The Theology and God of Lady GaGa

She is one of the most interesting/disturbing pop culture figures today.  She is likened to other pop divas as Brittney Spears, Katy Perry, and Christina Aguilera, but has cut out a name for herself in her own right.  She wears dresses made of raw meat and has one of the most eclectic wardrobes of all time.  Every song she produces is a number one hit and I can guarantee that almost every person from the ages of 8-35 (respectively) knows of her or about her.

What you may not have known about Lady Gaga is that she is a theologian!  It may surprise some, but she has a view of God, informed by some type of sources, and she teaches a particular doctrine(s).  Her latest song, Born This Way, which has stood in the number one spot on iTunes since being released, is called the “Manifesto of Mother Monster,” making it a type of creed for people to live by.  The entire song has two goals: 1) To get people to love and accept themselves as they are, and 2) To get people to be love and accept others as they are.  The logical reasoning for this acceptance is found in the chorus:

I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
(Born this way)

Sounds like a decent message.  She brings God into the equation, and does make an appropriate and true statement about him, “God makes no mistakes.”  What Christian can argue with that message?  To argue anything other than that is to accuse God of making mistakes, being ignorant of what is going on in the world, and unable to govern his universe.  We know from Scripture, however, that God is infinite, wise, all-powerful, and accomplishes exactly what he wants.  He truly makes no mistakes.

She makes another partially true statement about “being born” the way you are.  If you’re white, black, brown, American, Chinese, or Lebanese God caused you to be born this way.  Again, true.  We know from Acts 17:26-27 that God established the boundaries of men, allotted them the periods of time they would live in, and what nationality they would be.  Who could argue that from the womb they got to plead a case for where they wanted to be born, or what nationality they wanted to be, or what language they wanted to speak.  No, God did that and according to Paul he did it in the hope that men would seek him.

Where Lady Gaga goes wrong is in saying that there is no distinction between nationality and sin.  If God makes no mistakes, and God is in control of your nationality and time of birth, then God also made you lesbian, gay, straight, or bisexual.  Our acceptance of one’s nationality or gender, should be no different from our acceptance of their sexuality.  What Lady Gaga fails to consider, however, is that although God makes no mistakes, man makes plenty of them and has been doing so since the Garden of Eden.  Is it a sin to be African American?  No.  Is it a sin to be a white male?  No.  Is it a sin to be a female from Argentina?  No.   Is it a sin to be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or a sexually immoral heterosexual?  Yes.  When it comes to nationality or gender, you have no choice.  When it comes to your sexuality you do, and the Bible is clear when it comes to this issue.

Why does a pop song matter?  It matters because everyone is a theologian.  And the question is not whether or not a person has a theological grid for understanding who God is.  The question is whether or not the Bible and the person and work of Jesus Christ inform that theological grid.  Lady Gaga is training/discipling/preaching to culture and the people in your church, especially students, to grid their view of God and others through a particular lens, one of love and acceptance.  And that grid is extremely popular in our day!  That’s not necessarily a bad thing to call people to.  Christians should be calling each other to love people.  However, the danger is that this grid does not take into account the justice of God, the reality of sin, the brokenness of man, the wrath of God against sin, or the desire of God to forgive sinners in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  She’s mixing truth with the cyanide of lie, and great hosts of people are drinking the juice.

If Lady Gaga is right, then it is not sinful for a man to be an alcoholic who beats his wife.  After all, God made me to love alcohol and hate women.  I was born this way.  It’s not a sin to molest little children.  After all someone’s sexual preference for small children would be no different from the lesbian, gay, or heterosexual persons.  Just ask the North American Man/Boy Association.  They were born that way.  And if you’re really going to buy into the god of Gaga, then not only do you simply need to love and accept yourself for being this way, but all of us who disagree with your lifestyle simply need to be more accepting.  If Lady Gaga would disagree with me, that in fact pedophilia and spousal abuse is evil (sin?), then it would be appropriate to ask her on what authority she stands, and why we should believe her?   At this point, please spare me the argument about genetic DNA that shows certain propensities towards certain actions.  All I have to say to that is, welcome to the human race.  We all have those, and it doesn’t make one’s particular actions any more right/good, or them any less responsible for their choices.

According to Scripture however, we learn that God makes no mistakes, he is sovereignly ruling his creation, and that sin has entered and corrupted what was good.  What the creation hates is that the Creator God gets to define what sin is.  Since a rebellious creation does not like his definition, it attempts to redefine and write its own.  The good thing is that God will not stand for his creation rebelling against him and destroying itself, so he intervenes.  He models what love really is by sending his own Son to make right what was made wrong and restore relationship.  In this God shows his love and acceptance towards sinners (really horrible ones as well, just ask Paul), and his absolute hatred of sin.  There is such a thing as sin, God gets to say what it is, it will be accounted for, and everyone will have to deal with Jesus.  We were “born this way.”  This way is broken and needs redemption.  Thank God that we have a redeemer.  It is the height of arrogance, rebellion, and stupidity to rejoice in a sin sick state, when the remedy has been provided.   Praise God that although we were “born this way,” we don’t have to stay in it.

Posted on March 9, 2011, in Anthropology, Apologetics, Culture, Ministry, Sin, Theology Proper. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Billy, you seem to conflate a couple of times the ideas of “being” and “doing.” At one point you say that it is sinful to “be” a gay or lesbian person. Later you say that it is sinful to “be” an alcoholic. Yet, you also recognize that there may be genetic factors at work and you emphasize things like “choosing” and “acting” in certain ways. Are you saying that the sin lies at both the level of “being” and doing? Or do you see a difference between them?

  2. I would say that the “doing” is the result of the “being.” As beings we are sinful, born this way. The result is that we choose to participate in sinful actions. The problem is not simply that we choose to do sinful things, but that we are sinners at the core of who we are. My point about genetic factors being at work was simply to state that people may indeed have inclinations towards certain types of sin: lust, anger, alcoholism, stealing, sexual immorality etc. These inclinations, or temptations, may not necessarily be sinful, the choice to act upon them, indulge in them, is. The excuse of being made this way does not hold, however, because the choice was the individuals.

  3. To take her song and say it leads to (or supports) thinking that it is ok to hurt people seems to go a bit far. I don’t think your comparison of the action of same sex love to abuse is appropriate.

    BTW, are saying that people aren’t born gay or that if they are God had nothing to do with it?

  4. @Billy – But, if it’s the case that our “being” is broken and sinful in every category, then how does it make any sense to say that it’s not sinful to “be” a white male but it is sinful to “be” homosexual? Aren’t those both categories of “being”? And, if so, wouldn’t they both be “sinful” in the sense that they are symptoms of a fundamental brokenness? I almost get the sense that your comments run the risk of suggesting that some people are more sinful in their being than others. I think you’d be on safer ground focusing on the sinful ways in which we express our being through action.

  5. @El Bryan Libre: I would agree with you. I don’t think she would endorse hurting anyone in her song and would say that is exactly the opposite message she is sending. I’m merely pointing out that if you take her perspective, you have a God who endorses sin, and its fair to ask what authority she is basing her message on. If we’re born this way, who gets to say what kind of love or lifestyle is right or wrong?

    @Marc: We’re dealing in your expertise now, the area of anthropology and “being.” I definitely would not say some people are more sinful in their being than others, if by being you mean human. All humans are sinful. Their are people who are more sinful in their doing than others. Is it not right to say, however, that our sinful actions flow from a sinful brokenness intrinsic in all human being?

    • Yes, I would definitely agree that our sinful actions flow from our sinful being. I wanted to push back on some of the language that you used in the post when you said that being homosexual was a sin. There’s a sense in which you’re right, but only to the extent that the being of all people is broken and sinful. When you say it like that, though, it sounds (to me at least) like you’re putting one group of people in a category of sinful being that the rest of us aren’t in. Instead, I’d rather focus on the fact that we’re all broken and sinful, and therefore constantly express our brokenness in a variety of ways. We’re all in the same boat, we just row differently.
      That doesn’t excuse or minimize anyone’s sin, nor does it means that all expressions of brokenness are equal (speeding isn’t as bad as genocide), but I do think it helps frame things appropriately.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you. All are sinful. I guess I just used that particular reference b/c it was a reference the song explicitly used.

  6. Bcash32:
    The problem is that you don’t really know her full perspective. You know a limited amount of what she believes based on what she sang in a song. I feel like you are setting up a straw man based on something that is meant to be taken as a song, which is simplified and isn’t qualified very much or else it becomes something no one want to listen to, instead of a full blown theological treatise.

    • My guess is that Bcash32 is trying to point out that using the argument “I’m born that way” to defend who you are or what you do is incoherent. I doubt that he is suggesting that Gaga would actually defend child abuse. The point he seems to make is that if this argument justifies anything then it justifies everything. I imagine what he is saying is that since it clearly does not justify everything (child abuse) it makes no sense to say that it can justify anything else (in this case, homosexuality). To be more specific, if a homosexual says, you can’t criticize me – I’m born this way, then a child abuser can say exactly the same thing to defend their desires and actions.
      As soon as you step away from this argument to show why the two actions are different you demonstrate that this argument has no weight whatsoever. If you say the homosexual lifestyle is legitimate because the act is consensual and the child abuser’s lifestyle is not because the act is not consensual but against a child, then your defense no longer rests on the fact that a person is born a certain way but because the act they are doing or life they are living is inherently okay.
      Seen in this way, the “I’m born this way” argument is shown to me merely a smoke screen to justify doing whatever it is you want to do… nothing more. It suggests that we have no control over who we are (and even what we do) and consequently we are all good. This is a completely hopeless perspective, and the gospel rails against it saying that we can be made new.
      Even in a simplified, pop song, form it doesn’t track.

  7. Cash: FYI – you spelled Britney Spears name wrong (only one T). It is easy to remember – it is an anagram for “Presbyterians.” My work is done…

    • Thanks, Pat. I can always count on you to set me straight. BTW, we still need to grab some lunch so you can set me straight on infant baptism.

      • Speaking of, I thought you were going to keep our blog readers informed about how your study of infant baptism in the early church was proceeding. How about it? Are you going to give us an update?

  8. Adam:
    As much as Gaga can be said to be making an argument (I don’t think she is but instead just expressing a popular sentiment that probably carries a lot of other unsaid assumptions with it that are particular to each person who expresses that sentiment), it is not only that someone being born a certain way makes something right, but that God approves of it, and actuallly designs some people that way just as he makes some people heterosexual, bisexual and asexual.

    Now obviously the question is why does she think God approves of homosexuality and actively makes some people homosexual, and those are questions which she may have good or bad reasons for. But she didn’t go into any of that in this song and it’s unreasonable to expect those argument to be laid out fully and coherently in a pop song and then argue against that pop song as if they had been (my point about the straw man).

    Again the question was brought up whether Bcash32 disagrees with the view that people are actually born gay. If he thinks that people are born gay does he think God had nothing to do with that and didn’t intend them to be gay and they just turned out that way?

    BTW, I’m not a Lady Gaga fan and have not heard this song, I’ve only read the lyrics. I don’t want to give the opinion that I’m a Lady Gaga apologist or anything.

  9. @El Bryan Libre: Sorry it took a while to get back with you. I was swamped last week and just got back on here today.

    As to whether or not I disagree with the view that people are born gay, I would say that is the wrong question. That’s not the central issue. I don’t want to address the symptom, but the problem, and the problem is sin. Are people born sinners? Yes. Will sin express itself in all kinds of ways? Yes. Is homosexuality one of those? Yes. Is it a choice? Yes. Just like my decision to tell a lie, was my choice. I don’t get to cop out and say I was born a liar so it doesn’t count. Being born a sinner, even a sinner with inclinations towards certain manifestations of sin, is not an excuse.
    So, if your asking if I think God makes people sinners or is responsible for my sin? The answer is no. We are.

  10. It’s not the wrong question at all. If people were born homosexual then it matters whether you believe it is just an unfortunate effect of sin on humankind the way diseases are, or whether God is actually responsible for people being born gay, as in he chooses some to be gay. I agree being born a certain way in and of itself does not necessarily excuse the behavior that results from that, however if God is actually responsible for you being born a certain way then that raises some issues.

    Why not just say people aren’t born gay or even if they were God didn’t intend them to be?

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