By Helen Lee
In this magazine cover image taken by Mario Testino and released by Vogue, singer Lady Gaga is shown on the cover of the March 2011 issue of “Vogue.” (AP Photo/Mario Testino for Vogue)
Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” is an anthem for the different. The song offers words of encouragement for everyone on the margins of society, including gay people, members of racial minorities, and even the “broke.” She insists, “God makes no mistakes,” and later adds:
Whether life’s disabilities
left you outcast, bullied or teased,
rejoice and love yourself today,
’cause baby, you were born this way.
Gaga is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, whether intentionally or not. Her views on celibacy, personal strength and individuality are certainly laudable; and far more compelling is what she has to say about human nature and human suffering.
Unlike Madonna, to whom she is often compared, Lady Gaga seems to understand that human nature is not reducible to sex. Humans are complicated, and Gaga gets that. We can be ugly — that’s true — but Gaga understands that human beauty is only meaningful in contrast to human ugliness. So yes, we are monsters (fallen), but as the song says, we were “born to survive,” (born for eternal life).
Because Lady Gaga is able to embrace the ugly, and in so doing embrace the beautiful, she has a sensitivity and appreciation for inevitable human suffering. She acknowledges that people struggle constantly with their fallen nature, uncertain of their potential to be good. She acknowledges that life lets people down. And as she constantly urges her little monsters to love themselves, she adds (in “Born This Way”):
give yourself prudence,
and love your friends.
From her attention to human suffering, I’m reminded of the Christian theme of uniting your sufferings with Christ’s suffering. Gaga is demanding that the marginalized be seen as the valuable, beautiful, Christ-like people they are.
Lady Gaga is eccentric for sure. She can be grotesque. She can be vulgar. But she is a role model of Christian virtue precisely because it seems unlikely that she would be. She has the potential to introduce God to so many people precisely because it doesn’t seem like she is doing so. Lady Gaga is telling a huge, devoted audience that God loves them.
This post originally ran at Busted Halo, an online magazine for spiritual seekers.