Judas at Easter

I was a little hesitant to post my thoughts on this because on blogs, the rules of conversation often seem much like those of dinner parties: don’t talk about money, politics or religion, and you’ll be fine. Considering the last time I talked about the latter I almost didn’t have a wedding, I’ve learned to tread carefully around the subject: but I’m also torn, because I’m such a strong advocate for being able to have a voice as long as your intention is never to hurt anyone.  Which mine has never been. I was talking with a good friend of mine lately about the phenomenon of cyber-bullying, and he framed it brilliantly: the risk of putting yourself out there is that someone may hear you. Should the fact that no one can please everyone stifle your freedom of expression? Quite the opposite – there will always be naysayers, but you can’t allow others to control your life when in your heart, you know your intent is fundamentally positive.

So. Religion, hmm? The reason I’m posting this today is that something has happened in the world of pop culture that has me fascinated. It’s Easter weekend this week, and Lady Gaga has released a single with the lyrics “I’m in love with Judas” chanted repeatedly over a thumping techno beat. The reaction from religious folks across the globe has obviously been negative, claiming she’s merely attention-seeking and trying to create controversy. In her music video for Alejandro, she dresses as a nun and swallows a rosary. In Judas, she refers to herself as a “holy fool,” a “fame hooker, a prostitute wench who vomits her mind”.  It’s not surprising speakers from religious groups are up in arms. “Because of her fame and the influence she has with young people, one would think that she’d learn to back off”, says Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claiming her release of the single at the start of Holy Week is just “one more example of her ethics, choosing to stick it to the Catholics again.” But are people even bothering to read the lyrics? Are they simply conveniently forgetting that the majority of poems, works of literature, and most definitely songs use metaphors to illustrate a point?

To me, it’s not an attack on religion at all. Gaga has stated publicly that she is a believer (not that it should matter), and her last hit rocketed to the top of international charts with references to “capital H-i-m” throughout verses, along with the line “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes” sung proudly throughout choruses. I think Judas is simply using metaphor to make a record about falling in love with the wrong person – a subject people have been singing about for decades. “I wanna love you, but something’s pulling me away from you; Jesus is my virtue, and Judas is the demon I cling to…” How is this a deliberate attack on the church? I don’t see how it could be anything other than honest. It tells of knowing what the right course of action is but struggling to let go of something or someone you know is a bad influence. And haven’t we all been in that situation at one time or another?  Gaga’s creative director for the controversial video (out next week) has spoken up, saying that the Catholic Church shouldn’t be up in arms, since its message is anything but blasphemous. “I will tell you now, first off, I’m Christian, and my career is evidence of God in my life, and I think that most people are already thinking about Gaga and blasphemy and they’re premeditating the approach. I think they’ll be very shocked to find out how huge and really groundbreaking the message is, and how freeing the message is for all the right reasons.” Not forgetting that this all happened in the eighties already – I’m sure Madonna’s music video portraying a black Jesus and people dancing around burning crosses was the subject of just as much speculation then as Lady Gaga’s hit is today. And that didn’t stop her  becoming one of the most successful artists of all time.

I’m not the biggest fan of pop music, but I have to give respect to anyone who breaks down the walls of what’s considered typically beautiful, who uses their fame to stand up for the underdogs, who fights against prejudice, and who isn’t afraid to have their voice heard. People stifle their own thoughts all the time, in fame, in life, and even here across the blogosphere. They keep their opinions to themselves and go along with the masses for fear of how other people will react. Throughout history, if nobody had spoken up, half of us would still probably be deprived of the right to vote, an education, or a voice.  As a good friend reminded me recently, “you’ve got to take a stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  People really need to stop finding fault so easily, and hand it to those that actually have the guts to speak up once in a while. I love the verse in Judas where she pretty much says “if you don’t like what I have to say, nobody’s making you listen”. Maybe because I’ve so often wondered the same thing about Internet trolls. 🙂

Ultimately, Lady Gaga has inspired a generation to embrace being different, and has stood up for all sorts of oppressed minorities, helping people who were once afraid to be who they were become proud and comfortable in their own skin.  I think this is a great pop song, making intelligent use of metaphor to sing about a subject that’s relatable to all. It’s just as good as Bad Romance, and better than Born This Wa-hey. Enough with making mountains out of molehills, people – can’t we just stop finding fault and enjoy a decent record? But why the album cover depicts her inexplicably as half-motorcycle (I suppose quarter-motorcycle would just be silly), I’m still guessing…

What do you think? Are people just seeing what they want to see, and making an artist look bad to serve their own agendas, or do you believe the hype and think Gaga’s gone too far? I’m really interested  in hearing your thoughts!

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51 comments

  1. I really don’t care for her antics (not to say I am for or against them, I just don’t have any interest and I don’t want to know). What she is damn good at is keeping herself in the spotlight and writing some really catchy songs, which I’ll listen to on repeat.

  2. Well, I like the song. And I totally see the analogy, rather than the interpretation the church is taking (but they always seem to overreact).

    However, I will say that Lady Gaga likes to ride on the wave of controversy and getting reactions out of people. Do I think she put a religious reference in her song because it was going to create a bit of controversy to do so? Yeah, a little. This is the same woman who wore a meat dress…haha.

    That being said, I don’t believe in censorship and I will fight to the death for freedom of speech. She has every right to put out that single. It’s art. That should ALWAYS be protected.

    1. They do seem to have a tendency to overreact a little, which doesn’t really do them any favours when it comes to a mass cultural phenomenon. If they saw this as an opportunity to acknowledge that she’s getting people talking about religion (without attacking it, and actually using religion-positive lyrics) instead of getting all riled up about the supposed blasphemy, then maybe they’d have a better resonance with young people. I don’t believe in censorship of speech either, and you’re right, she has absolutely every right to put out the single 🙂

      1. Hi Emily Jane,

        I had a chance to read a few of your posts and I enjoyed every bit of it. There’s a lot of ease and clarity in your writing!

        I think Christians are especially guilty of one thing: reacting to offenses as if they have a right to be appeased. I’m a Christian. As far as I see it, I ought to expect being offended. It’s part and parcel of holding a very particular worldview such as the Christian one. I hate Lady Gaga’s music…a lot…but I sincerely wish her good things.

        In regard to blogging being a medium limited to certain topics, and veering off the hot topics, I know what you are saying, but I constantly resist the temptation to cave in and just be politically correct in my posts. The way I see it, blogging is an extension of the person; and writing, why even bother unless it’s something that really matters to you?

        Welcome to Canada, eventhough you’ve probably been there a while now. I’m a Canadian living in the US and I miss my home, snow and all!

        1. Thank you so much for reading and for the kind comment Renee! I am very much of the same mentality regarding blogging – I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading yours!

  3. I’m not a fan of Lady Gagy specifically, and I agree with Ashley that she put the religious reference in there to create some controversy (as well as for the meaning of the lyrics). She knows what will create controversy and generate interest, and she uses that to her advantage. All of that said, she makes good music, and ultimately that’s what she’s about, so good for her.

  4. I don’t listen to pop music if I can help it, and that includes Lady Gaga. The radio plays it all to death so if I can, I avoid it. I also don’t very much care for all the shenanigans she gets up to in a bid for attention.

    That said, she does manage to get a reaction out of just about everyone, negative or positive, and I have to give her kudos for that.

  5. I was talking about this song at work the other day, and my coworker was so against this song but couldn’t think of any lyrics to prove why. A classic example of what you’re talking about – people jumping on the hate bandwagon because everyone else is doing it without bothering to do their research. I think she’s very clever – in the way that she uses metaphors, yet, but also in her marketing strategy. Ultimately the aim of a pop star is to sell millions of records and become a household name. And by riding on the edge of controversy, she’s going to be a legend.

    1. I would’ve laughed when your co-worker couldn’t find any evidence to back up their hatred of the song. This is exactly the point – people are quick to jump on hate bandwagons without bothering to do their research. People always have throughout history, and I think it’s worth drawing attention to in the hopes of changing that behaviour.

  6. i have to agree with what’s already been said. i’m not a fan of lady gaga, but i don’t hate her either. she’s someone to me who is completely forgettable, but i know who people are talking about when they bring her up.

    not knowing much about her, i do feel unqualified to really have an opinion one way or the other. i think she really enjoys riling people up, and while she may be telling the truth about her faith and belief in God, i think she does it in a way that calls attention to herself (whether in a good or bad way) and that she thrives on the attention. if she’s getting the word out there about being confident in yourself for the right reasons and everything, then yeah, keep going. but if she’s just trying to piss people off to make a few bucks, then the sooner she disappears, the better.

    1. I don’t think she’s ever tried to piss anybody off. Now, if she had songs that were outright offensive to anyone or any religion, then it would be another story, but people seem to be forgetting that she has pro-religion lyrics in several of her songs, and has used her fame to really make a difference in the lives of people who may have been oppressed, bullied, or scared to be who they were.

  7. I’m not a fan of Gaga either. And it’s weird that I only understand the meaning of her songs when other artists do a cover. I know, it’s weird. Like, I only started listening to Born This Way when I heard it on YouTube being sung by a little girl from Canada. And I only appreciated Paparazzi when Greyson Chance did a cover. Something like that.

    I agree with you, her reference to Judas is a metaphor. And I agree with the others too that she deliberately did this to create, well, controversy.

    Hehe. I’m sorry. I kinda repeated what everyone has already said. :p

  8. i agree with ashley, i am all for freedom of speech and what she’s done to stand up for people that have been bullied and discriminated against because of who they are is fantastic. i also agree with mindy, like many greats before her she is riding on the wave of controversy to boost her career, which in marketing terms, is very intelligent. i don’t think she’s out to cause offence, i think she does quite the opposite in standing up for people, and there’s nothing wrong with speaking up and creating a little controversy every once in a while – you do it well, lol! i am interested to see the video….

  9. “Are people just seeing what they want to see, and making an artist look bad to serve their own agendas, or do you believe the hype and think Gaga’s gone too far? I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts!”

    God gave us the right to choose how we live our lives. She’s living hers, just as we should live ours to the best of our abilities. And ultimately, if you (not meaning YOU personally, just generally) don’t care for the antics, politics, or philosophies of ANY celebrity, you can decide to remove yourself from being around it. Don’t watch it. Don’t listen to it. Don’t be around it.

    Personally, I don’t care for her antics; however, I don’t judge or hate her. It seems as though she’s trying to fill a void by seeking attention and fame… and that’s precisely what the public is giving her. Just my two cents. 🙂

  10. Exactly why I love the verse which pretty much states what you just said – if you don’t agree with someone or care for them, don’t judge – just don’t involve yourself. It’s the same mentality as all those anonymous haters leaving comments on blogs, YouTube videos etc. If you (not you personally) don’t care for what someone’s saying, just bugger off and spend your time on things you do care about. 🙂

  11. As the writer of a religious satire manuscript, this kind of thing makes me laugh. Whatever the current status of my belief, I can’t help but snicker when I imagine a bunch of stuffed-shirts in tight collars getting all flabbergasted over a pop song. As if centuries of tradition and belief inheritance will suddenly vanish, replaced by fandom. This particular controversy really is hilarious, and this is the first I’ve heard of it.

    I think the Church wishes it held a copyright on the Bible mythos. They expect everyone to respect that those stories are “their” property (yes, even the Old Testament ones) and fiercely attack anyone bold enough, profane enough, to attempt to use them for other means. Even if it is just a song (and yes, the Madonna controversy was a hot one back in the conservative 80’s), or a piece of artwork, the lengths they’ll go to enforce their claim on the subject matter (even passing laws against blasphemy) are beyond comprehension.

    Ultimately I think the Church feels it’s influence on modern culture is disappearing even more rapidly in the current technological age. Threats are everywhere, and all they can do is fall back on the same old answers. I’m sure it’s very frustrating for them.

    BTW, if you want to see some serious intra-Christian controversy, check out the hubbub over Rob Bell’s latest book. “Up in arms” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    1. Sounds like a very interesting read! I think you’ve got a great point – the Church probably does feel its influence waning in the current technological age, but unless they “modern up” a little, the gap is only going to widen. Good to see you again around here friend, how are you doing?

      1. The Church can’t really “modern up,” though; their message is pretty much set in stone at this point. And, if that’s not working, their quiver is empty.

        Yeah sorry I haven’t been commenting much. Life would be all peaches and rainbows if I could just get a job. I was SO close yesterday (or thought I was, anyway) only to be totally smacked down by circumstances out of my control. Had my hopes up and everything. Oh well, though; as I told my friends last night over a pint, “It’s better to be just unemployed than unemployed AND broke.” I’ll find something soon enough.

        1. True enough. It just seems an exorbitant number of people involved in the Church rely on outdated means to communicate their message. I’m a fan of modern thinkers like Eckhart Tolle who take bits and pieces from all sorts of religion, throw it in with a dose of intelligence and common sense, and spread a more effective message of positivity. If religious figures took a leaf out of his book and focused more on communicating positive and modern things rather than judgment and self-victimisation, then maybe they’d be a little more successful…

          (I think this is a very interesting discussion we should continue elsewhere!)

          Sorry to hear about the job 😦 Something will come your way soon. Stay proactive!

  12. I’ve never been one to look too deeply into the lyrics or their possible meanings. Everyone will interpret it slightly differently as based on their knowledge, values, beliefs, etc. All I really care about is how catchy the song is.

  13. I have to admit, as a Christian, it was weird hearing someone singing Judas’s name. But I like hearing your interpretation of things. I haven’t really paid any attention to the lyrics (her songs are quite catchy regardless), so I’ll have to give it another listen before finalizing my opinion. 🙂 But I agree – the girl loves to make people talk!

  14. Well done. I really liked your positive perspective on this, because I was honestly a little hesitant to read where it was going.

    The Lady is always getting all Gagalicious on us.

  15. Can I share a couple of thoughts with you that are kind of interesting about Judas? My husband and I were just having a discussion about him the other day.

    1. At the last supper the night before Jesus is crucified, Judas is sitting at Jesus’ left and John is seated at Jesus right side. In Jewish culture at that time, where people sat was a huge deal. The person that you were the absolute closest to sat on your right (John) and the second closest person sat at your left (Judas). Jesus loved Judas, too.
    2. What if Judas wasn’t that bad of a guy? I mean, as soon as he realized what they were going to do to Jesus, he ran back to the pharisees and threw his bribe money back to them, not wanting it. Immediately after that he hung himself. I bet Judas loved Jesus. He probably didn’t know they were going to crucify him. Judas was, after all, their money manager. Maybe he thought he could make a buck and everyone would benefit?
    3. If Judas hadn’t done what he did, Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified, and we’d all be left without a perfect savior to take away the sins of the world (my personal belief, and the belief of all Christians). Just an interesting thought.

    Still, I think the timing of this song is lacking a little bit of taste. She sure knows how to create a buzz, though. It’s frustrating to me how Christians want to be relevant to culture, but then they freak out when a song like this comes out. Why not use it to teach people that are going to listen to the song about what happened, how the lyrics might relate to them , and what can be learned (both positive and negative) from a song like this.

    Thanks for not being afraid to write thought provoking posts from your heart. I respect and admire that in you. A lot of this comment has nothing to do with what you really asked, but I just thought I’d toss my input in and share a couple of interesting thoughts surrounding Judas 🙂

    1. I don’t understand what you mean when you say that if Judas hadn’t betrayed him, Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified.
      Jesus would have been crucified anyway, but that is kinda of a “DUH!” statement, since He knew what was going to happen from the beginning of time, and willed for it to happen.

      I like Gaga, but don’t like how she is tolerate about EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, except Catholics.
      How can she say “Oh, I love everyone, and want for everyone to have their own beliefs, religion, etc.” and then write songs blaspheming Jesus’s name and mocking Catholics? It certainly annoys me, and millions of other Catholics who don’t deserve to be put down like that.

      What did Jesus ever do to Lady Gaga to make her blaspheme His name and hate Him?
      He died for her sins, and the fact that the video is released JUST in time for Holy Week makes me sick to my stomach.

      It appears I’m the only one commenting with this belief, but I will stick proud to it and HONOR Jesus during Holy Week instead of wrongfully hating Him.

      1. @Leslie – Thanks for sharing your interesting perspective. I personally feel I have an awfully long way to go in terms of my faith journey so I don’t claim to be anywhere near an expert on Christianity, and it’s always interesting to hear people’s different takes and beliefs!

        @Mary – I don’t think anyone here, myself, or Lady Gaga herself is “wrongfully hating Jesus”. I admire you for your strength of faith, but I think you may have misunderstood the message of this post, which was that nobody is “mocking Catholics” or “hating Jesus” here; the church only seems to be making it out that she is, which isn’t right either.

        1. I don’t know this song mentioned. But it sounds like a metaphor to me.

          I’m pretty sure GaGa is not slagging off Catholicism and no other religion anyway (as mentioned in the comment by MaryM) as Judas is a biblical character and therefore the lyric could be taken the wrong way by ANYONE who uses the bible within their beliefs. Therefore most Christians in general could be offended by it.

          Regardless, I’m fairly sure that, non believer or not, she was brought up catholic and i feel from personal experience that catholics are the worst for slagging off their own religion. I know I do, although I still consider myself a catholic.

          I used to really like GaGa but she’s lost it for me now. She makes good tunes and I’ve liked a lot of them. The lyrics thing doesn’t bother me at all. I just think she is talented enough to not HAVE to feel the need to shock people. That is what annoys me about her. Let the music speak for itself and let the stupid outfits go.

  16. Such an interesting post. I think LG just wants as much controversy as Madonna did. Maybe. Anything to get us to listen up..I suppose. Yet, as of late I’ve been pulled away from all the ‘pop’ out there. I hardly listen to it. Instead, I’ve found my way to Johnny Flynn and I’m glad I did. He’s such a true and humble talent. Such a song writer and yet can take a back seat with his fiddle so one of the Mumford boys can sing.

    Anyway, I do like the points you brought out about her music.

  17. I happen to be a fan of Lady Gaga – I enjoy her music, and I’m the furthest thing from a music snob. I don’t find value in overly critiquing music. Aside from the fact that I simply enjoy listening to her music and dancing to it in clubs, etc., I happen to love her message. I respect the fact that she’s different, that she doesn’t conform, and I give her my respect for encouraging others to simply be who they are. Too much of pop music in the past has been about conforming to some supposed “ideal.” At least she stands up for her beliefs and encourages others to do the same.

  18. I think people will find something to complain about (and nitpick about) no matter what gets put out into the Universe. Everything out there can have a double meaning and everyone is always looking for it, hoping to uncover some controversy or another. I’m not Gaga’s biggest fan, I think she’s a bit crazy, but I definitely respect the fact that she’s doing her thing, regardless of what people have to say about it to her!

    1. You’re absolutely right – people will always put their own interpretation on things to suit what they want to believe. I definitely give her kudos for not being afraid of what people say about her.

  19. There was a time when the Catholic church was secure enough to be flexible, and actually prided itself on its pervasive conversion. It was so effective that nearly any group of people would willingly be convinced to come to church regularly, genuflect and feel extremely guilty about its sexual desires so long as they could cling to few seemingly harmless Pagan/Heretic traditions. This common compromise brought us lovely things such as the Christmas tree, hot cross buns (not crosses at all, but compass roses) and of course, Easter Eggs.

    Today, the Church has gotten so wrapped up in its “traditions” (most of the universally recognizable ones borrowed from medieval conquests) that it has become positively Puritan about its members varied interpretations of faith. I think it’s time for the Church to stop being so wrapped up in static post-reformation rhetoric. Let Gaga be Gaga. The old philosophy of ‘a little bit of this, a little bit of that’ was so much cooler.

  20. I’m not a Gaga fan and I honestly think she’s just an attention whore, however I also think that people should be allowed to say or sing what they want as long as it’s not hurtful towards someone else. I think that people see and hear what they want to see in here.

    The entire reason I don’t go to church is because I feel like people these day interpret the Bible however they want and put whatever spin on it they want. I’ve decided that God knows how I think and what I believe and I shouldn’t have to go to a building to prove my beliefs. I would hope no one would judge me for that just as I always hope people aren’t judging others for their personal beliefs.

  21. I’m very much on the same wavelength as you, I think. I don’t go to church either because I feel organized, institutionalized religion is actually more of a bad thing in that is encourages conflict and intolerance of people of a different background/belief system, and I have a hard time believing God would want that. God knows how each and every one of us thinks, and to me, living a decent life as a good person, not causing hurt or harm to others, and trying to do as much good in the world as possible, is my way of practicing my faith – not sitting in a building for an hour every week, or attaching a label to myself that says I’m not open to more than one belief system.

  22. I think that a lot of people think that religion can’t be touched or talked about, because it’s religion. But I think that it needs to be talked about, it needs to be touched and we need to test/challenge it. I don’t find anything wrong with her videos, I just don’t like the song (non-religious, just don’t like it). At the time Madonna’s video was considered extreme (like you said), but do you remember Sinead O’Connor and her ripping up the picture of the Pope on SNL? That was considered more extreme.

  23. i wish i could be half as eloquent as you are 🙂 i agree that art is not meant to be literal most of the time. the only one who can know the message is the creator, but that shouldn’t stop us from applying what we think the message is to ourselves (assuming that it’s a positive message/influence :)). however, that does not mean people should go around pushing that meaning on anyone else either

  24. I think people only ever get half the story. They hear “Judas” or “Jesus” or see a single image of Lady GaGa dressed up as a nun, and they flip, without even attempting to understand the larger message she’s trying to get across. A lot of people feel threatened by anything outside of their community and just assume that if it’s mentioned by a popstar, it’s inherently evil.

  25. I just think it’s funny that people are still shocked by Lady GaGa and think that calling her attention-seeking is some sort of amazing revelation. I like her music, but I just try not to pay attention to her craziness. It’s just her schtick and I can’t believe people take it all so seriously!

  26. I don’t really have much opinion about the content of Lady Gaga’s songs, but I do have very strong opinions about the reaction to them from certain quarters of society – to the extent that I have to be very careful what I say for fear of causing the same retribution that you have suffered in the past.

    And that’s all I can sat without getting into trouble… which says a lot about the kind of people who react to it, doesn’t it…

  27. You know you’ve put a good case for Lady Gaga for me. I think the impact she’s making on the world is creating a better change, inspiring lesser groups to find beauty within themselves, changing our construction and interpretation of the world, how and where we see beauty. She’s doing what any good artist does, change the way we see the world.

    Still can’t say I like her music though, lol…

  28. I’m really not that shocked by Lady Gaga. As a matter of fact I find her pretty predictable. I doubt she has any idea what any of her outfits, stunts, or lyrics are supposed to represent. She’s found a good formula for getting people to talk about her by trying to shock, but I don’t think much depth to it. If people stopped getting shocked, she’d go away.

    Bad Romance is a great karaoke song.

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