Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lady Gaga - Now You See Her. . . .

It's out. Lady Gaga released her video for "Born This Way" yesterday. I've watched it twice. . . only twice so far. I'll be watching it and thinking about it more over the coming days. Not surprisingly, Lady Gaga continues to make my head spin as my understanding of who she is, what she stands for, and what she hopes to accomplish continues to evolve.

Initially, the video surprised me. I really thought this would be one that took advantage of the opportunity to use every single frame to tell a more direct story that relates to the song's lyrical content and message. As she sings the now-familiar tune in the song's video treatment, it's all about dance. Sure, the dance, the costuming, and the lighting combine with other elements to tell a story. But at its core, it's a dance video. . . that is, when the music starts.

Before that in a lengthy spoken intro, Lady Gaga gives us context that reveals more of who she is, her personal agenda and hopes, and what the song is all about. She tells us it's "the manifesto" of "Mother Monster" - a label that refers to her growing band of "Little Monster" minions along with an admission of her place as the leader of this almost religious-like following. The video starts and ends with the pink triangle, a symbol used in Nazi concentration camps to identify male homosexual prisoners. That symbol has since been adopted by Gays and Lesbians as a reminder of how they've been oppressed and their hope to be liberated from all oppression. In the beginning of the video, the triangle points down. By the end, it's flipped.

Lady Gaga has said that the video is the story of the birth of a new race. . . a new race that is all about no prejudice, no judgement, and boundless freedom. The video serves as a kind of creation narrative ala Gaga. . . a creation narrative that sets the stage for a world of unity and togetherness. . . where Gaga serves as creator, sustainer, redeemer, and lord.



Our pressing task is to understand and deconstruct Lady Gaga, her music, and the movement she's inspiring. We must walk carefully through this landscape, taking the time to look carefully at who they are, what they believe, and what they worship. Where they are right, we must affirm that. And where they are lacking understanding and direction, we need to gracefully step into the gap with a compelling, well-informed, and Biblically-based apologetic to answer the heart cries that scream for redemption.

After watching this video, I'm thinking that many of us will identify the main issue as the homosexual agenda and same-sex attraction. Yes, these are issues that must be addressed. But it's much, much deeper than that. This is simply one more expression of brokenness. . . a reality that we all share as human beings. Today, my great concern regarding Lady Gaga's message is our increasing tendency to write off any and all challenges to what we've accepted as the status quo of our lives by saying "Hey, I was born this way." Ultimately, it's about our understanding of the human heart. If I was born this way and that justifies anything and everything I do, then we have no need for a proper understanding of original sin. In a world like this where there is no original sin, then all things are permissible and we have no need for a Savior. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was a waste.

I think Lady Gaga is right. We need more unity and togetherness. We need more compassion. But the unity, togetherness, and compassion we need is not the kind that says all things are permissible. It's a unity, togetherness, and compassion that is built around our shared understanding of our ultimate brokenness in a world where there is right and wrong. . . and a unity, togetherness, and compassion that flows out of our gratitude to the One who came to fix it, make it right, and then send us out to do the same.

12 comments:

PastorDame said...

Walt,

I am always thankful to see constructive conversation about what is going on in our culture and how it impacts the way that we minister to teens. Too many times, we put up barriers and refuse to look beyond the surface to see what is communicated to us about the fallen condition of humanity.

It's interesting to read (and see) the association of Lady Gaga as a religious figure. She has a powerful following and a provocative message that resonates beyond social standing, ethnicity, creed, or orientation.

When you boil it down, it's all about validation.

From the most insecure, awkward pre-teen to the grounded professional, I think everyone can relate to the need for relevance and validity in who they are and what they do. Especially to the gay and lesbian community who have been met with picket lines and angry chants, it's probably a "cup of cold water" that, unfortunately, is given in Gaga's name.

The outcry of this song is a clever weave of truth and deception. In example: the scripture tell us that we are created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. If we are created in the image of God, surely our impulses - who we are by nature - must be as well. This type of logic sounds all too familiar, doesn't it?

Now, it is our classic temptation to stop right there and simply say, "Well, Lady Gaga is a fountain of lies! You can't listen to her!" But what message is she offering that has been neglected? Value. Acceptance. Granted, it's under a pretense of deception, but in the desert of distance created by humanity's sinfulness, we believe (in the classic words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive) that "any love is good love, so I took what I could get."

We walk a delicate line of validating a person without giving permission to sin. This is where we need to study and replicate Jesus in how He showed love to the "sinners" without compromising His message.

Just some thoughts on the matter, hope it can spark more discussion.

Jim and Diane Ruehling said...

Walt, my husband, I, and many close friends all thank you for such a wonderful interpretation and comment on this video. We truly found it heartwarming.

Also,we all would like to give you a standing ovation for allowing such diverse opinions to be fully expressed in your comments. You are truly a rare human being, and the best example of WWJD.

brandoncapuano said...

You nailed it, Walt. Absolutely nailed it. There is a longing within all of us (even Creation as it groans, awaiting our Savior) for the brokenness to be fixed, for everything to be put "back to rights." In our broken minds, we identify that things are broken but the reason and solution are wrong and hopeless if not based in the Gospel.
From the standpoint of youth ministry and youth culture, yes, Gaga speaks for the homosexual agenda, but I think her voice sounds much louder than that to those who look up to and admire her. I don't think they see her as a savior/redeemer that she portrays herself to be here, but I think they might see her as helping them to understand this brokenness.
Now that is a scary substitute teacher.

Cory said...

After watching the video and looking over the lyrics this whole video appears to be the equivalent of Romans 1. As those that reject the truth of God they ultimately end up worshipping the creature, whether that is Gaga or themselves or their sexuality. They want no accountability for their sinful behavior so they have been turned over to themselves. As shocking as the video was, I agree that it is a depiction of what you have talked about in this blog.
Gaga has such an influence over young minds that this can shape the mindset of teens as well as indicate where the culture as a whole is heading.
She along with her listeners need lots and lots of prayer that God would awaken them from their blindness.

Stephanie said...

Pastor Dame,
I was shaking my head vertically while reading your words until, "...this song is a clever weave of truth and deception." I don't think I've ever gone from vertical to horizontal so fast.

Perhaps the future will show me that I was fooled, but for now I believe she is 100% sincere and genuine.

I always trust a person until they prove untrustworthy - not the other way around.

Jim and Diane Ruehling said...

"Where they are right, we must affirm that. And where they are lacking understanding and direction, we need to gracefully step in ..."

I consider myself a well-read person, and I have never read a more perfectly stated sentiment in my life. I want you to know that I didn't miss that, and it doesn't surprise me in the least, that it came from you.

I also noted how you always respectfully refer to her as "Lady" Gaga and not just "Gaga". Thank you Walt.

adam mclane said...

I love how you've approached this. Seeking to understand it. Thank you for your level-headed leadership there.

I love the analogy of a creation narrative. That definitely provides context for the stunning visuals. Creation, by its nature, is sexual. That makes it more than just another video with people in their underwear.

The title, "Born this way," provides an easy sucker pin for the church to miss what she's getting at. Like you, I'm not certain its limited to LGBT "born this way" language. More along the lines of "I'm born the way I am, leave me alone. Respect me for who I am. Stop trying to make me your view of me."

Lady Gaga is stunningly creative. The quality and depth of the video is far more artistic than I think her audience will necessarily appreciate. (I should ask some middle schoolers what they think?)

And there is something in her messaging, like that of Katy Perry, that is attractive in its honesty. There is a narrative in both of their styles that is telling adolescents something they both want to hear and need to hear. (Evidenced by their magnetic strength in the market.)

I just haven't quite put my finger on what it is just yet.

Part of me just wants to throw up my arms and say, "The video doesn't have meaning, just for entertainment." But it is clearly designed to be deciphered. It is extraordinarily religious.

Maybe I need to watch it again?

Rhoda said...

Thanks for doing so much work on behalf of parents of young, impressionable children, like myself. I've read your blog and used it in coversation many a time!
What really saddens me about songs/videos like this is how accepted it is for young girls to listen to and want to be like Lady Gaga. I woke up yesterday to a young girl sining "Born this Way". If you haven't heard the story, she recorded herself and posted it on YouTube. Lady Gaga discovered it and invited the 10 year old to sing at her concert in Toronto last night. This young girl has now done radio shows and I think some TV entertainment shows. This reminds me of another young singer discovered on YouTube not too long ago and now every girl loves him and many boys are trying to have the "Bieber" hair (although he recently cut his hair - yeah!. Where will it end? Let's hope and pray that her parents will have the strength and courage to stand up to the music industry when they come knocking on her door. Let her enjoy her childhood and be a normal 5th grader (although her life is anything but normal anymore!)

Pastor Stuart Smith said...

Walt's post reminds me of a great line from Craig Barnes “Since our society keeps changing the false gods we worship, we also keep changing the things we label as a sin. When we worshiped the god of success, people considered it a sin to be a failure. When we worshiped the god of self it was a sin not to be self-actualized even if that meant breaking our commitments, hoarding our money, or forgetting about the public good. Now that we worship at the alters of pluralism and tolerance, the only unforgivable sin is to claim that someone else is wrong.” M. Craig Barnes Hustling God pg 35.

When we forget the power of Jesus to change and transform lives we turn the Lion of Judah into a house cat. I don't remember who said that first, but relevant to the cop out that we were "Born this Way."

Pastor Eric said...

Walt,
I appreciated your insight into how the issues being dealt here go deeper than just the "homosexual agenda and same sex attraction," and that it is more a reflection of human brokenness and self-justification. I also agree with your assertion that unity and compassion are important. I believe those need to be our approach towards ALL sinners instead of condemnation and hatred. I am saddened by people who approach broken people with self-righteousness, anger and judgment, not realizing that we are ALL in need of the same grace and mercy from our Savior. I often think of the story of the unmerciful servant, and of Jesus Christ's reminder that we as Christians have been forgiven a gigantic debt that compares little to what others have done to us.

Thank you for the challenge to be people of compassion.

However, I have not seen anyone else comment on this, and I feel the need to speak up. I am disappointed that you embedded the video of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" song in your article. I have read the comments by other readers, and there is reference to the artistry, the imagery, the provocative message, stunning visuals, etc., but the only slightly negative comment was to refer to how "shocking" the video was.

I am compelled to call out our Christian leaders to be set a higher standard for others. The blatant sensuality/sexuality of the images and content of this video is not something we need to be encouraging one another to watch, analyze and discuss. There is already enough struggle among Christian leadership with pornography and sexual sin that we don't need to be pushing more of it on one another.
An analysis of the lyrics or an audio track of this song would have been more than adequate for this article, and would spare others the struggle with temptation and lust that watching the video has surely caused at least some who have viewed it. And Adam's comment that he should ask his middle schoolers what they think of the video completely blows my mind. If they haven't watched it, then please let us not be the catalyst for them to go view it so they can give us an opinion, especially since the nuances and deeper meaning adults have managed to come up with would be completely lost on kids this age.
I realize that people will read this and think that I'm being too much of a "prude" or close-minded or out of touch with today's trends, etc. I have come too far in my own struggles with pornography, lust and purity, and I have seen too many of my brothers in Christ struggle with these issues to turn a blind eye to this. I realize that there may be a few men whom God has gifted with an incredible and miraculous immunity to sexual images and temptation, but the vast majority of men that I've talked to who feel okay about viewing things that are "artistic" or "edgy" because they are not affected by them are able to do so because the continued exposure to sin has desensitized them to it (NOT because they've reached some higher level of holiness where they're no longer affected by it).
All this to say, please spare us the struggle next time you choose to share with us your very appreciated insights on the latest trends that affect our teens. May we not be the ones who cause "even the least of these" to stumble.

Ralph said...

Pastor Eric, good prank, I was really taking you seriously almost to the very end of your comment,then I realized you were punkin' us. But you certainly had me going, and probably a lot of others. And that's a good lesson you taught us during this serious discussion - there's always room for a little levity.

Anonymous said...

A few initial reactions:

1. This is just in time, as I was beginning to miss MJ and his upbeat crotch-grabbing.
2. I want to agree with the gentleman who said you shouldn't have posted the video, but I just can't. As disturbing as the song is, you can't get the full scope of all that's being said w/o the visual. I pray before I watch these things - and don't be fooled into thinking that middle schoolers don't troll around youtube watching this stuff. I wouldn't show this in Sunday School as a lesson starter, but if a kid comes to me and says "What do you think of Lady Gaga's new video?" I want to have some fodder for discussion!
3. I might have nightmares.
4. Walt - thanks for delving into these scary places for us - to challenge us to meet kids where they are with the saving message of Jesus Christ!!!