Friday, May 6, 2011

What Do You Think About Lady Gaga's "Judas" Video? . . . .

Just because we don't get it doesn't mean that we shouldn't work to try to figure it out. Abstract art has always been a little bit difficult for me. It's especially frustrating when people see things that I can't even begin to imagine as I stare at the same piece they're staring at. Sometimes that happens with edgy and artsy stuff that's out there in the world of music and video.

And that's a little bit of my struggle with Lady Gaga's new song and video, "Judas." My initial couple of rounds of watching and listening have left me with some thoughts, but an equal if not greater dose of head scratching. . . . probably because it's a song that functions on multiple levels. Judging from the growing volume of discussion centering on the video's meaning, I'm not alone.

Have you read the song's lyrics? If not, check them out. . .

Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas GaGa
Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas GaGa

[Lady Gaga - Verse 1]
When he comes to me, I am ready
I'll wash his feet with my hair if he needs
Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain
Even after three times, he betrays me

I'll bring him down, bring him down, down
A king with no crown, king with no crown

[Chorus]
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby

Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas GaGa

[Lady Gaga - Verse 2]
I couldn't love a man so purely
Even darkness forgave his crooked way
I've learned love is like a brick, you can
Build a house or sink a dead body
I'll bring him down, bring him down, down
A king with no crown, king with no crown

[Chorus]
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby

Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as

[Bridge]
In the most Biblical sense,
I am beyond repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind
But in the cultural sense
I just speak in future tense
Judas kiss me if offensed,
Or wear ear condom next time

I wanna love you,
But something's pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
Judas is the demon I cling to
I cling to

[Chorus]
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby
I'm just a Holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel
But I'm still in love with Judas, baby

Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Oh-oh-oh-ohoo
I'm in love with Juda-as, Juda-as
Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas Juda-a-a, Judas GAGA


And then watch the video. . . .



This is one that's been talked about quite a bit. . . even before the video was released. Many have railed against Lady Gaga for being blasphemous and sacrilegious, conclusions - whether right or wrong - that should never be jumped to before listening and watching, even if the artist has a track-record of inciting controversy and taking people to and over the edge.

Two of the questions we must ask of this and other pieces of pop culture are these: 1)What does it mean to the one who made it? and 2) What does it mean to the viewer? We're starting to get some bits and pieces of the answer to #1 from the artist herself. The answer to #2 is going to vary from person to person. In the coming days I'm sure it will all get clearer. . . or maybe it won't.

But for now, here's what we do know. The song and video are filled with biblical imagery. No matter what the imagery is and how it's used, that's enough to turn some people off. In my case, I find it all very intriguing. In one interview, Lady Gaga says, "It's about leaving your darkness behind in order to come into the light . . . I have a lot of things that have haunted me from my past - choices, men, drug abuse, being afraid to go back to New York, confronting old romances - and Judas represents, for me, something that is bad for me that I can't escape. I keep going back and forth between the darkness and the light in order to understand who I am."

I can't get away from the fact that Lady Gaga is opening the window for viewers to see into her spiritual struggles and the constant battle between right and wrong. From the wavering back and forth between Jesus and Judas, to spiritual pull evidences on her face, to the final scene of stoning. . . perhaps Lady Gaga has offered us a very real picture of the struggle between right and wrong. . . something the Apostle Paul so clearly lays out in Romans 7. . . something that is very real in my own life. . . something that makes me grieve for myself the more I watch this video.

No, Lady Gaga is not a theologian and she may not be getting it all right. But I wonder if there isn't some deep truth that can be gleaned from "Judas." In the video I see myself. And I thank God that in the Scriptures I see my Redeemer. Ponder these words from Paul in Romans 7:21-25: "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Today I'm at Camp Lebanon in Minnesota with a fantastic group of energetic and young youth workers. We're talking about youth culture. Tonight we're going to watch and talk about "Judas." I can't wait to hear what insights and reactions they have. What do you think about Lady Gaga's "Judas"?

8 comments:

By: Steven M. Johnson said...

I totally agree with your observations. What a great way to create conversation with youth about that struggle between right and wrong.

Mike McGarry said...

When I watched the video last night I was left with the impression that it was a brilliant video. Once you get over the amount of flesh, I agree with you... we all can see ourselves in the struggle between who we desire more: Jesus or Judas.

I also thought the scene where she was in the tub with both of them was a very insightful commentary about the amorality (rather than immorality) of our times. Jesus and Judas are there together, and at one point they even kiss each other. This really does reflect our culture's views on right/wrong.

There's obviously a ton I disagree with here, but I think it was a really smart and heavy and multifaceted video that's worth paying attention to.

Timothy and Mindy said...

wow, some good thoughts... i guess sometimes we can just start out being so cynical about a person, a title of a song, or the style of a video.

glenn and julie said...

Lady Gaga with her seeming personal struggles, philosophy of beauty/death, and her use of religious/Christian themes in her music reminds me very much of Marilyn Manson.

john mcclung said...

Good observations. I too watched the debut of the video on E! last night and I was not impressed. Madonna seemed to break this ground with her "Like a Prayer" video. Unfortunately, to me, all of Gaga's music sounds much of the same (exactly how the Beatles were once described). I did find her interview with E! interesting, which preceded the video. She claims that she is obsessed with religious art; considers herself a devout Catholic; and Judas represents several old lovers of her's. Once she explained this, the video seemed to make a little more sense. The downside of viewing the video is for the viewer who may have no frame of context--teens and adults alike--and are slightly (and rightly?) offended by the video. I'll be interested in hearing what the other youth pastors at your conference have to say about "Judas".

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Gaga is a sensationalist. No different from the many that have come before her. The fact is her music and especially her videos are created to grab attention. She does not have mine. If anything, I find her music unexceptional, I've heard it and much like it before. Sure, she probably has a notion of the age old battle between darkness and light but like the scripture says "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." John 3:19
I don't condemn her or her music but, I certainly am not going to give her any attention either.

Trace Embry of Shepherds Hill Ministries said...

Few teens would carry from this anything more than a cheap thrill and a demonic influence. Whatever message is being conveyed here, the same message can be conveyed in a way that is more congruent to God’s definition of beauty and entertainment. Is it entertaining? Let’s say it is. But, people are entertained by porn also. It just doesn’t do anything positive for the soul or spirit of an individual--in fact, quite the opposite—especially for a teen. I’m not sure God approves either. Does it take talent? It absolutely does. But, so does the perfect murder or bank heist. Not all art and not all talent is Holy Spirit inspired—regardless of how intriguing or entertaining or deep and mysterious the message is. Perhaps the most spiritually and emotionally mature among us can be exposed to something like this without much fallout—kind of like a sex-crimes investigator for a police department or a ministry to prostitutes or porn stars. The problem is that the most mature among us aren’t going to be the ones watching this “lady” most of the time. It will probably be the most na├»ve and impressionable among us.
Watching it for the sake of understanding the culture should be reserved for guys like Walt and others like him—a commendable task indeed. But, I happen to know how our five senses affect the deeper spiritual side of human beings in general—especially sound and visuals. Bach said that all music should be for the glorification of God and the refreshment of the human spirit. I’m not sure this does either. This, by no means, is an indictment against secular music. Much of it is more uplifting than some of the Christian garbage I’ve heard. But, as entertaining and creative as this piece of “art” might be to the carnal side of our humanity, for most of us, it is a blight on our spiritual side—especially our kids. However, entertaining ourselves into death and hell is the direction our nation is going; and, it is using the “dagger of art” to get us there.
This piece is quite tame compared to any number of others, however. With all the commendable and beautiful “secular” and “Christian” music and entertainment that is out there, it seems to me that our culture’s intrigue and appetite for things like this is indicative of a nation de-civilizing before our very eyes. Is there any wonder why more missionaries are now coming to America than going out? Some of the world’s most gifted artists have no idea how damaging their “art” can actually be. Remember Emmanuel Ninger?

Trace Embry
Founder & Director
Shepherd's Hill Academy

Mark said...

I have always enjoyed listening to Lady Gaga, but when I read about this new song of hers I have to admit, I felt uneasy. Thanks to your feature however, I have learnt to view it in a different light to how more conservative Christians might. Thank you and God bless.