"I wanna love you,
but something's pulling me away from you.
Jesus is my virtue,
and Judas is the demon I cling to."
Judas, by Lady Gaga
"I am a whore, I do confess.
But I put you on like a wedding dress,
and I run down the aisle,
and I run down the aisle.
I'm a prodigal with no way home.
But I put you on just like a ring of gold,
and I run down the aisle
Wedding Dress, by Derek Webb
Which set of those lyrics sounds more offensive?
So this past Sunday I was talking with some friends at Living Waters before the service. I have no idea how the subject came up, but for some reason we started talking about Lady Gaga. (Guess that means we're heretics.) One of my friends did not much care for Lady Gaga and finds her rather offensive. This is perfectly understandable. Let's face it, she is one "Out There" kinda singer. (Great at marketing herself, though.) Much of her subject matter is not exactly the most Jesus-honoring material. However...
I have a friend named Zach who was in on this conversation. Zach is rather awesome even though he is a red-head. He is a combat veteran, which is good for me to know in case I ever need someone "Punished." ($5 and a Pepsi, and he's good to go.) Zach is also a new daddy to the cutest giggling prune EVER!
So anyway, Zach speaks up in defense of Lady Gaga over a particular song of hers. I only know a couple of Gaga songs that I have on my Ipod for gym music. So I was unfamiliar with the song, Judas, that Zach defended. He explained some of the lyrics to me and said that he could identify with them. He said that this is far too often the way his walk with Jesus is. He said that he loves Jesus, but betrays him all of the time. Zach said that he IS Judas more than he would wish to be.
That is Zach.
It is also us.
And it is very much me.
Zach's explanation made me recall a song by Derek Webb called "Wedding Dress." Derek is a Christian artist, and I got to see him perform this song a little over a year ago. I had never heard the song before, but I do recall that I wept throughout the entire performance. I found myself very much in those lines of his that I posted up at the top. I find myself in them for much of my conscious hours.
I once heard Dan Allender preach in Matthew chapter 5, the portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks of murder & adultery. Dan said that in our hearts, all humans are killers & whores. (I find it so refreshing when a speaker can be so blunt in a church.) I tend not to emphasize this truth all that much. I tend to emphasize the area of God's amazing grace and love that he extends and offers to all humanity. But the truth remains that my nature is very sinful, capable of very creative & spectacular evil, and that in my heart I am an unfaithful whore. I am. (Which might go along way in explaining why I am so awed by God's grace & mercy.)
In fact, I have grown more comfortable over time in admitting this fact about my sinful heart, because it certainly does magnify my understanding of how great God's love is for someone as sinful as me.
So I find myself identifying with the song, Wedding Dress, by Derek Webb. Zach can find the same identification in the song, Judas, by Lady Gaga. Both songs convict us. Should any of this come as a surprise? If you say "Yes," then think about why that might be the case.
I suppose I should allow you to see both songs, shouldn't I?
It's pretty obvious with the imagery she is using that she is trying to make a point. Perhaps she didn't realize how profound this point might become to certain people. (It did cause me to get this song stuck in my head all night at work.)
What do you want to bet that when she is not on stage or in public, Lady Gaga prefers to sit around her house just doing some knitting or embroidery, while sipping tea and eating poptarts? Hhhhmmm...
Anyway, now for Derek.
Odds are, you probably wont hear that song on your local "Christian" FM station. Which, frankly, is a pity to me.
Music has an amazing ability to transport a person to someplace else. I am not one who believes that music should be easily categorized with labels marking them "Christian" or Secular. For starters, the labels never fit very well. I am convinced that one aspect of being made in the image of God means that all people have some type of creative streak in them. In a way it is God testifying about himself through that person's creativity. So, this is why I can hear God when I listen to a piece of music by Beethoven, or Mozart, even though neither of them followed Jesus.
Secondly, just because something has the label "Christian" on it, does not make it God-honoring. I have seen some so-called Art by Christians that gave me the dry heaves. I have also heard some music by Christians that I am fairly convinced makes God's ears bleed. So labels are not for me. Too many Christians in America already live in a self-imposed ghetto, I see no reason to encourage that in other areas. I am not afraid of the secular world's culture. Nor do I worry all that much when the sacred and secular overlap. Instead, I view these occurrences as opportunities to simply be salt & light.
BTW: I will fully agree that there is plenty of music in the "Secular" world that one should avoid for a variety of reasons. I have a fairly high tolerance for controversy, and I am not easily offended. However, I simply cannot listen to much of the misogynistic lyrics of so much gansta rap and hip-hop, the overt perversion & sexual hedonism of certain artists, or the acute dullness of Garth Brooks. I just can't do it.
Still, I believe that the God of the bible is rather creative, and can use whatever he sees fit to in his attempts to connect to folks. (I also am inclined to believe that he really knows how to use a whammy bar.) Who am I to say to YHWH; "Sorry big fella, we can't have you running about using Techno & Bluegrass to display your glory and kingdom." (Seriously, that would be quite the combo.)
If he wants to use a Lady Gaga song to touch Zach's heart and conscience, who am I to tell him he can't? Oddly enough, every time I hear Neil Young's song "Like a Hurricane," I always think of God. I seriously do. I mean, I know Neil wrote it about his wife, but the lines "You are like a Hurricane. There's calm in your eyes." I always identify those with YHWH. So...
Look, you're dealing with the God of the bible. He really has a terrible time being reduced in size so that he fits into the boxes you want him to. He's just plain odd and extremely complicated in the best sense of those terms. If you want a God who easily makes sense to you, go check out Islam and it's fatalistic approach to everything...or become a hyper-Calvinist. (Then you can do away with thinking all together.)
In the mean time, please stand aside so that I may get my groove on.
Appendix: For more on the song "Wedding Dress," watch this video. Derek explains where this song and it's blunt lyrics comes from. It might make you a little nervous. If so, that is because he might just be hitting close to home for you.
Finally, here are some other thoughts of Derek that speak to how Believers ought to engage the culture that we live in. I enjoyed it very much.