The Church of Gaga


Lady Gaga is everywhere these days. Her current tour, The Monster’s Ball is so completely sold out that I recently saw a listing on Ticketmaster for tickets for a show in 2011. No joke.

Lady Gaga is known for being avant guarde, out spoken, artistic and opinionated so when she recently sat down for an interview with Larry King, I was surprised to see the discussion turn to matters of religion. King asked her about being raised Catholic and what she believes and this was her reply:

“I believe in Jesus. I believe in God. I’m very spiritual. I pray very much, but at the same time there is no one religion that doesn’t hate or speak against or be prejudiced against another racial group or religious group, or sexual group and for that I think religion is also bogus.

So I suppose you could say I’m a quite religious woman who is also very confused about religion.”

I knew she had her finger on the pulse of our times. A recent article for CNN spoke of the rising group of people, especially those 18-25 who identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’. You’ll often see the notation SBNR on Facebook. There is a longing to belong to something bigger than ourselves, but also a need to step away from some of the negative aspects of traditional religions. Which leads to some interesting questions for all of us.

Does God need the church? Do I need the church to know God?

It’s a not as easy question, but it’s an important one. In the Bible Jesus speaks of building his church, but then as he suffers on the cross, the man next to him calls out for forgiveness and Jesus doesn’t tell him he’s out of luck because he can’t get to a service. Instead he says, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

In CNN’s article they quote BJ Gallagher, a blogger for the Huffington Post who shares a parable that says:

“God and the devil were walking down a path one day when God spotted something sparkling by the side of the path. He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand.

“Ah, Truth,” he said.

“Here, give it to me,” the devil said. “I’ll organize it.”

Does God need the church to be God? I don’t think he does, but I think I might need it. Those who identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’ often take aspects of different traditions together to combine into a custom faith, a personal spirituality. I don’t know if that’s enough or not. I know for myself there are times when I need a community of believers around me and yet there are also times when I wish they’d go away.

The other day I was reading an Op Ed piece on CNN about the military possibly repealing their policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It was an opinion piece and the writer, who technically shares a somewhat similar religious view to me, was certainly opinionated. He spoke of the downfall of the military and even national security being put at risk. But that wasn’t the part that broke my heart.

In the comments there are a few people who blast the writer, and that’s how it goes with Op Ed pieces, they’re supposed to draw lines. But then the church folks showed up, the people who are supposed to be my people, and the things they said took my breath away. There was not a drop of kindness, or love, or mercy. No attempt to understand, or time taken to listen. There might have been truth in what they were saying, but who could hear it under the roar of their rhetoric?

So where does that leave us? CNN’s article goes on to say:

Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College in Massachusetts, says there’s a lot of good in old-time religion.

Religious communities excel at caring for members in difficult times, encouraging members to serve others and teaching religious practices that have been tested and wrestled with for centuries, Walters says.

“Hymn-singing, forms of prayer and worship, teachings about social justice and forgiveness — all these things are valuable elements of religious wisdom,” Walters says. “Piecing it together by yourself can be done, but with great difficulty.”

I can understand where the ‘spiritual but not religious’ thinking comes from. I also think it’s a lot to carry on your own shoulders if you’re going to go it alone. For me, I find comfort in tradition, in ritual, but I also need a faith that is hands on. If it only affects what happens after my life, and not what happens during it – I don’t have a lot of use for that. I need God to show up today, not 60 years from now. There’s a verse in Philippians that says, in part, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Maybe it’s not supposed to be easy?

Notes:

1. Image of Lady Gaga is original fan art by Ellen Violet. You can see more of her work here.

2. I originally wrote this for work, but Facebook is so silly about allowing links in statuses that reposting it here was easier.

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