Our Lady of Gaga?

By Helen Lee In this magazine cover image taken by Mario Testino and released by Vogue, singer Lady Gaga is … Continued

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.

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • DFPawlowski-MichiganUSA

    The one true loving merciful God loves the life that God created. That means God loves the hemaphrodite, the trans-gendered, the gay, the straight, the saint and the sinner. God is also the God of correction. The artist known as Gaga has the deserved reputation of needing constant attention that is really kind of creepy. So perhaps Gaga is really about the false god of self-idolatory versus healthy self respect for whomever is really behind the performance artist mask and the endless self promotion that seems to signal this person needs attention and adolation like a drug.

  • glenmayne

    Does Lady GaGa agree with your interpretation of her activities? Did you ask her?

  • MPatalinjug

    Yonkers, New YorkIt is nothing less than astounding that Lady Gaga should be taking on the job that Catholic bishops, cardinals and even the Pope should be doing–which is to get people to love each other, no matter what their religious beliefs are, and no matter what their s exual orientations are, instead of hating and killng each other, and instead of obsessing with ABORTION and the use of Contraceptives.It is a pity that she cannot be given a Cardinal’s hat. For if she could be, then she has a very good chance of running for the office of Pope the next time the College of Cardinals meet in the Sistine chapel to elect one–and, with her good looks and her philosphic bent, get elected the next Pope.Mariano Patalinjug

  • areyousaying

    She sure doesn’t fit the Palin white-supremacist, evangelical mold of intolerance and exclusion. Can someone be Christian in the US without these qualifications? What would Sarah say?

  • bj70117

    Please correct this copy with the redundant partial paragraph.

  • greenstheman

    what a joke is this the same Lady GAGA whose video Bad Romance is full of satanic symbols and tones???? again I say this “On Faith ” It amazes me how people will idolize people but will deny that there is a God.

  • sinequanon1

    A “model of Christian virtue?” That’s the best you can do? References like this to Christianity as if it’s the only religion that espouses admirable virtues (a far too common and popular practice) are not only inaccurate as regards Christianity, they’re also ignorant of other faiths as well – not to mention indicative of the narrow world the writer must live in. It would be far better to say that Lady Gaga is a model of the best of pagan virtues. She’s nice, celebrates human creativity, and enjoys the best the material world has to offer. Let’s stop holding up Christianity as the only resource for what’s good. There are other options out there.

  • FreetoThink

    Born with pink hair? Wearing meat? Really?

  • amac3

    Thank goodness for progress. Years ago, you had to wait for the circus to view the freaks. Now we have television to thank for bringing them into the home. Hopefully in a few years we will be laughing at these pseudo ‘artists’.

  • yellerdog

    If this article was designed to provoke a response I can only say – “Well done!” If, however, your article was written as a serious opinion then “what have you been smoking”?

  • ozpunk

    Are you trying to say that Jeebus was a tranny?

  • Maddogg

    Christianity in the USA died the day Ronnie Raygun was inaugurated. However, the USA is multi-religion so there is hope.

  • pvilso24

    I am an Evangelical Christian, a parent, and a HUGE fan of Lady Gaga’s music and her positive messages.I have attended one of her mega-concerts with my older teenage children, and watched clips of her performances elsewhere.She is outrageous and vulgar and her videos are NOT suitable for young people. If I were her Manager or Priest or parent I’d ask her to stop and tone it down… But her positive messages are many.In her interviews, she always says she is a follower of Christ and a lover of God. At her concert she yelled out: God LOVES all of you little monsters ! She has said several times she is a Catholic girl and has a group prayer with all her crew and dancers before every show.. asking for God’ support and strength… and powerfully and genuinely seems to love her fans very much.Too many young artists start off as role-models of good behavior than become Bad Girls or Guys to draw attention and mega-millions. Gaga has been consistently bad girl but good Christian. Different, proud, positive, sinful, and engaging.One of God’s children whoem I admire.

  • pvilso24

    I left out.. at her concert she urged young people to LOVE their parents and to get along with them.. not to fight or disobey them. She performed a song and shared a loving message to her father.I don’t recall a similiar concert performance tribute to parents during my lifetime.A strong advocate of the 5th Commandment methinks.

  • karlmarx2

    I like the way Lady Gaga says it better, but then artists have always been more universal in their appeal.And when you start making her message Christian, not only does that narrow and distort her words, but you invite in creeps like dfpawloski. It’s sad that some people feel threatened by creativity, but that’s their problem.

  • battleground51

    I didn’t realize “VOGUE” was so hard-up for cover material. Looks like another, old-line magazine is biting the dust.

  • itsthedax

    Would Ms. Tenety care to comment on the Christian message in her Telephone video?

  • wireman65

    She certainly has good things to say. Why did you have to insult her?

  • gershwin2009

    Just like any other celebrity, they think they know something and, thus, they feel compelled to preach.Listen, she is an entertainer, nothing more or less. Absolutely everything she does is to entertain and amuse; she is just a very well paid clown .Whatever she thinks she knows is trivial and should be taken as seriously as someone who says “hey, the sky looks blue”.

  • Curmudgeon10

    Ms. Lee, this week I heard our doofus DNI tell us that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “secular” organization, and now you are telling us that Lady Gaga is a “role model of Christian virtue?”Are you nuts?Role model for whom? Your teenage daughters? Have you seen any of her videos and read any of the lyrics? In appealing to a diverse group of people, all she is doing is SELLING SONGS to the biggest audience she can define. Wake up.

  • loulor

    Barf !!!!!

  • pgr88

    Reading “On Faith” is like the dead squirrel I found in my backyard. Its pathetic and rather grotesque but I go back occasionally to view it out of morbid fascination and to see what color it has turned today.

  • NoWeCant

    WaPo’s condescending “faith” section is usually a regular exercise to whip Christianity using the latest whipping tool pop-culture provides. This piece doesn’t disappoint.

  • lilhornie

    *** NEWS FLASH ***Lady Gaga couldn’t care less what religionists think about her or her schtick!

  • rabbitman

    Why not? Has Lady Gaga lied to justify war and the resulting slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people like “Christians” Bush, Obama, Powell. Rice and Rumsfeld? Has she given speeches at ‘prayer breakfasts” the same day that that under her orders, an Afghan town was leveled with 25 tons of bombs…like Obama? Look at the bloodsoaked war criminals that call themselves “Christian”. When it comes to pure baby-killing evil…she doesnt even begin to register on the charts. That is reserved for our elected “leaders”. America is NOT a Christian country..we are as evil as a regime can get.

  • Wizfan4ever

    What a weak attempt to bring God, Jesus and Christianity into the being and stage performer that is Lady Gaga. I guess the author of this article is feeling a little unsure of the strength of her core beliefs.What a stretch!You are human my friend. One more life form on a planet of exciting and diverse life forms. You should bask in the incredible circumstances that make you a living breathing creature on what WE call Earth.Here is to the reality that is life!

  • Maddogg

    Lady Gaga shows more Christian values than most other types of Christians. The latter type is full of stuffy, dysfunction, gastric indigestion.

  • shaiarra

    STOP LOOKING AT HER, AND LOOK AT YOUR OWN INHUMANE NONCIVIL SUPERSTITIOUS SELVES OK

  • marycom

    the comments above are very good and hilarious and right on the “tee”.

  • ladymacbeth977

    It seems a bit inappropriate for you to assume that, because she said something that is good and right, it must also be ‘Christian.’ Do you really have the moral right to appropriate other people’s truths on behalf of your own religion?

  • Publius76

    This is what happens when writers inhale fumes.

  • amstphd

    It’s great to have a young artist who provokes thought and condemns promiscuity, drugs, hatred, and many other things that most people in their right minds hate. She also makes no secret that she attended Catholic schools and has been influenced by what she was taught there. And if I remember correctly, I read or heard that the sisters who taught her proudly claim her as their former student and welcome her back at every opportunity. That’s pretty much enough.

  • Defund_NPR

    Lady CaCa !

  • nobody9

    I thought the accepted norm was that “true Christians” don’t merely sing about good works, but demonstrate their faith by them. Is that Lady Gaga? Hmmm… Maybe if they’re trendy/hip/provocative enough, it doesn’t matter?

  • mil1

    GaGa is an artist and as such explores many topics–good and bad, grace and evil.A commenter stated:”…what a joke is this the same Lady GAGA whose video Bad Romance is full of satanic symbols and tones???? again I say this “On Faith ” It amazes me how people will idolize people but will deny that there is a God….”It is in fact this same Lady Gaga–apparently you didn’t “get” the Bad Romance video—the woman she portraits is sold to the rich guy in the video…it shows not only depravity but also human trafficking and slavery. But GaGa isn’t supporting these things, she is demonstrating what happens when you suppress the human soul and that human takes revenge–the guy is incinerated in the very bed he has taken his “trophy” to. This video doesn’t approve of any of the actions of the people in it…it simply explores what’s possible in the human condition. I wouldn’t say she is exploring Christian themes so much as she explores human themes. She has discovered what most good humanists discover–good is better then evil and stronger too…but I don’t believe she truly understands why this relates to Christ. It’s OK though, because even as a Christian, I still enjoy her art. (something most here this of as impossible…..)

  • folder9633

    The Most Holy and Exalted Flying Spaghetti Monster has decreed that that this entire article is a crock of sh*t, but no more so than the story of the imaginary deity and his fictional son.

  • sanityrose

    I enjoy a bit of her music…as much as the next…but the writer is quick to let out many of GaGa’s own statements to the media on numerous occasions. She claims to be bisexual and admits to being sexual with women at this time, but not men, somehow leaving her (in her own words) abstinent. She admits to using cocaine regularly, while writing, for artistic vision…and so on. So, she is not free by example of sex, drugs and etc.(She has recently tweeted to her monsters not to follow her example after being chastised for talking about cocaine as a tool for creativity)

  • globalone

    So if my daughter uses illegal drugs, tramps around like a prostitute, speaks with a vulgar tongue, and generally acts in a manner lacking of humility and respect, BUT tells her friends that God loves them, I should be the proud father? Really?I’m curious how you would come to that conclusion because it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible.

  • benivey2

    Martin Luther King Jr. is a model Christian. CS Lewis is a model Christian. Mother Teresa is a model Christian. Because of their life’s work, they are all model Christians.Lady Gaga giving a nod to God in one of her songs doesn’t make her any more of a model Christian than a rapper giving Jesus a shout-out at the Grammys.

  • benivey2

    Martin Luther King Jr. is a model Christian. CS Lewis is a model Christian. Mother Teresa is a model Christian. Because of their life’s work, they are all model Christians.Lady Gaga giving a nod to God in one of her songs doesn’t make her any more of a model Christian than a rapper giving Jesus a shout-out at the Grammys.

  • APaganplace

    Kind of baffling, sometimes, how Christians can rail against someone and all she’s claimed to represent so constantly, and then whenever they find something they approve of in them, decide to give their Jesus the credit. I suspect that whatever Lady Gaga’s religion or religions, she’s as eclectic about that as just about everything else about her seems to be. She’s not ‘ministering to freaks,’ she’s *bein’ a freak.* Gods love her for that, I suppose. :) I’m not really into her kind of music, (Sort of one of those artists where once in a while I like a something, and mostly they’re just background,) but she does fun things with the celebrity. And she’s generally been a good friend to equality causes, and hasn’t been afraid to take her share of media-bashing for it, so there we are. :)

  • ThomasBaum

    benivey2 You wrote, “Martin Luther King Jr. is a model Christian. CS Lewis is a model Christian. Mother Teresa is a model Christian. Because of their life’s work, they are all model Christians.Lady Gaga giving a nod to God in one of her songs doesn’t make her any more of a model Christian than a rapper giving Jesus a shout-out at the Grammys.”What is a “model Christian”?Would you consider the person that is referred to as “the good thief”, to whom Jesus said, “Today, you shall be with Me in Paradise”, to be a “model Christian” by “his life’s work”?Jesus did not call us to be “clones” but He did say something about us judging and He did say something about God being The Judge, didn’t He?See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • truthseeker121

    Lady Gaga is a media puppet who prays to her dead aunt before her concerts–not God– and blatantly incorporates occult worship into her music, videos and performances. The first line of her song “it doesn’t matter if you worship him or capital H.I.M”…who do you think she is referencing? The God of the Bible would never support the line “a different lover is not a sin just listen to capital H.I.M.” so I’m left believing she is referencing Satan(His Infernal Majesty). Be careful and aware America and choose this day whom you will serve. Its all in the Bible.

  • ThomasBaum

    globaloneYou wrote, “We are reborn in Christ. The thief’s responsibility is to remove that sin from his life going forward. The question would be more appropriate around whether or not he continues to be a theif after accepting Christ as his savior.”Maybe what is “more appropriate”, is that we can NOT see into other people’s hearts and also who makes the decision of just who or what is a “model Christian”.Jesus extended the invitation to “Come follow Me” not to tell others how to follow Jesus.Jesus did not intend for us to become a “bunch of clones”, how one is to follow Jesus is different from how another is to follow Jesus.You also wrote, “Actually, Christ calls each of us to hold each other accountable.”It is written, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and “The measure you judge with will be the measure that you are judged with”.God is our Judge and one day you will realize just why.If we judge anyone, it should be ourself.”He who is without sin, cast the first stone”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • YEAL9

    She needs a name change:First suggestion: Lady GagGag!!!

  • davidwilson1

    Satan always blend truth and lies – and uses people like this to achieve his purpose. It is not true to say that people are Christ-like just because they are. They are however made in the image of God, however distorted by the fall this may be. The marginalised are accepted by Jesus with open arms as they are. But dont believe the lie that Jesus expects you to remain in your sinful lifestyle. Having accepted Jesus, and believing in a sense that gives arise to you wishing to make changes in your life (i.e. repentance and co-operating with God in walking a road of Holiness), you will be justified before God by believing and the process of santification begins. You walk out each day with the aim of being more Christ-like – with Jesus walking with you, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, you are modelled to be more like Christ, but ultimately it is Jesus living in you that comes to shine through.

  • JPDG

    Some people are born HIV positive or prone to alcoholism. Does Lady GaGa promote that?

  • davidwilson1

    I understand that in the video issued to promote the song , Lady Gaga is wearing little devil horns on her head. Now in a sense, we are all born with these, but Jesus can take them off – in fact insists that you do turn from the kingdom of darkness. However, it does also make me wonder which god she is referring to.

  • areyousaying

    She certainly has good things to say. Why did you have to insult her?Posted by: wireman65 …because some of the “Christians” posting here think they have been deputized by their small and shallow god to demonize everything and anything different from themselves. They believe they are entitled to look into the hearts of others and determine who is “Christian” and who is not. Lipton should give out little Christocon badges as a free promotion for their new found clientele.

  • haveaheart

    DFPawlowski-MichiganUSA,Nice effort at coining a brand new word: “adolation.”I’m guessing that you meant either “adulation” or “idolization,” but hey, putting the two together just makes your message all the more meaningful. Right?Sort of like Sarah Palin’s “refudiate.” Are you studying at the feet of the masster?

  • globalone

    Areyousaying,Let me preface by saying I haven’t read each and every comment on this thread, so your post might actually be grounded in some sort of reality. But . . . Disagreeing and arguing against a position doesn’t constitute “demonizing” someone. And, as a Christian, I am commanded by God to hold my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for their actions. Just as they are to hold me accountable.

  • JPDG

    Born this way? Really? They discovered the “gay gene”? What is it?Oh yeah, that’s right, it doesn’t exist!

  • areyousaying

    as a Christian, I am commanded by God to hold my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for their actions. Just as they are to hold me accountable.Posted by: globalone Interesting. I was raised Christian and was taught “judge not lest ye be judged” I don’t remember any commandment to hold others accountable. I was taught that that is God’s job.People like you make me really sad for true followers of Jesus. To get my work visa in Mexico, I have to list my religion either as Catholic, Christian or none. It pains me to reply Christian considering all the evil that has been, is being and will be done in Jesus’ name but, considering the alternatives, my papers still say “Christian” in the hope that there are enough of them left who don’t feel “commanded” to judge others.

  • globalone

    Areyousaying,”Judge not lest ye be judged”Unfortunately, most Christians get this wrong. And while Christian children are incorrectly taught this by their parents, it is the pastors/priests that I believe are truly at fault.First, you are translating the original text using today’s definition of “judge”. That is simply incorrect.Second, Matthew 7 is clear in that we are to take the “log” out of our own eye first, THEN we are able to see clear enough to take the “speck” out of our brother’s eye.Finally, Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer that we are to ask God to “forgive us our sins as WE FORGIVE those who TRESPASS against us . . ” How are we to forgive others if we do not “judge” their behavior as sinful? Put another way, we are forgiving others by loving them and holding them accountable for their actions.At the end of the day, Jesus is warning us that as we “judge” others, so too will we be “judged.”

  • areyousaying

    …I guess I need to keep working on that badge…

  • bs2004

    Feh.There is more talent in Norah Jones’ left opposable thumb than there is in GaGa, Bieber, and Ashlee Simpson combined!

  • hunterhanger

    Wow. How can Ms. Tenety take herself seriously with praising a sex/drug addict who’s values are so far detached from historic mainstream Christian mores. I realize her activistic desire to reshape our faith, but she clearly knows nothing of the mercy and wrath of the Biblical, historical, Christian God. What sacrilege.

  • WmarkW

    Dear On Faith:This article has been at the top of the pile for over a week. Would you please take it down and put Susan Jacoby up.Thank you

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