The National Catholic Review

What does unconditional love and acceptance look like in twenty-first century America today? Sometimes, she wears a dress made of raw meat.

To her millions of fans and admirers, Lady Gaga, the 24-year-old pop superstar, represents acceptance and affirmation when their peers, the media, and society as a whole constantly tells them they are not good enough in one way or another. Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, calls her fans her "little monsters," and in return, many of them call her "mother monster."  

Consider this exchange from an interview with 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper:


It's not just the music her fans respond to however: it's also her message, an uplifting mantra of self-empowerment and self acceptance.

"Tonight I want you to let go of all of your insecurities. I want you to reject anyone or anything that ever made you feel that you don't belong. Free yourself of these things tonight! Yeah!!!" she encouraged her fans at one show.

"You're hoping to speak to people who feel different, who feel disconnected?" Cooper asked.

"People who feel disconnected from society or disenfranchised, feel like a freak, feel like you don't belong, like you don't fit in, or you'll never be great," she explained.


Gaga told Elle magazine that her upbringing with her Catholic father and Methodist mother was "“traditional yet psychologically progressive,” and that while she uses her sexuality to advance her art, that the girls and women who look up to her, "should not be like me but be whoever they want to be." She reluctantly accepts that she is something of a feminist, but quickly adds that her message is aimed at both men and women.   

She explained to CNN's Larry King that she is not interested in being a traditional pop star, but instead prefers exhorting her fans to "love who they are and helping them to reject prejudice and reject those things that they're taught from society to not like themselves."

Constantly stressing themes of strength and independence, Gaga told the Daily Mail why she is celibate: "I’m single right now and I’ve chosen to be single because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody. So it’s OK not to have sex, it’s OK to get to know people. I’m celibate, celibacy’s fine."

She goes on: "Something I do want to celebrate with my fans is that it’s OK to be whomever it is that you want to be. You don’t have to have sex to feel good about yourself, and if you’re not ready, don’t do it. I remember the cool girls when I was growing up. Everyone started to have sex. But it’s not really cool any more to have sex all the time. It’s cooler to be strong and independent."

Aligning herself to the gay-rights movement, Gaga has said that she identifies with gay individuals who endure bigotry and prejudice from wider society when they choose to be themselves. She was a leading voice in the efforts to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and her new single, "Born This Way," is purported to be an anthem for all who feel marginalized, especially gay youth.

Do these messages of inclusion make Lady Gaga a beacon of traditional Christian morality? Hardly. Her detractors need only perform a quick Google search to find odd stories that will bother traditional moralists. But she has found a way to speak to young people, and old, in ways that makes them feel empowered, accepted, and free to be themselves.

This message, so simple yet so elusive today, is one that echos some central tenets of the Christian faith: the love of neighbor and acceptance of yourself as God created you. Gaga admits that she is on a quest for absolute fame, but if her preaching is genuine, churches have much to learn from her. Why are so many attracted to her? She certainly puts on a good show, and her music is catchy and fresh. Perhaps, though, her message is what resonates most with her fans. The church has preached versions of this message for nearly two millennia, though sometimes it is drowned out by narrower ideas and views. Gaga is bold and unabashed when she tells her fans to love themselves as they are, love others, and to resist the negative messages of a hurtful society. In a way, she is a truly prophetic voice to the millions around the world who yearn for acceptance. Imagine what the church could achieve by preaching its message of love and acceptance as powerfully and forcefully as Gaga preaches hers.

More:

Lady Gaga on YouTube

Watch the 60 Minutes Interview

Comments

cafay Smith | 11/12/2012 - 2:39am
Lady GaGa is the pop music days in Europe and the United States. 4-year-old, she will be able to rely on the ears to listen to learn piano playing; 13-year-old wrote the first lyric songs; 14-year-old picked up the microphone singing in public; 17-year-old New York University Department of Music early admission (which kinds of special places for the world's only 20), but feel that the school does not fit dropout and sexy dress dancing in the bar singing.
Lana Sotton | 11/15/2011 - 2:36am
Lady GaGa is kinda strange and sometimes even terrifying, but it's her way to be remembered as years go by.
Monica Evans | 11/2/2011 - 5:35am
New idol for our teens. Young generation should look after someone who is caring, helping, smart, educated and strong-willed but not who is wrapping herself up in bacon strips.
Monica Evans | 10/27/2011 - 9:42am
That is sick. Like seriously, I bet she smelled horrible and those people who had to be next to her were going crazy. That's insane. What kind of dress will she wear next? A shrimp dress? A liver dress?
Nina Sharpe | 11/24/2011 - 1:04am
For vegiterian that I am this dress looks awful.
So many lives are wasted just to cover her body a little bit!
And I used to like her music. Even went to Madrid with my friends to the Monster Ball Tour concert last winter.
Monica Evans | 10/24/2011 - 9:35am
I wonder how it feels to walk wrapped in meat for like sevral hours. I bet it's not the most pleasant feeling ever. The disigner of this dress is a mindlessperson if to say it in a polite way.
Jason Koch | 3/8/2011 - 10:03am
Meat dress... A little over the top. Smutty lyrics.... whatever. But the fact that she is publicly celibate says a lot to our young people. I'm sorry but a middle aged mom at CCD doesn't produce catchy beats. She's not on the cover of the Rolling Stone. The words ''It's okay to not have sex before you're married'' go in one ear and out the other.

This post should be taken with a grain of salt. 
Anonymous | 3/7/2011 - 5:42pm
@ Abe

It is the Madames with whom I take issue, Abe. Look where all  that peace and justice and ecology and photography in New Mexico got them? Uh huh. Madame Gaga. Who knows? Maybe she'll join the RSCJ's. She'd fit right in, come to think of it...
Kang Dole | 3/7/2011 - 11:48am
Wait... Wait...


Wait...


You mean conservative Catholics don't like Lady Gaga? Color me surprised.
Anonymous | 3/7/2011 - 11:21am
Meat vestments; such a simple solution for connecting the Church to today's youth.  So much to be learned from popular culture.  I lean more towards Miss America than GaGa; after all, the message of peace on Earth covers everything that GaGa preaches and then some, no?

One of the silliest posts I've seen on this blog, but I give the editors credit for variety.
Brendan McGrath | 3/6/2011 - 9:24pm
Jeremiah 3, Matthew 27, and Lady Gaga's ''Bad Romance''

Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh, caught in a bad romance…
The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there?
Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh, caught in a bad romance…
And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return…
Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah, roma-roma-ma-ah, ga-ga-ooh-la-la: want your bad romance!
Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.
Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah, roma-roma-ma-ah, ga-ga-ooh-la-la: want your bad romance!
Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever.
I want your ugly, I want your disease;
I want your everything, as long as it’s free,
I want your love…
Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice…
Love, love love, I want your love…
I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations…
I want your drama, the touch of your hand;
I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand;
I want your love…
Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel…
You know that I want you,
And you know that I need you:
I want it bad – a bad romance…
Return, O faithless children, I will heal your faithlessness…
I want your love and I want your revenge,
You and me could write a bad romance;
I want your love and all your lover’s revenge,
You and me could write a bad romance…
“Here we come to you; for you are the Lord our God. Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel…”

Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh-oh-oh, caught in a bad romance…
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
I want your horror; I want your design…
All of them said, “Crucify him!”  Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”  But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”
‘Cuz you’re a criminal, as long as you’re mine;
I want your love…
Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so the governor was greatly amazed.
‘Cause I’m a freak, baby!!!
They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. 
I want your love and I want your revenge,
You and me could write a bad romance;
I want your love and all your lover’s revenge,
You and me could write a bad romance…
They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.
I want your love, and I want your revenge…
And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots…
…I want your love, I don’t wanna be friends…
“You who would destroy the temple and built it in three days, save yourself!”
 J'veux ton amour, et je veux ton revenge;
J'veux ton amour; I don't wanna be friends…
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!”
…I don’t wanna be friends!
“He saved others, he cannot save himself.”
…I don’t wanna be friends!
“He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him!”
…Caught in a bad romance…
“He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to!”
…I don’t wanna be friends!
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
— WANT YOUR BAD ROMANCE!!!
Anonymous | 3/6/2011 - 4:48pm
This is an excellent, excellent essay on Lady Gaga and the culture that she emerged from:
http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2011/02/why-were-gaga-for-gaga/

Last paragraphs:

"The sadistic voice is strong among us. This is the voice that in our self-help books tells people that dating is about the choice of ruling or being ruled (forget about a more egalitarian vision), the voice in our politics that says it’s “them or us” (whoever the “them” and “us” might be). It’s Sarah Palin saying, essentially, “drill or be drilled.”

Into this traumatized culture stepped Lady Gaga, who not only channeled the emergent cultural belief that it’s all about “kill or be killed” – but also channeled that belief into catchy songs and pretty stories in which she is always the killer. Through her, we live the sadistic fantasy of hurting before we are hurt, beating before we are beaten.
She’s our post-Paris, post-traumatic poster child, the idol of our latter-day tribe. Gaga’s not that different from any of us really, no matter what she wears, not the singularly pathological figure that some have made her out to be, but a means for figuring the almost pathological costume that hangs over us all."
Robert Homan | 3/5/2011 - 11:39pm
Here's an alternate, and I think more perceptive take:

http://wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/June-2010/Culture-Lady-Gagas-Misdirected-Eros-and-Irresist.aspx

I agree with Brett:

"This is moral theraputic deism for you at its finest: don't worry about anything but loving yourself!  That is the only thing God wants:  for you to be happy with your current state no matter your actions so long as you love yourself each and everyday!

Don't get me wrong, love is certainly the message of Chrisitianity - but simply not this convoluted, sentimentalized and solipsistic form of love that Gaga (and every other pop star and self-help guru) currently preaches." 
Anonymous | 3/5/2011 - 9:06pm
You made me snort my soda with that line, David!

In any case, only on a liberal Catholic blog....could you have a blogger honestly recommend Lady Gaga as the true model for Chrisitan love.

This is moral theraputic deism for you at its finest: don't worry about anything but loving yourself!  That is the only thing God wants:  for you to be happy with your current state no matter your actions so long as you love yourself each and everyday!

Don't get me wrong, love is certainly the message of Chrisitianity - but simply not this convoluted, sentimentalized and solipsistic form of love that Gaga (and every other pop star and self-help guru) currently preaches.

david power | 3/5/2011 - 9:01pm
She is a "truly prophetic voice " ,who on earth could disagree with that? I have lost friends because they failed to see the striking resemblance between Lady Gaga and St Joan of Arc. I am split as to who is more important and courageous. I feel though that Britney has been overlooked in all of this and that is a true shame. She liberated many a young person in her time but never got a mention in America because those were more patriarchal times. Right the wrong Michael.     
david power | 3/5/2011 - 8:56pm
I will use this for meditation tomorrow after Mass.
Kang Dole | 3/5/2011 - 8:03pm
Right, because boys aged 14-18 are Lady Gaga's target demographic.

JIM MCCREA | 3/5/2011 - 7:59pm
There's a new TV commercial for some Greek olives.  In it a young woman dressed in a contemporary red dress is addressed by her Greek "ya ya" who says:  You look like a prostitute!

Somehow that seems quite appropriate when it comes to Lady GaGa.  I'm sure that the little raging hormonal 14 - 18 year old boys aren't attracted to her because of her spirituality, and her "message of live and acceptance" - and she darned well knows that, too.
RUTH ANN PILNEY | 3/5/2011 - 7:44pm
I base my comments only on what you posted.  I didn't go to the links.  I don't think anyone but God can give unconditional love.  And his unconditonal love looks like the crucifix, not someone dressed in raw meat.

I think no one is independent, and to think so is an illusion.  We are completely dependent for everything on God.  And we are interdependent on one another. 

Some of Stefani's message rings true. Love who you are.  Why? Because you are made in God's image. Be strong.  Why?  Life is sometimes challenging, one needs to be strong to reject temptation or to persevere in faith.  Reject bigotry and prejudice. Why?  Because it is untrue and unjust.

I also agree on her and others practicing celibacy.   Why?  Because sexual expression of love belongs only in marriage between a man and a woman, as designed by God.

I also think that people of all ages, young, old, and inbetween, have to look within themselves, to the place where God dwells, to find the way to be empowered, accepted, and free to be themselves.

We do a disservice to the young to point to Lady Gaga as some sort of role model.
Anonymous | 3/5/2011 - 3:49pm
A Sacred Heart girl. See what the Madames of the Sacred Heart now produce? She went to 91st Street. So much for shearing the cloister and abandoning the habit for Lacoste dresses...
smith shane | 8/22/2012 - 5:14am
I wonder how it feels to walk wrapped in meat for like sevral hours. I bet it's not the most pleasant feeling ever. The disigner of this dress is a mindlessperson if to say it in a polite way. mac from dvd to mov