At the Washington Post‘s On Faith section, Mark Judge argues in “Lady Gaga is no Madonna” that his fellow conservatives don’t understand pop music. He starts out making a defensible case before attemping a bizarre contrarian interpretation of pop-star Madonna’s infamous “Like a Prayer” video:
Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer” is an intelligent and even devout meditation on grace, love and conscience. Lady Gaga’s is lazy trash.
As I will explore in my forthcoming book “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Madonna’s video is actually a powerful depiction of the vitality of the Catholic saints and their ability to intercede in our lives and give us gifts of courage. In the video, Madonna witnesses a black man falsely accused of a crime. Terrified of the racists in the town, she flees into a church, where she prays to St. Martin de Porres, a black saint. She falls asleep and in her dream the statue of the saint actually comes to life, becoming her lover. She wakes up filled with a new bravery. She fingers the real criminals, and ends the video jubilantly dancing with a gospel choir.
When “Like a Prayer” was released, it was completely misunderstood by conservatives. A bishop condemned it. So did Donohue. On the other side, liberals mindlessly defended Madonna without understanding the message of the video. The only truly coherent analysis came from Fr. Andrew Greeley, a liberal Catholic priest. “Like a Prayer” was blasphemous, wrote Greeley in America magazine, “only for the prurient and the sick who come to the video determined to read their own twisted sexual hang-ups into it. Only for those who think that sexual passion is an inappropriate metaphor for divine passion (and thus are pretty hard on Hosea, Jesus, Saint Paul, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Teresa of Avila).”
Judge claims that comparing Madonna to Lady Gaga is ” yet another sign of the pop culture (and even religious) illiteracy of the right.” But it’s Judge who appears to be confused about religion. I’m not a Catholic so I may be missing some essential nuance, but I don’t think that in the history of the Church saintly intercession entailed sexual intercourse. There is a profound differnce between using sexual passion as a metaphor and a saint actually having sex with a petitioner. I’m not sure if it’s blasphemous to depict Madonna fornicating with Martin de Porres on a church pew—but it is certainly disrespectful to the memory of a man who was not only a devout Christian but a life-long practitioner of celibacy.
I agree with Judge that conservatives need to be more well-informed about pop culture in order to provide more relevant criticism. In turn, Judge would do well to become more well-informed about the Christian faith.
(Via: Gene Veith)