The Gospel According to Lady Gaga

I'm a Lady Gaga fan.

Here's how it happened.

Last year a lot of people had Swedish artist Robyn's Body Talk as the best dance album of the year. I listened to it on iTunes, liked what I heard, and downloaded it. Both Jana and I really liked the album.

So after a month or so, when you start to tire of an album, I started to look around for something similar. And everywhere I checked people were saying that Robyn was the Swedish version of Lady Gaga.

So I informed Jana one day, "I'm buying Lady Gaga's new album." Jana was aghast. All we knew of Lady Gaga at the time was her crazy persona. Odd hair, make-up and dresses. She seemed to be a freak. But I said to Jana, "You know how you like that Robyn album? A lot of people think she sounds like Lady Gaga. So I thought I'd see about that." That was enough.

So I bought Lady Gaga's Born This Way.

I listened to the album on the way back and forth from the prison bible study. It's about 20 minutes there and back, so I was able to listen to almost the whole album. And when I got back home I told Jana, "I've listened to the Lady Gaga album."

"What did you think?"

"Well, I loved it."

She was shocked. And so was I.

Here's my summary assessment: I think Lady Gaga is a pop genius. She is, in my opinion, very much like Michael Jackson and the early Beatles.

But beyond great songs, I'm writing about Lady Gaga today for a more serious purpose.

During all my reading about Lady Gaga I came across some stuff about her that I found interesting, theologically speaking. As I told Jana over the summer, "I'm sort of developing a theological curiosity about Lady Gaga." Jana asked, "How so?"

Well, Lady Gaga calls her fans "monsters." Or "little monsters." And by that she means freaks--the odd, the weird, the lonely, the rejects, the nerds, the castoffs. And you can't help but wonder, in light of the gospels, about that demographic. In my book Unclean I have a chapter on monsters. And I've written about the theology of monsters on this blog. Consequently, Lady Gaga's use of the label "monsters" caught my attention.

Because as I've written, the category "monster" is charged with ambivalence. On the surface the monster is a normative threat--a defilement, a degradation, a location of moral and communal harm. Thus, monsters are expelled from community. And yet, most monster stories suggest that the monster is often a scapegoat. That the monster is more victim than victimizer. Underneath, if we could but see it, the monster is one of us.

So it's theologically apt that Lady Gaga uses the category monster for her fans. Because she's targeting a group that has been cast out of society. Again, she's explicitly embracing the freaks, weirdos and social outcasts. But Gaga, like in the monster stories, has flipped this and made the label "monster" a term of affection, welcome, embrace, community, inclusion and hospitality. (The diminutive "little" signals the playful affection.) This parallels my own interests in Unclean--Can we show hospitality toward monsters? So I'm intrigued by Gaga's community of "little monsters."

More, Gaga's lyrics often explore and deconstruct, in good Girardian fashion, the scapegoating mechanisms at work in the lives of many of her fans. Take, for example, the song "Bad Kid" from Born This Way.

I’m a bitch, I’m a loser baby maybe I should quit
I’m a jerk, wish I had the money but I can’t find work
I’m a brat, I’m a selfish punk, I really should be smacked
My parents tried until they got divorced ‘cause I ruined their lives

I’m a bad kid and I will survive
Oh I’m a bad kid, don’t know wrong from right
I’m a bad kid and this is my life
One of the bad kids, don’t know wrong from right
(This is my life)

Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
A bad kid baby
(Don’t be insecure)

I’m a twit, degenerate young rebel and I’m proud of it
Pump your fist if you would rather mess up than put up with this
I’m a nerd, I chew gum and smoke in your face, I’m absurd
I’m so bad and I don’t give a damn, I love it when you’re mad
When you’re mad, when you’re mad.

I’m a bad kid and I will survive
Oh I’m a bad kid, don’t know wrong from right
I’m a bad kid and this is my life
One of the bad kids, don’t know wrong from right
(This is my life)

Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
A bad kid baby
(Don't be insecure)

I’m not that typical baby
I’m a bad kid like my mom and dad made me
I’m not that cool and you hate me
I’m a bad kid, that’s the way that they made me

I’m a bad kid I’m disastrous
Give me your money or I’ll hold my breath
I’m a bad kid and I will survive
One of the bad kids, don’t know wrong from right

Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure
You’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid baby
A bad kid baby
I've worked with kids like these, as have many of you--the "bad kids." These kids are social and moral "monsters." But Gaga deconstructs the label "bad kid" in the song. These kids are moral monsters not because they are intrinsically evil but because "they don't know right from wrong." More, while on the outside these kids are an objective pain in the ass (that's my professional clinical diagnosis), inside their "heart is pure." Their deviance is due to more to insecurity ("don't be insecure") than depravity.

In short, in this song Gaga is trying to get on the inside of these "monsters," to speak to their brokenness, sadness, loneliness and alienation. To society these are "bad kids." But Gaga sings to them "You're still good to me."

And I ask you, doesn't that sound a whole lot like Jesus?

Gaga calls out to the little monsters. And Jesus eats with with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes.

All this was, for me at least, profoundly illustrated by the recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, NY, who took his life last week after years of school yard bullying because of Jamey's struggles with his sexuality.

Jamey was a "monster" on his school yard. A social outcast. A freak. A scapegoat.

But Jamey did find a place of community and welcome. And it wasn't at church. Jamey found a home with Lady Gaga and her little monsters as he recounted on his video for the It Gets Better Campaign.

After Jamey's death, Lady Gaga dedicated a song to Jamey, a sort of memorial service for Jamey with his fellow "monsters," in a recent concert. (The YouTube clips of this keep popping up and coming down so it might be hard to find it.) And while some have questioned the wisdom of her doing this, I think her motives were pure and I found the performance, and the love from the crowd, to be quite moving.

Okay. Is Lady Gaga a Christian role model? Do I agree with everything she stands for? Are the motives of advocate celebrities pure? For this post, I don't really care about those questions. Like all of us, Gaga is a mixed bag. But for this post I'd like to a keep a tight focus on one particular aspect of Lady Gaga, her passionate engagement with the "little monsters" of society, her attempt to welcome them and show them warmth, understanding, and respect.

And in this, I can't help but wonder if Lady Gaga isn't shaming the church. Because here's the deal. If kids like Jamey aren't being welcomed by churches or by their schools where are they supposed to go?

This is what I think. I think every Christ-following church should start talking to their youth groups, saying unambiguously: We want you to welcome and be a circle of protection for kids like Jamey. Seek out and welcome--emotionally and socially--every weird, weak, nerdy, lonely, queer kid at your school. We don't care if they are a goth, or a druggy, or a queer. Doesn't matter. Welcome these kids. Churches should train their youth groups to be angels of welcome, teaching them to find these kids and say, "Hey, I love you. Jesus loves you. Come sit with me at lunch." That's what I think. I think every Christ-following church should teach their kids to stick up for kids like Jamey. Not with violence. But with welcome and solidarity. Because it's hard to bully a group. So let's welcome these kids into a protective halo of affection and friendship.

That's what I think Christians should be doing to change our public schools. We shouldn't be fighting battles over stuff like school prayer. I think God is shouting from the heavens, "Stop fighting over school prayer and start sticking up for Jamey!"

I know we want God in our schools. But guess what? God is already inside our public schools. Standing by kids like Jamey.

So the question isn't, why won't the School Board allow God in our schools? No, the question is, why aren't we joining God on the playground and sticking up for kids like Jamey?

We are a stiff-necked, disobedient and rebellious generation.

When Jamey Rodemeyer heard his peers, in person and online, say "Why don't you kill yourself you queer?" (a fair summary of the stuff he was dealing with) I can't help but assume that he thought that the Christian church supported and endorsed those sentiments. Because even if Christians weren't directly involved in the bullying we certainly were complicit, if only in our collective silence and apathy. "Let the gays protect gay kids," our collective silence declares, "and we'll take care of our own."

And that breaks my heart.

Who will protect the little monsters? Who will speak out for them? Who will welcome them? Who will weep for them?

I know Lady Gaga will.

What about the church?

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70 thoughts on “The Gospel According to Lady Gaga”

  1. Excellent post! Unfortunately, church teens are often more about running for homecoming queen. When I was in middle school, I had death threats left in my locker by a "good"  Christian deacon's daughter from our church.
     Ellen DeGeneres does the same as her friend Lady Gaga, using humor and her show as her forum, to support the outcasts and bullied kids, to assist struggling families, to support deployed military personnel and their families, and to encourage kindness. I've often thought that she displays more Christlike qualities in terms of giving financial assistance to those in need, and accepting and protecting those in emotional need than those who would posture as her moral superior.

  2. Again, love the thoughts.

    I have a question, though. Do you see the potential for the guardian group to begin developing a hero complex? And if this happens, would the protecting group become inclined to hold those bullied at arms length, still "othering" them in a sense? I can see where this could cause a disconnect in building solidarity, if it happened. How would you address these issues? 

  3. I love your words here. Not to trivialize your message or anything, but if you like Born This Way then you'll probably love The Fame Monster. Bad Romance and Paparazzi are her best works in my opinion.

    Also, I usually read you through my RSS Reader so I didn't notice that you changed the look of the blog. Just wanted to say how much I like it.

  4. Loved this post so much and added a link to my blog (so get prepared for that two-reader avalanche!). Especially in light of the odious efforts by groups like Focus on the Family to politicize and turn Christians against anti-bullying initiatives in schools, we need more words like these.

  5. As a bullied general misfit in middle- and high-school who is the father of a son who is carrying on the family tradition, this topic hits home. Being cast off both at school and at church still carries a sting 25 years later. Watching my son navigate these stormy waters (with a much better attitude than me, I might add) is a heart-wrenching experience.

    As much as it pains me, as a Butthole Surfers fan, I'm glad he likes Lady Gaga's music (but he still can't dance).

  6. OMG...Gaga is so illuminati. Devil always copycat Jesus. OMG, I cannot believe you compared Jesus attitude with Gaga's attitude. Sure, we have something to learn about her but please please, dont reccomend her!! she is involved in so many ways with satanic practices.... is an example of that!

  7. You might appreciate this article, "A Religion Against Itself: Lady Gaga, God, and Love"  (written by a Ph.D. student in theology at Vanderbilt)- it overlaps with a lot of the things you've mentioned.... 

  8. Love this. Reminds me of the documentary "For The Bible Tells Me So" I just watched about how the church has treated homosexuals and how they should be treating homosexuals.

  9. Often, in churches, adults simply recreate the middle school experience among themselves. There's the "popular"/rich/elitist in-crowd, and the wannabe suck-ups, and those who are definitely outsiders. When adults are doing the same things, is it any wonder the church kids are following their examples?

  10. I was one of those weird, queer Goth kids. And I loved going to my church youth group. Not because I had friends there, because I didn't, but because there were adults who cared about me, and listened to me, no matter how wierd and spastic and confused I was.

    I just got asked by my priest if I'd want to start a youth group at our church. I said 'yes' so fast I think I surprised her.

  11. From my experience as a teenager, the satanist and Goth people are a helluva lot more accepting than the Church people. They're the ones who helped me out after I tried to kill myself because some people in my church were telling me I was an awful, bad, horrible, miserable sinner who deserved nothing less than death.

  12. Thanks for saying this, Richard. I, too, love me some Gaga.

    I've accumulated a large collection of LGBT friends who I love and respect. The anti-gay attitudes and rhetoric I embraced for the first thirty or so years of my life haunt me. Stories of Jamey and others who have felt that suicide was the only option hurt me personally. I feel I contributed to that, in a very small way, by helping sustain an environment which creates labels like "bad kids" and "monsters."

    I recall as a divorced man in my twenties there was a drastic difference between the amount I of grace I experienced in a Karaoke bar versus my church. The bar won. It was the attitude there that won the day. At church the attitude was "Nobody's perfect, but we should be" and we'd all strike poses trying to impress upon the crowd how hard we'd tried to be good Christians. At the Karaoke bar the attitude was "Nobody's perfect." And that was it. The unspoken assumption was, "Everyone's doing the best they can, now have a beer and pick a song."

    The Jesus I grew up believing in would have stayed away from the bar and hung out at that church. The Jesus I hear you speak of (and so many others as time goes by) seems more comfortable doing Karaoke. Probably singing Gaga.

  13. As I am studying philosophy and like the nature of Gaga's work I noticed that this use of the monstruosity concept could be somehow studied by theologians in Pascal and Zizek... 

    Just a thought

  14. And note: it is precisely because I was such an outcast and continue to feel like one that I am so sensitive to the empty mirage of Gaga's "outsider appeal." Nothing this popular and commercial could actually be subversive.

    Only in this postmodern darkness are people now comparing the Messiah son of God to a low culture sell-out.

  15. Actually, Lady Gaga does write her own songs. She also writes other artists' songs. And keeps all the rights to them - meaning she is going to be the richest artist of my generation.

  16. Andrew,

    I think you make some decent points, and certainly your push-back is warranted.  However, she does, in fact, contribute significantly to the writing process her own songs/albums.  To what degree we don't know, but, in the same vein, almost no artist can be said to be solely responsible for a product from start to finish because of producers, mixers, masters, etc...  Gaga was an industry song-writer before she hit it big on her own.  

    I share yourhealthy skepticism towards how much of this is cold-calculated industry BS designed specifically to generate revenue, but to state your opinion as strongly antithetical absolutes about how she contributes to the process is just as much conclusion jumping as saying that she has done it all on her own with no help or influence from anyone else.  Both arguments are equally dubious.

    If we had to boil down Richard's article to one point, perhaps it is that we can't fault Lady Gaga for trying to rally and align herself with the outcasts of society, despite the motivations, sources, or delivery, because that's exactly what Jesus would be doing in our age.  As Richard just said before me, it doesn't matter if we're right about the person of Lady Gaga - what matters is that we can still see even today where the institutional church fails to embody the person it claims to follow.

  17. I think that's a legitimate temptation. That might be a drawback to the label "guardian angel." A lot would come down to framing, teaching/training, implementation, and accountability structures. But in the end, we're all human and any program is going to have human problems.

    Thinking some more...a double edged approach might be used: Befriend the weird kids and love the bullys. That needs some work but I think you see where I'm going. Fuse a "love the bullies" campaign with the "guardian angels campaign." Make them two sides of the same coin.

  18. As a 35 yr+ struggler with SSA, I can relate.  I was a misfit at school and never fit in, to add insult to injury my brother egged it on along with his friends. 

    I've been a believer for more than 25 years, Church has never been a safe haven for a man with SSA, quite the opposite, when you find the courage to ask for help in the struggle, the fine Christian men scatter like roaches.

    I've found that whether we like it or not, even though there is no hierarchy of sin in God's Word or God's Eyes, there is in Christiandom. At the top of that list of the worst sins, being gay, lesbian or SSA sit there.  If you are a Christian and deny it, you are out of touch with reality. I have had too much experience with too many churches that just plain want to sweep the queer under the rug.  We are just too dirty to deal with.

    God has quite a sense of humor though, I've been married for over 27 years, have 11 children and my quiver is full.

    Call me SSA, queer, gay, strange, perverted or whatever else you may, my God is bigger than all of it and my God is able.  Sure, I still struggle with my attraction to men, God blessed me with a wife that knew it before she married me and still married me and loves me very much. 

    Thing is, I have found no Christian man that is willing to walk with me through this and church is no safe haven to seek that out (I've never crossed the line and been with a man). I've told my wife that the world is much kinder to people like me and until and unless the church wises up and reaches out to the multitudes of us struggling in one degree or another, the battle is going to be lost to the world.

    I'm no different than a man that struggles with alcoholism, I need a support group to talk with and encourage me to do the right thing.  I can't be "fixed" and don't want someone to try and fix me, my struggle is as real as an alcoholics and can't be fixed, it has to be managed. Yes, if GOD wants to heal me He can, God does use our stuggles to help others and I do pray for healing, however, prayer may be answered in ways we do not understand though.

    Having been very close to ending things at one time, my heart bleeds for anyone that takes their life because of the hateful acts of others.  It is senseless that humans can be so violent and uncaring.  If Lady Gaga were singing while in my youth, I would have been attracted to her songs. 

    My prayers go out to the families of those who have been touched by such carelessness.


  19. Well, I was pretty much assuming she doesn't write them, because that's so typical of A-list pop celebrities today.

    It's true, Jesus of Nazareth loved the outcasts more than the recognized religious authorities, and we must never lose sight of that example; I just dislike pop culture too much to want to draw theology from it. It feels like cognitive dissonance to me to do that.

  20. Thank you for these powerful and timely words.  I too have been reflecting on the sad state of our society as it played out in Jamey Rodemeyer's life.  My admiration for Lady Gaga increased considerably after seeing her interview on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.  She's a smart cookie with a heart!  (I don't dig her wardrobe, though...  The "meat dress" has been the worst so far :-/

  21. This post is as good as it gets.  I believe that those who posted here focusing on Gaga this and Gaga that are, once again, missing the forest, the trees, and all other associated greenery.  Fact is, she is speaking up for those with no voice and absolutely shaming the church.  We don't have time to speak up for others because we are so focused on the complexities of our own belly buttons.  Well done Richard.          

  22. Dang....just...dang.  I'm linking this one to my Facebook. It's gonna piss off a lot of people, but the truth burns like a hemorrhoid sometimes.  

  23. Not sure whether you are an idiot or a fool though you sound sincere (heck maybe you are though I haven't really found one person who is yet). Before you go around trying to fix the world take a closer look at your religion and really see the truth.

  24. Have you literally ANY of the other posts or series of posts in this blog?  Certainly you could call Richard a lot of things, but I don't think anyone could possibly level a legitimate claim that he hasn't seriously and closely looked at the Christian religion.  

    No offense, quah, and I'm not trying to start a fight, here, but it's a pretty bold statement to tell someone who has actively engaged in a public forum some of the most difficult problems posed to theology by just about every other academic discipline to "look at [his] religion and really see the truth."  That's pretty much EXACTLY what this blog is about, and Richard has the chutzpah to do it with a continued humility and authenticity even in the midst of such a vapid (though necessary) of a place as the internet can be.

  25. As an Englishman living in England and therefore far removed from American culture (apart from movies, media, etc...) I, with the GREATEST respect, think that this blog and perhaps this post in particular personifies what for me is the beauty of that wonderful thing called America...

    Your country as both a country and as an entity is unique in being able to present such a HUGE spectrum of opinions and view-points.

    I can't help but LOVE a country that produces such diversity. I always LOVE Richard's posts - whether I agree with them or not. I am no longer 14 years old, so I don't need to agree with a perspective to enjoy it, learn from it and admire it.

    Thank you, as always, Richard for your left-field comments that are always warm, sincere, interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. I know that this'll inevitably sound rather sychophantic - it's not meant to be - rather it's just a reflection on the beauty of different opinions and insights and all that we can learn from each other.

    Why oh why are we so fixated with agreeing? When oh when did it become a bad thing to be offended by another person's legitimately-held viewpoint.

    I try to teach these ideals of debate and argument and healthy-offence to my high school classes and it's wonderful to be able to visit a site like this that exemplifies this ideal day-in-day-out.

    Keep it coming.

  26. Hi Gary,
    There's a really good, and gracious, conversation about this issue over at Rachel Held Evans' blog on her Ask A series. Justin Lee has done an excellent job answering questions and telling his story.
    Blessings, Patricia

  27. Gary,

    My heart breaks for you and what you've encountered in the church. What you describe is tragically the norm. I do know a church that is going against the flow in this though, and it's a beautiful thing. The ministry to those struggling with SSA is confidential, but embraced, and I've never seen a ministry have such a profound impact on a church.It started because a man who wasn't even a part of that church had experiences much like yours and wanted to reach out and help the church reach out.

    Blessings to you, Gary.

  28. First, thank you for an eye (and mind) opening post.

    Lady Gaga (and others like her) has shown us what a sense of unfairness and compassion can be used to help others because one cared enough.  For a lot of Christians today, this is a blind spot because we never really cared, about anyone else besides those immediately accessible to us.  Not because we were not commanded to, but because most of us still have one foot firmly on the worldly mindset.  No wonder people misunderstand and look down upon us because we acted both no-differently and indifferently towards others in the world.

    But one thing that both Christians or otherwise often mistaken about is our purpose to live in this world.   According to the Holy Bible, we are God's creation whose sole purpose is to worship Him, and through our actions, glorify Him; in doing that, we will find our true fulfillment.  So the choice is binary, either you believe the Bible or not.  If you choose to not believe the Bible, then all the energy and effort to help those whom we care about are dependent on our own strength.  Something which, being a finite creature, everyone of us will run out of one day.  And when that day come, all we would have left is destitution and despair, and we shall leave the world the way we found it, broken and hopeless.  Because on our own we will never be able to *fix* the world. 

    So let's go back to Lady Gaga.  My hope is that she will one day discover that the only person who can *fix* the world already did the job -- that she so desperately trying to do -- on an ancient Roman cross.  And all that she needed to do is to know and believe in that person and He will make her ten times as effective in helping others as she obviously have dreamed of.  And in all that, she will find her true fulfillment.

    And where does that leave us Christians? that of course depends on how much we care about what God wants, doesn't it?

  29. Gary, 
    I was really struggling to figure out what that term was - SSA - and then I figured it out.. All I really want to say is; there is nothing wrong whatsoever with being attracted to people of both genders, or being attracted to nobody, or only being attracted to women, or whatever.... There is nothing wrong! What is wrong is the guilt trips people put onto other people because of their ignorance & judgment. And more importantly is the guilt trips that we then put onto ourselves.. I hope you can stop struggling with your inner being and just allow yourself to be authentic and whole, and love yourself in your totality, SSA, married and all. 


  30. Richard, I'm with you. Gaga is a visionary pop genius, using the pop culture world to disseminate some powerful enlightening messages.. not to mention being a pop song writing genius. 

    I wrote an essay about her several months ago that you may find interesting.. similar but from a different perspective:

  31. Hi there Andrew, 

    With all due respect, your post here clearly exhibits your lack of actual awareness of Gaga and you're presenting opinions based on your judgments of all things pop culture. I understand, I have long had a lot of judgment about pop music and pop culture. Gaga is different. All I can say is she is nothing like the picture you have painted here. You have her completely mis-perceived, and I would urge you to watch interviews with her music producers to prove otherwise. 


  32. Richard, 
    I like your basic message; for someone in the Christian Church, it is remarkably enlightened, holistic, non-judgmental and heart-centered. I hope more people in the Christian world actually take to heart the original meaning of Jesus's basic mystical theology. Unfortunately, the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of most Christians is what motivated me to leave Christianity a long long time ago... 


  33. Hi Richard, 

    I'm a former Christian, now agnostic. I stumbled across your post, and I just wanted to say, thank you so much for sharing your Christ-like heart. The lessons I learned from my time as a Christian that have stayed with me all stem from Jesus' love and compassion, even for the freaks, tax collectors, and prostitutes. 

    As you say, he ate dinner with them. He LOVED them. And Christians are so quick to forget that when it comes to certain types of "sinners." You have it exactly right when you outline how people should treat the freaks of society: 

    "Seek out and protect--emotionally and socially--every weird, weak, nerdy, lonely, queer kid at your school. We don't care if they are a goth, or a druggy, or a queer. Doesn't matter. Protect these kids. Churches should train their youth groups to be angels of protection, teaching them to find these kids and say, "Hey, I love you. Jesus loves you. So no one's going to bully you. Not on my watch."

    If more people in this world could embrace those who are different from themselves in such a way, in the way that you movingly and lovingly outline here--focus on the person, not the supposed freakishness--I'm certain the world would be a better place, and kids like Jamey wouldn't think that suicide is the only way for them.

  34. It breaks my heart that you think your same-sex attraction is something you need to struggle with at all, Gary. I hope that one day you will be at peace with who you are. Please remember, if ever you feel low because you perceive you are being judged by anyone for your thoughts or actions, there are loving people who accept you for who you are--agnostics like me, and Christians like Richard, and, though it might not seem like it, actually lots and lots of people from all walks of life who can help you love yourself. Your WHOLE self. Please please seek these people out if you ever feel there is no answer for you--remember there's another way. Be in peace. 

  35. Richard
    thanks for your reflections, once again. Impressing music snobs is the least of
    your worries!


    Had the Goth
    scene been around when I was a teen I would have flocked to that crowd
    sooner than flocking to the church youth group. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded. As ‘progressive’
    and trendy as churches have become in the past three decades, there is a
    problem that still exists and will not go away. That problem is spelled
    C-L-I-Q-U-E-S. The adults are as bad as the kids, so it’s not worth holding one’s
    spiritual breath that that scene will change anytime soon. Most churches who
    brag about being progressive are hardly that to those from the outside. They
    would still go apoplectic if a group of beautiful Goths wore their Sunday best
    and marched down the church’s sanctuary aisle to sit in the third row back from
    the altar.


    In the Bible Belt generally,
    and in Texas especially, females are expected to wear a certain amount of
    make-up for church attendance. It has to be the right type of application as
    well. If gals show up without make-up the other Christian sisters assume they’re
    having a bad hair day or are sick. When a gal walks into a Texas church without
    wearing any make-up people assume she might be:

    ~~ Down on her luck

    ~~ Depressed or getting over
    an illness

    ~~ A non-conformist which
    means an extremist, or a liberal

    ~~ From California

    ~~ Too earthy which means too
    ~~ Artsy-fartsy which definitely means liberal and worse -- socialist, a real Boho chick
    ~~ A free spirit which means, well, whichever way the breeze blows

    ~~ Terribly unhygienic

    ~~ Too poor to buy make-up

    ~~ Overdue for a Mary Kay

    ~~ Pentecostal or Jehovah’s

    The church
    sisters are convinced a good Beth Moore Bible study will snap that sad sister
    back into a more meaningful righteous life. But Plain Janes, Goth make-up/fashion and Beth
    Moore do not mix. So just forget about any invites to Bunco Night. Mercy! Besides,
    evangelical Christians only go Goth when they think it would be cute or cool to
    be Goth for a costume party or Halloween.


    The cliques in the church youth groups
    mirror the adults and both are as highly prevalent now as they have been in any
    decade. All the trendy church programmes in America have yet to find a
    solution. To outsiders checking out a church who cannot engage in name-dropping
    – either because they don’t know the right names to drop or do not feel they
    need to use that trick to promote or enhance their own self-worth – their fringe
    quotient multiplies exponentially. If they visit a church where no one knows
    their history or has any connection with them outside of the fact that Christ
    wants to save their souls, or if their personality is a tad on the shy side, then
    that ‘new person’ glow starts to fade after a few months of Sundays. Too, if
    their speech patterns do not include the effusiveness of daily Bible Belt speak
    they will be further alienated as to be deemed ‘not spiritual enough’.


    Cliques and the fringe are not easy
    partners. To those in a clique, everyone who is not in their clique belongs to
    some fringe. If the fringe is to join the clique then they will be expected to
    change more than the other members. Many churches exist and labour diligently to
    make heterogeneous groups homogenous. I have always been struck at the length to
    which some churches will go stick all the ‘fringe folk’ together, in cell
    groups, bible studies, etc. We say the creed together every Sunday yet have
    forgotten how beautifully our belief system embraces the individuality and kaleidoscope
    of perspective the God we worship created. Many folks enjoy their status on
    what others would deem ‘the fringe’ – that is who they are. They do not need to
    be fixed or have any desire to fit in, But they might enjoy some respect
    because of who they are rather than derision or condescension because of who
    they aren’t.

    Sometimes it takes a Lady Gaga and a
    well-publicised death to stir us out of our complacency and malaise, and to
    remind us of what is close to home.

  36. Awesome! Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint sarcasm in written form, but your comment was hilarious... thanks, Favy!

  37. Amen!

    I am absolutely aware that there are as many varieties of Christian as there are varieties of insect - but it is striking that Gaga provides a better example of "love the least of these" than a huge percentage of the most visible evangelical Christians. Tragic.

    And let me add, Richard, that I "got your back" regarding your friendly neighborhood academic music snobs. While it's axiomatic that musical taste is subjective, at least some of Gaga's fans actually do know something about music. I'm a member of both the Gospel Music Association and the Grammy Academy - and I have to tell you that at this point, Born This Way will have my vote when the Grammy ballots come around again...

  38. Beautiful post, thank you! May we never judge and always love, and speak the truth in love!

  39. Sure - bring your ideas of 'protection' into schools, and everywhere else for that matter, but leave out the fairy tale religious bits.
    If you can manage to find find Lady Gaga for yourself, I'm quite sure the kids, those who who want to, can find religion without being inculcated.

  40. Speaking as an atheist (but not FOR atheists) I find your analysis to be rare amongst "christians". Rare indeed. It is like a glimmer of hope for mankind. 

  41. Ever since her first album, which I loved, I considered Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and a few others like them to be filling a much needed void in the church's missional calling. It seemed that to many of my more conservative friends that Lady Gaga was preaching a gospel of self-love that is contradictory to contemporary evangelical belief / Catholic doctrine of total depravity. 

    To be sure, I can understand this reaction. However, it seemed to me that the Church has only been preaching one side of the coin, that you are full of evil and deserve death; the Church forgot to affirm the natural and appropriate love of self that "Love others as you love yourself" assumes. Interestingly here, Jesus does not take the opportunity to denounce our self-love (though later on Paul and other New Testament writers do quite a number on allowing us to love ourselves). Perhaps there is room for a natural and appropriate love of self that the Church has forgone in the midst of teaching saints and sinners how far we have fallen. Back to Gaga, it seem as if Gaga and others has arisen to fill this void. I think a part of their fame is that someone is finally giving people the opportunity to have some dignity, self-love, and perhaps self-respect. It seems the Church continues to outsource its responsibilities, first to the government, and now to Lady Gaga. I am grateful Christ is so much bigger than his Church.

  42. People (of the church) get so confused about loving the sinner versus loving the sin that they tend to throw the sinner out with the sin. Churches don't know how/when to welcome the sinner - they confuse how we are to judge brothers and sisters in Christ. So, they wind up judging the world and turning a blind eye to their brothers and sisters wrong doings. Backwards and sad. The church is losing the world because of ignorance. It's time to turn this thing around! Read your Bible, people. Look at why Christ died on the cross and get busy doing what He said to do!! Love the sinner so they can overcome the world!

  43. I'd like to concur with Andrew T.

    And with Richard too in his recognition of genius whether in construction or not of Gaga, an iteration of the genius of Madonna IMO. Ciccone helped to usher in the pornographic generation that casts a pall over life today, naturally Germanotta's degeneracy must go further - inuring to sexual violence with melody her 'monsters'. They'll be fully on stream in a decade.

    Others could reason better than me but the concepts of liberalism, sexual revolution, marriage, global money, state absolutism as radical individualism - Milbank, Blond, same sex marriage as destruction of both marriage and the church and complete victory of liberalism, therapeutic treatment of the sovereign self, sin repentance, church assimilation into liberal tradition, and Gaga as wholly conformed to the spirit of the age would  be the concepts I'd include in my lame critique. :)

    Germanotta, like Ciccone before her, is a herald of chaos and division. .

  44. Everything you said is so true, and it's so shameful to think about. I don't love Lady Gaga's music or really anything about her except that she, like you said, DOES stick up for people who desperately need help. She's in this for the fame and shock-value as well, but I believe that the love of Christ can be found anywhere, and in Lady Gaga, it's found in the way she helps rejects feel loved. It makes me sick that there are so many kids suffering that so many churches just reject by either their apathy or flat-out denial of them. I love Christ, and I love the church, but it is just so, so broken. Thanks for posting this. It's very humbling to think that someone like her can teach us a lesson about the love of Christ.

  45. Great post.  Next, how would you extend this beyond the schools, into older ages?

  46. This article was fantastic. We really do need to realize God is everywhere no matter what. We need to bring him into ourselves and be like Jesus towards everyone, especially kids like Jaymie. It is not our place to judge, dislike, or frown upon people who are indifferent or in this case gay. We can disagree with the disicions they make, but it is by no means okay to hate or shun them.  Dislike the desicion, not the person.

  47. This is truly one of the most brilliant and enlightening posts I've ever read. It's so interesting to think about how so many people (many of whom may be sitting beside of us in church each week) feel like they're outside of the norm and rejected by "moral" society. As a gay Christian, I feel and see it all of the time. This is a beautiful post and I'm going to share it with my readers. Thank you, Richard. 

    Ken P. 

  48. Gary, take a look at From what you've written, Steve's words will really strike a chord with you. You'll definitely find an online community there willing to walk with you! May God continue to bless you in this journey we call life!

  49. Just saw this today for the first time.  I wish I had read this while I was still a youth minister.  Fantastic.

  50. I agree with the points you make about the outcasts in our world. I am the "reason" my parents married, and went on to divorce after 17 years of ugly warfare. I have spent most of my life working with youth in and out of the church and sympathize with their various plights. I'm also a musician and bit of a music snob ;-). But here's the deal from my view-- yes, she actually is talented. We were watching her on tv one night and I commented to my wife that if you closed your eyes, she has a very good voice and sound. And here's the problem. Not that she's a "freak"-- lots of entertainers are. Listening and watching her on stage and off have communicated to me that she doesn't think there is such a thing really as sexual impurity. I CANNOT watch her act. It's like watching a porn intro. If we care about the the sexual minority, shouldn't we just as much care about our husbands, fathers, brothers who struggle with sexual impurity? The latest issue of Vanity Fair has her on the cover, and a photo layout inside with article. Ibad to close the mag and tell my wife to read anything in it and dispose of it as quickly as possible because I don't want the temptation of visiting her nude body in my home. She cares about some things, and not about others, like most people. But we don't want to call her a hypocrite though, right? Funny what money does.

  51. no offense oh no. But I was struck that you are saying she is like Jesus. You haven't known things about lady gaga yet. She is an anti-christ and i was depressed, really, when you said she's like Jesus because they're way too opposite. lady gaga worships the devil. think of that.

  52. Jesus accepts whoever you are. He loves every individuals even though people are rebellious but it doesn't erase the fact that He loves us all.  And Jesus is not a liar, for He hates lying. He loves every individual whatever people may call on to that individual because we are His creation.  And He's wanting nothing but for us all to be saved and be reconciled to him [we are separated from Him because of our sins and our ignorance to His words]. He wants fellowship with us because He loves us.  He doesn't want us to be in hell. Hell is real.  He's coming is at hand and so repent. He receives anybody who calls in His name, and the things is, really, He's the one who keeps on knocking on your heart to listen to Him. Draw near to Jesus. Pray. Read the Bible.

  53. WOW, I am dumbstruck at the simplicity of your text and the road you traveled to get there…Lady Gaga? I'll have to give you credit for courage and good taste in music, now we can lose respect together. Like you, I have never reviewed the "light" of LG's music or her character in the way that you've pulled it out of the "darkness" of her life….thought provoking. Thank you for reminding us of the simplicity of our christian purpose. Yes, christian love must be extended in order for it to be received. I hope that through God's miraculous grace Jamey's last words on this earth were spoken to God.

  54. late to this party, but wanting to chime in -- just like talking to the church about the gay folks out there, or the poor folks out there, let us remember to talk to the youth group about the marginalized weird kids among us -- not all the 'outsiders' are outside…

    I rather like Lady Gaga myself. Catchy and vibrant.

  55. I really like your blogs (admittedly I've only poured over the Halloween ones), and I love your thoughts here. Just one thing I humbly bring to the table. I like the idea of Christ-following church youth group kids sticking up for the bullied (I would have loved that), but we are the church too. And by "we" I mean the weird, weak, nerdy, lonely and especially queer. We're part and parcel, essential and integral, and what I felt most from the nice church youth group crowd when I was a teen (a decade ago) was this "other" feel (us-vs.-them) where loving, protective words were thrown out as part of the Jesus points system, but the "in" crowd was not accepting weird members, forget queer ones! I like when you included words like "welcome" and "friendship" and "group" because that is necessary to be treated like equals. We don't need just a hedge of protection, we want recognition that we are the co-equal, stamped in the same image of God, partaking of the same meal, Christ-followers. If we had that, we would already be "in" and not need the protection. And you know who can best reach weird, nerdy, lonely, queer kids who are not Christ-followers? Us! The same mirror-image yet united by faith. Or, you know, Lady Gaga. ;)

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