Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thoughts on Lady Gaga: A Very Human Inhuman

12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have understanding and power.

15 By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;

16 by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.

17 I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing wealth on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.

22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,

before his deeds of old;

23 I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the earth or its fields
or any of the dust of the world.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

32 "Now then, my sons, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not ignore it.

34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.

35 For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

36 But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death (Proverbs 8:12-36)

Having read the rather long Rolling Stone interview with Lady Gaga, a twenty-four-year-old, new pop celebrity-singer-performance artist, who has transcended entirely previously adapted standards of taste, I am constrained to offer a few comments, given that this troubled young woman is influencing millions of her fans (whom she calls "her monsters").

The interview is littered with vulgarity, with the f-word used almost as punctuation repeatedly. Gaga reveals her family background and broken heart over an unrequited romance. The interviewer tries to psychoanalyze her, and she goes along with it to some extent. She is driven to perform, having been touring for nearly four years straight. Her stage routine is heavy-laden with sex and violence, augmented by special effects and outrageous costumes that highlight her feminine distinctives (to put it tamely). Gaga shows concern for her fans, recognizing that nine-year-old girls listen to her music. But the altruism is twisted, since her music is laced with obscenity, describing lurid lives with no sense of restraint. There is nothing of virtue to offer her adoring audience. One might say she makes Madonna look shy and modest. (I could not find an even remotely modest photograph of her to post here, although I admit that I did not look too hard for one.)

Yet Gaga is a theist, who believes that God "watches out for her." This is so American. A comparable European performer of such perversities would likely have no such sentiment. Yet the vast majority of Americans remain theists, however little they adhere to any biblical worldview or pattern of behavior.

Remarkably, Gaga says she does not want to appear to be a human being on stage. She will not even drink water in front of her audience. She says that her art is a lie that she wants people to believe. She is consumed with making art (as she understands it). This, apparently, is her chosen vehicle for salvation, given that her life is in tatters otherwise. She projects an in-human persona to escape her very human laments. Gaga has a pre-lupus condition (lupus is a very serious chronic illness) and sometimes passes out on stage. She admits to illegal drug use. Without any sense of secrecy or shame, admits to numerous sexual escapades. The interviewer refers to these (interestingly) as "sexual conquests"--a term once reserved for men seducing women. Gaga also claims she is a "feminist," but how is acting like a prostitute or sex monster in any way advancing the cause of women's dignity or abilities?

Pop culture has come a long way (down) in recent years. Lady Gaga is pornographic much of the time. Her lyrics are often perverse and sordid. Yet she is a teen idol, whose recordings are best-sellers. Of course, many will defend her as energetic, transgressive, dynamic, and more. But this only indicates that art has been separated from goodness--alienated from any pattern of life that conduces to virtue and moves away from vice. Lady Gaga shows us the sordid side of life (in larger than life ways); and she may invoke our compassion for the abused, tormented, and demented. But I see her as a tragic figure. I fear she is headed in the same direction that Jimi Hendrix was when he was the same age. He was dead at twenty-seven in 1970 of an accidental drug overdose.

I hope not and pray not. God have mercy on Lady Gaga--and her fans. I hope Christians will exhibit the same concern (as well as critique) as modeled by Francis Schaeffer in 1968, who wrote in The God Who is There:

These paintings, these poems and these demonstrations which we have been talking bout are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness. Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art? Christians should stop laughing and take such men seriously. Then we shall have the right to speak again to our generation. These men are dying while they live, yet where is our compassion for them? There is nothing more ugly than an orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.

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