death by the religious and political authorities of his day. Gaga was put to death by the cultural authorities of our day. Both died at the hands of those trained in the arts of death: the former at the hands of Roman soldiers; the latter at the hands of the paparazzi. Both walked straight into centers of cultural power to face their deaths: Jesus into Jerusalem, Gaga into Los Angeles. Both submitted to the violence of the powers freely and intentionally. Jesus: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed…” (Mark 8:31). Gaga: “I imagine that my pop career could be quite long and people will wonder for a very long time what my demise will look like, so why don't we show them?”

Notice just what this means for how we should understand Gaga’s art: it all takes place under the shadow of its already enacted demise. But this is a demise that she herself has enacted as art. Just here is the subversive or “salvific” move of her entire project. By enacting her own death, by submitting to the death-gaze of the pop-media world and turning it into her own art, she has taken the power of death out of their hands. She has exposed their violence, just thereby subverting it. Her death opens a space of freedom for her art and for her fans, creating space for all those “little monsters” who otherwise would be excluded and ignored by the very cultural powers that Gaga allows to crush her. By death she has overcome death.


This is exactly how the New Testament understands the death of Jesus – just replace “art” with “love,” and “little monsters” with “sinners.” “God shows God’s love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “No one takes [my life] from me,” says Jesus, “but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10: 18). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The apostle Paul taught that Jesus’ death “disarmed the rulers and authorities by putting them to open shame” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus’ death shames the very powers that enact his death, because by turning their violence into his own act of love, he turns their violence against itself. The power of violence is enfolded within his act of love and is thereby rendered impotent and mute. “I’ll just never forget when I spoke with MTV for the first time and I explained the whole performance with them, and I remember the second that I finished, it was crickets.” Gaga’s art makes mute the power that is MTV, and out of this silence emerges the freedom of her music, just as the silence of Holy Saturday gives way to the new song of Easter Sunday.

What I’m claiming is that Lady Gaga is a “parable” of the good news about Jesus I believe in. A parable is an extended metaphor, an indirect enactment or proclamation of some truth. Jesus himself told lots of parables about “the kingdom of God,” and part of what it means to believe that Jesus is not confined to the past, that somehow he continues to be present to us, is that he continues to enact parables among us – even and especially outside of “church,” outside of “religion.” Anywhere that genuine human freedom and liberation is happening, anywhere that the powers are being shamed, there Jesus is alive and at work.

This of course cannot be proven; it can only be believed. But as Gaga herself is wont to say, freedom is living halfway between fantasy and reality, believing in a liberation that cannot be seen or even thought, but that can only be lived, against all odds. Her art, she says again and again, requires a massive faith; it is, she tells us in her recent VMA promo, a “huge lie,” meaning that it is true only in the actual doing of it. “I’m a free bitch” is a not a propositional statement meant to correspond to some state of affairs in the world as we know it. It is a cry of hope, an absurd leap into an impossible possibility. Reflecting on her HBO Special performance at Madison Square Garden, she says, “I look out into that crowd and I’m like, when the fuck did this happen? How did this happen? Who created this? Because I didn’t create this, I for sure didn’t. It’s God. It’s for sure Jesus. It ain’t me because I’m not ridiculous to think for a second that I’m that powerful.”

What exactly did Jesus do? Make her rich and successful? No, not that. Right before saying “It’s for sure Jesus,” Gaga says, “My faith in my creativity and artistry has nothing to do with making it, because we kinda had already made it, right? I mean, when we were playing for nothing downtown, it was still like we’d made it, we still felt like we were superstars.” What she is talking about here is a freedom for creativity and art independent of the powers, independent of the pop-machine. What is astonishing to her, what to her can only be received as a gift from God, is that she has been given to share this freedom for creativity with so many fans. “Little monsters…they are the truth. They are my reason for everything.” Her art has turned into a work of love, and that is a transfiguration no power in this world can produce. “It’s for sure Jesus.”

It is here where Gaga is most intensely religious, invoking Jesus as the driving force behind her art. And yet it is here where religion undoes itself, refusing to be a border or gate-keeper of “the holy,” and instead becoming a total abandonment to the freedom of love. “This is my chance to release / And be brave for you…Tonight I will return / The fame and riches earned / With you I’d watch them all be burned.” Gaga once described her album Born This Way as “bad kids going to church.” That album, we might say, is at its core a sermon about the prodigal generosity of God that is no respecter of religion. “It doesn’t matter if you love him / or capital H-I-M /….God makes no mistakes.” “God,” accordingly, is not some Big Other who demands our servile obedience, but simply and sheerly the Freedom to love every other. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born [this way] of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). That dead pop-star hanging in front the 2009 VMA audience just might be, for those who have ears to hear, an absurd witness to such love.


Let me conclude by citing one of Gaga’s own prayers. This comes from one of the previews to her HBO Special she released a few weeks prior to the special’s airing. In it, she is getting ready for her Madison Square Garden debut, struggling to make sense of it all. After an intense moment of vulnerability about her abiding insecurity, she offers the following:

“Let’s say our own prayer. Dear Lord, thank you so much for the blessings of all of my friends and my family. And thank you for all of the amazing screaming fans that are here tonight. Dear Lord please give me strength to be a winner for all of them and not for myself. Dear Lord remind me to empower not myself, but to empower those around me, because that is my gift. My gift is not self-worship, but my gift is the worship of others. So please help me to be strong, and please help me to know my own strength. Please help me to be brave, Lord. Dear God, give me courage. Do not let me give into those feelings. Do not let me give into my own insecurities. Allow me to walk in your light. Allow me to live and breathe and sing and dance for all the dancers on that stage, for the band, for the music, and for you. Amen.”

In the holy moment following the prayer, she turns and says, “Now I got some shit to do.”

Bibliography





Lady Gaga, “The Queen,” Born This Way, Interscope, 2011.

Lady Gaga, “Born This Way,” Born This Way, Interscope, 2011.


Author Bio:
Peter Kline is a doctoral candidate in theological studies at Vanderbilt University. He ministers to prisoners in Nashville. 

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35 comments:

  1. Very good job, keep it up! This is absolutely fascinating, I wish Gaga herself could read it!

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  2. Wow. What a beautifully written piece. You captured what I feel is the most powerful undercurrent of Gaga's success, the only way that it could have been conveyed, with such a personal and honest work.

    So much of the wonder and captivation we have with Gaga is bound up in this religious framework that has bled into every seam of her project, especially the Monster Ball. I could always feel these parallels to religion, but comparing Gaga martyring herself to the crucifixion, out of context, would have been sure to draw some questions of my rationality.

    She is constantly evoking symbolism, which is most evident in her parable, Judas. The video is laden with iconography, both Christian and her own, melded together, then gilded to obscure any distinction. Because, to her (and to us) there is no difference, their message is the same: Love.
    Judas, just like her 2009 demise on stage (and every bloody night of the Monster Ball), is a violence-subverting-passion, meant to remind us (much like countless golden crucifixes found in Catholic cathedrals) that Gaga suffers. In the video she laments over having to make a choice between two kinds of love, but the results of that choice are never revealed to us. She is engulfed by a massive wave with arms outstretched () as we are left to believe which she chose, her virtue (Jesus, who I believe symbolizes her commitment to her art, to her fans) or her demon (Judas, the bad boy stand-in for her lover[s]). Regardless, the video ends the same way every time, with a martyr in a wedding dress.

    Gaga doesn't just suffer the harsh criticisms of her art, or the scrutiny that comes with fame, she suffers the pain that comes with bearing a message so important, in choosing to be ‘Mother Monster.’ She suffers the birth pangs, the loneliness, and she bleeds from her feet, just so that the reality of her torment will transcend into fantasy those who choose to believe in her art, if only for the duration of a pop song.

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  3. One more level down: Just as Jesus subverted and overcame the violence of political and religious powers by enfolding that violence into his own Act of love, and just as Gaga subverts and overcomes the violence of cultural powers by embracing them in her acts of art, perhaps this guy is doing something similar--though he's too classy to draw attention to it in this piece.

    I think he's engaging in his own act of earnest flippancy, an intentional exercise in serious whimsicality--a smiling challenge to the violence of the academic powers, the intelligentsia, the kingdom of intellectual snobbery, by marshaling all his considerable eloquence and academic rigor in service of the riches of popular music. "See?" the subtext of this piece seems to whisper. "See? All you academic pretensions and pressures that destroy so many ideas and silence so many voices in the service of ego and self-worship? You can't buy me or own me. Watch me use your own methods to undo you."

    And to the rest of us, the public who feels less-than because we listen to Gaga instead of reading Goethe, he seems to say: "Jesus loves every fucking one of you." And in light of the bankruptcy of academic dominion, and in light of the radical freedom of Love, the call to action Kline suggests--even, or perhaps especially, to himself--is clear: "Now we got some shit to do."

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  4. Bingo. This is something I've been thinking about a lot myself & you said it much more eloquently than I as a "non-religious" person could.
    I think what I especially love about her project is that she uses "art" in the big, fat, all-encompassing sense of the word that rejects, embraces, and transcends all the usual & petty divisions that we like to place upon it-- just as she does with "religion".

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  5. Wow, great post. This is so representative of the essence of Born This Way, The Monster Ball, and Gaga herself. She's clearly hellbent on presenting us with paradoxes that we ultimately must accept and transcend if we are to appreciate and understand her work.

    I started my website (http://gagaism.org) precisely because I feel that Gaga has created a new religion, and its full of paradoxes. I call it Gagaism because I think it points out the central paradox of the religion. Gaga is the religious figure around which the religion is formed, and yet she is not to be worshiped. Instead, it is she who worships her followers.

    Articles like this make me absolutely giddy. I remember months ago when Born This Way and Judas were still worming their way into pop culture and the overarching themes of the then-upcoming album were not yet clear. I still don't think we've solved the whole puzzle yet, but it's starting to make sense. This is one of the most coherent posts I've read on the strong religious undertones present in Gaga's work. Thank you so much for your incredible article!

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  6. I love this article, it touches so much on my own feelings of GaGa and how she understands the unique space that is shared between Religion and Art in the power of Symbols, which are GaGa’s primary visual currency. The problem with the contemporary Symbolic Order is that it’s become stale and rigid.

    GaGa composes performance pieces which have the capacity to incite the sublime, and yet almost at the same time, through the interjection of music, tames and pacify the contemplative state that this can incite. So, instead of bringing a sublime feeling, she plunges the cavorting masses of monsters into that dithyramb of Dionysian frenzy of one. They chant the mantra of love they cannot hope to comprehend, “Ro-ma-oo-la-la.”

    But as they emerge, they emerge with a re-association of symbolic meaning and order. Symbols have been empowered again, and they can make use of them once more in their everyday lives. For so long our culture has stifled this, often religious, state of primordial consciousness where the artificiality of the structure becomes, apparently, vacant. And yet when they re-emerges into the structure, they can bring with it the meaning, freely associated, back into it.

    To say the least, I love GaGa, and I can’t wait to make use of your essay in one of my own.

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  7. As a theologian and little monster, I am DEEPLY passionate about the connection between Gaga and theology. In particular, my theological interests are in the areas of "process-relational" and "liberation" theology(ies).

    By way of explaination: process-relational theology is grounded in the belief that all things in existence are interrelated and interdependent; our actions affect others and vice versa.

    Liberation theology(ies) are concerned with social justice and advocating for the marginalized in society.

    These two ways of experiencing the world relate to Gaga's project wholeheartedly. Gaga continues to stress the important of realizing our relatedness. She is a prophet in the truest form of the word, one who speaks and acts for transformation. As is true in process-relational theology, the future does not exist as a fixed and determined reality, in every moment we live in the present and create our future. This is what Gaga and our companion from Nazareth named Jesus calls us to: to create a compassionate and just world, despite what the powers of dominion would impose on us.

    I think that Gaga and Jesus (and all of us for that matter) have the same mission. For me, this is encapsulated in words that the author of Luke attibuted to Jesus at the beginning of his own project (ministry): "The Spirit of (God) is upon me, because (God) has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. (God) has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free..." (Luke 4:18).

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  8. Actually, I forgot to say, the scripture from Luke on my previous post comes originally out of the Hebrew prophets, specifically Isaiah 61:1-2 and it certainly reinforces and speaks to Gaga's role as a prophet

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  9. Thanks everyone for these comments so far. I am learning a lot from them, and so I am deeply grateful. Let me offer a comment in response to multiple things that have been said here.

    For those who read Kierkegaard, you'll have noticed that I used a lot of his language in this piece: "absurd," "paradox," "irony," "leap," "indirection," "singularity," "parable." It has become more and more clear to me recently that I love Lady Gaga for many of the same reasons that I love Kierkegaard. I view the unfolding of Lady Gaga's project as in many ways similar to the unfolding of Kierkegaard's authorship. (I'm even tempted to say that Gaga's "Fame" project was her aesthetic phase, and that the 2009 VMA performance marked a transition into an ethico-religious phase that has really unfolded with Born This Way). The projects of both Gaga and Kierkegaard are both marked through and through with indirection and paradox. Both communicate pseudonymously, through the creation of multiple identities. Both suffer what Johannes de Silentio in Fear and Trembling calls "the martyrdom of unintelligibility." To live the truth necessarily requires suffering. Kierkegaard was trying to introduce Christianity into Christendom; Lady Gaga is trying to introduce art into the pop-world. Both Christendom and the pop-world are parodies of what they purport to be about, and so both require absurd and paradoxical performances to shock people into the truth.

    All this to say, for me, Lady Gaga is less "process-relational" and more "apocalyptic." What's happening here is an interruption, the incursion of a different world that so colides with this one that blood is spilt. To combine Kierkegaard's and Walter Benjamin's languages, Lady Gaga through the repetition of singular acts (which is irreducible to "process") transforms the homogenous and linear duration of pop-media time into a kind of messianic "now-time." In messianic now-time, for Benjamin, every moment becomes "the straight gate through which the Messiah might enter." Is this not what Gaga has done to the pop-media world? Every moment now is one in which Gaga might enter again as an interruption, again as something new, again as a new identity, again in a new outrageous (or not) outfit. She has "apocalypticized" the pop-world, shattered its boundaries, and left us in a constant mode of expectancy for the new, for what is coming, for her return to the stage.

    Again, all this for me is why she is parable of Jesus.

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  10. I, as well, have linked GaGa and Kierkegaard for quite a while.

    You must be onto something

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  11. “What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in [her] heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.” - Kierkegaard

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  12. "When you are lonely,
    I'll be lonely too"
    ~Lady GaGa

    The ultimate manifesto

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  13. One of the great facets of Gaga as well as much postmodern theology (thought) that is emerging and expanding right now is the rejection of the dichtomy of either/or. Much classical theology has said for centuries that there's only one way to encounter sacredness and many are finding that the classical form of theology is one of just a myriad of possibilities.

    This is what is so captivating about Gaga, she's pushing and redefining the boundaries of what it means to be "pop" or say that one is "religious". Sacred can be and is found (for me anyway) in the sound of Gaga at a piano or dancing with my heart pounding to Hair and Heavy Metal Lover. Our sacred space can be anywhere and everywhere, our authoritative texts the words of her songs and passionate speeches. Now we've got some shit to do. Let it be so. This we say, Black Jesus and Amen Fashion.

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  14. Today I was reminded of the wonderful things that the lay theologian William Stringfellow (1928-1985) has written about the circus. He saw the circus as a consumate theological event, a true parable of the Kingdom of God. As I read his reflections, I could not help but think of Lady Gaga and the Monster Ball. What Stringfellow saw and loved and experienced in the circus is something of what I glimpse in Gaga's art. Here are a few passages from Stringfellow. First, from "A Simplicity of Faith":

    "In the circus, humans are represented as freed from consignment to death. There one person walks on a wire fifty feet above the ground, … another hangs in the air by the heels, one upholds twelve in a human pyramid, another is shot from a cannon. The circus performer is the image of the eschatological person – emancipated from frailty and inhibition, exhilarant, transcendent over death – neither confined nor conformed by the fear of death any more…. The service the circus does – more so, I regret to say, than the churches do – is to portray openly, dramatically, and humanly ... death in the midst of life. The circus is eschatological parable and social parody: it signals a transcendence of the power of death, which exposes this world as it truly is while it pioneers the Kingdom."

    And then from "A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow":

    “The circus is among the few coherent images of the eschatological realm to which people still have ready access and ... the circus thereby affords some elementary insights into the idea of society as a consummate event. This principality, this art, this veritable liturgy, this common enterprise of multifarious creatures called the circus enacts a hope, in an immediate and historic sense, and simultaneously embodies an ecumenical foresight of radical and wondrous splendour, encompassing, as it does both empirically and symbolically, the scope and diversity of creation. I suppose some ... may deem the association of the circus and the Kingdom scandalous or facetious or bizarre, and scoff quickly at the thought that the circus is relevant to the ethics of society.... To [these people] I only respond that the connection seems to me to be at once suggested when one recalls that biblical people, like circus folk, live typically as sojourners, interrupting time, with few possessions, and in tents, in this world. The church would likely be more faithful if the church were similarly nomadic.”

    For me, Lady Gaga is exactly an "eschatological parable and social parody: [she] signals a transcendence of the power of death, which exposes this world as it truly is while it pioneers the Kingdom." There is a defiant, joyful freedom at the heart of what she does. That's why I love her.

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  15. Meanwhile of course many Christians found this image (and the film) to be more than wonderful - and a great missionary tool too.

    http://www.allmoviephoto.com/photo/2003_the_passion_006.html

    Plus I found this review re the cultural significance of this unspeakably vile film.

    http://www.logosjournal.com/hammer_kellner

    Plus I would suggest that any religion that is based on the idea of blood sacrifice is by its very nature unspeakably dreadful.

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  16. Anonymous,

    I am not someone who believes in the atonement (blood sacrifice) at all. What I do believe is what Womanist theologian Shwan M. Copeland wrote about why the Communion (or Eucharist)is still important. She writes, "A broken and tortured body–the body of Jesus of Nazareth–is the most powerful mediating symbol of the Eucharist. In their endurance of whippings, lacerations, abuse, rape, torture, and lynching, the bodies of black women and men form the site of other stigmata. …[I]n their flesh, black women and men made themselves available for a deeper grasp of the suffering of his body."

    Jesus was a co-sufferer, Jesus lived under oppressive power. When one takes Communion, it is a reminder of the injustice and violence that Jesus and all who are oppressed faced; it is an act of justice to reaffirm one's resistance to opression.

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  17. I, personally think that Lady Gaga is extremely talented and creative. And I appreciate that she advocates the resistance of oppression.. I just like the old Gaga much better than the over-done, pre-Madonna, paganistic new Gaga.

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  18. I don't understand when people say the "old" and "new" Gaga. She is evolving as an artist and everyone changes. Also, what do you mean by "paganistic"?

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  19. Jon, You may not believe in or subscribe too the doctrine of "atonement" through blood sacrifice, but I would suggest that it is a primary archetype which permeates most of the Christian religion especially of right-wing varieties, and therefore Western culture too, particularly in the USA.

    As the Logos essay points out and suggests. And as the wide-spread popularity of that vile film attests too. As I said, at the time it was hyped as a great missionary tool.

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  20. Hi its me again.

    Is there any real difference between the in your face theatrics of Lady Gaga and the murderously reasonable dark intentions (and actions) hiding behind the smiling face of Rick Perry who holds the USA record for the number of publicly "performed" executions.

    Remember too that Perry is very popular with right-wing Christians who are essentially the same people who flocked to see Mel Gibson's The Passion.

    Following on from the Logos essay I would suggest that that vile film was essentially a tool for summoning up or invoking the demonic forces with their murderously reasonable INTENTIONS lurking just below the collective American "religious" psyche.

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  21. Keats famously said Truth is Beauty - Beauty Is Truth.

    Which is to say that God IS The Beautiful Itself.

    Love comes to here in time,
    and numbers all the things
    of Beauty in the house.
    A single room is shown to be
    -a Unity, within and every where.
    No point of view is stood apart.
    No word is made to say,
    this space is empty,
    or, this place is full.
    Only Light Itself is come
    - a merest touch of Brightness
    Neither mind nor body can deny.
    It is the Heart's explanation of Reality.
    It IS Reality, plain spoken to the Heart
    - and by the Heart Alone.
    It is the Beautiful, Itself.

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  22. @ Anon: You write: "Is there any real difference between the in your face theatrics of Lady Gaga and the murderously reasonable dark intentions (and actions) hiding behind the smiling face of Rick Perry who holds the USA record for the number of publicly "performed" executions."

    Yes, there is every difference in the world, and the whole point of my piece is to point out just this difference. Gaga's theatrics expose and therefore subvert violence--Rick Perry, Mel Gibson, et. al. use violence as a tool of religious and political propaganda. Yes, it's true, Christianity is co-opted in all sorts of way for ideological use. But again, the point of my essay is to say that at heart of Christianity is God's "No!" to the attempt to use religion for one's own purposes and gain. The crucified Jesus is God's judgement on religion. And this liberating judgement is parabolically enacted in Gaga's art insofar as it is an indictment of the violent pop-world in which she exists.

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  23. Anonymous,

    Believe me, I understand your argument about atonement. I was a religion major in college. While I agree with you, it is only to an extent. Yes, blood atonement permeates the right wing Christianity, BUT, I feel as though it is unfair of you to (seemingly) equate it with all of Christianity.

    Here's why: I have countless friends (and I include myself) who have a religious understanding of Christianity and the story of Jesus that doesn't subscribe to that theology or worldview. These are people thaat are deeply committed to compassion and justice in their everyday lives. Also, I'd like you to be aware of the fact that there are theologians who advocate progressive theology that doesn't subscribe to blood atonement. People like Marcus Borg, John Song, and Carter Heyward.

    Just because those of us who have alternate viewpoints don't get much or any airtime in mainstream media, doesn't mean that we aren't out there. People don't lump us all into one theological category.

    To your second point about the difference between Gaga and someone like Rick Perry. There's a HUGE difference! Beyond what Peter expressed in the comment above, I can say from the personal experience as someone who has faced discrimination my whole life that Gaga is empowring me and many like me to believe in and love ourselves. Rick Perry and the like are oppressing many of us rather than liberating us.

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  24. Continuing my claim that Gaga's art is a "work of love," it has struck me the past couple of days, particularly in light of Gaga's response to the tragic death of Jamey Rodemeyer, that she not infrequently assumes what I would (not lightly) call a "pastoral" role and persona. It is in these striking and intimate pastoral moments--I'm thinking of her performance of "Hair" at the iHeart Radio Festival--that something of the core of Gaga's art and identity is shown to us. That performance of Hair is really remarkable--an expression of love and anger, and a cry for freedom all at once. "Jamey, you're not a freak / ... You just want to be free." See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aER4KfBvpwA

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  25. Mmmm...who is Lady Gaga again?...and should this much attention be paid to her 'art'? From what I've seen it is very much Madonna Redux, which wasn't worth all the fuss the first time around. But I like your style, thoughtfulness and musings...

    ...and I liked her prayer.

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  26. "It’s not a secret that I have been inspired by tons of people. David Bowie and Prince being the most paramount in terms of live performance. I could go on and on about all of the people I have been compared to – from Madonna to Grace Jones to Debbie Harry to Elton John to Marilyn Manson to Yoko Ono – but at a certain point you have to realize that what they are saying is that I am cut from the cloth of performer, that I am like all of those people in spirit. I was born this way."

    And yeah, Roger, her prayer is kick-ass, fucking a real prayer--better than the shity prayers that usually get prayed in church. After every prayer we should get off our knees and say, "Now I got some shit to do." If we don't, we're not praying, we're just masturbating spiritually. There's this quote by some theologian, can't remember who, doesn't really matter, who said something like, "“To fold your hands in prayer is to begin an uprising against the world.”

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  27. This is super cool. If you want to see what people are tweeting about Lady Gaga, go to Wishbone and it will show you the most common tweets about her, displayed in a visual graph. Take a look at http://labs.windward.net/search.html?search=lady%20gaga

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  28. Well, I'd certainly never consider Gaga long enough otherwise so I am glad I read this. Thank you for the thoughts, Peter.

    As to the whys of performers, lovers and artists; the smart ones always leave something to the imagination. Because output is (by definition) meaningless without interpretation. I'm not saying Gaga is shallow but I would be shocked to learn that she's put this much thought into what she's doing ... but knowing you, you probably realize and embrace that.

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  29. Thank you for this. It might not be the true interpretation of the subject but as far as my beliefs are concerned, this is the best.

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  30. i think the parallelism between lady gaga and Jesus is conceptually valid but i doubt it if lady gaga and her creative team would be this theological to incorporate these doctrinal themes on purpose. it could be read either way, theological imagery or plain blasphemy - it just so happened Mr Kline saw it through theological lenses.

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  31. thanks so much¡ This truly helps...so this is saying that gaga is not satanic...right¿

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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