Wednesday, March 02, 2011


I was on facebook last night and a student posted a link to a music video.  I checked it out and harassed him about it's content.  I was only half joking when I told him it might qualify as porn.

This resulted in a random convo about random videos and obviously, the latest and craziest video from shock musician, Lady Gaga became part of our discussion.  It is as weird as weird gets.  It has had over 7 million views by the time of this post.  You can watch as much of it as you want here.

I'm not a big lady gaga fan.  But I work with students and I watched it to be in the know.  It was weird how current the ancient good and evil thing still is.  It was super weird how this video interprets it.  So weird, that you might be tempted to say, there's absolutely no good in it.

Then one of the students in our facebook convo found this.

And all of a sudden, I confessed my sin. This song can be really beautiful and its lyrics could even be argued to be Biblical.  Wow, what a difference a new set of eyes and ears can make.  I was convicted that so much of the time, I'm guilty of missing the diamond in the rough.  Tyler Ward found it here.  I need to dust off my spiritual truth metal detector. Evidently mine is busted.


Nick Nichols 6:11 PM  

Well, Brian. I would like to hear how you find the second version of the song biblical/Christian/redemptive.

I am curious how you found the song suddenly biblical? If the message is that I can embrace every desire I have because it is natural (to me) then how is that in line with scriptural teaching about sin, repentance and holiness? If what it is saying is that I have worth, of course that we can embrace. But, the idea that "I was born this way" (i.e. - my desires/wants/urges are really and deeply ingrained in me and therefore I should embrace them) well, again that is kinda the point of original sin - we are all born "curvatus en se" bent in upon ourselves, as Augustine put it.

It might be more attractive in the second version - the first is quite HR Geiger-ish, and very profane in almost every sense of the word - but unless a smiling and clean couple playing a song in a friendlier manner can alter the meaning of the words, then... I guess I have to reject that somehow the song is now Christian/biblical.

I don't know who the second duo is, and perhaps they can infuse the words with a more sanctified meaning for themselves, but the words are the words, and the message is the message, unless we are embracing a post-modern idea that the words mean what we decide they mean.

I'd like to hear your rationale for your change of heart. This of course lays aside the artistic sham of this song - you know, it is Madonna's song (express yourself), but I digress.

brian c. berry 8:44 PM  


... the song in the second video is edited in image and lyric to remove much of what you talk about. I doubt you'd be saying the song is about what you are if you'd have watched them in reverse order.

the comment that made me say, "it could be argued to be Biblical" is the basic premise that God has made me. I could give references, but I'm sure you know them. We are all made by God... and through some very sinful scenarios... yet made by God nonetheless.

God has made me, even though people sin, it doesn't remove the imago dei from me. I may be born stuck in sin, but I was nonetheless born this way. It is widely proven that we have genetic ties to alcoholism in people. This doesn't mean their every desire is good. But it does mean they were born this way.

In addition, the second video drops a stanza about sexual expression in all it's forms from Lady Gaga's video and highlights the stanza that all races have been made by God and not to stress about your insecurities. From a Biblical perspective... I could argue Galatians 3 highlights that in Jesus... I find this to be true.

I'm not saying the whole of any of it is Scripture. I'm saying you can see God in it. I suppose that even the Lady Gaga song recognizes there's a true struggle between good and evil if you really are digging for truth, which was the point of the "finding a diamond in the rough" imagery in the first place. You have to go searching for it... it's not in plain view.

As for the pot shot at "post modern" language and words changing meaning... they do change meaning and you and I both know that history proves this to be the case. Words certainly don't mean the same thing in every context and in every culture and certainly not over time. We have to change language to mean what we say and say what we mean. I'm not going to defend modernism, post modernism, or empiricism, the enlightenment or the like. I'm sure each human thought pattern has both Godly and ungodly elements.

oh.. and as for Madonna and ripping her off... I'm sure Lady Gaga studied her every move. She is the Madonna of this generation... and like our high school years... she's a force I'm gonna have to recon with as I engage students.

hopefully that helps clear some of this up....


Nick Nichols 7:57 AM  


First off, I confess that I do not have the lyrics of both of the songs, and failed to notice many of the changes you noted. I did notice of course that it is much shorter, but I guess I thought it simply took out some of the repetition or did not cover the entire song.

But, correct me if I am wrong here, if you change the words to the song, you change the song. So, if you are arguing that you can change a Lady Gaga song, and make it so it is not as bad, perhaps even conforming to Christianity, well, what are you really arguing? The implication of your entire post is that Lady Gaga's song is really a reflection of a biblical reality - i.e. the "diamond" is in her "rough" work. It seems from your second post that you are saying to take her work, edit it, removing most of the rubbish, you can get an essentially biblical message. There is truth mixed with error in Lady Gaga's song. OK. I'll concede this, but to me that is obvious.

After your response, I see your point, but I would argue that the point you seemed to be making with the post was that you "saw" that there was a deep, even biblical truth, to Lady Gaga's song. What you really seem to be saying is that one can edit her song, clean it up, remove the images associated with it, and make it better. To that I reply, well, of course.

As for your claim that I was taking a pot shot at postmodernism, I was doing nothing of the sort. Intellectual consistency demands that we be very serious about what we believe about language (and everything else). There is a real reason why post-modernism has such a stranglehold on literature and language. Words map onto reality. Sure, we can and do invest them with different meanings, but all (well, all but the most avowed post-modern authors) believe that their words have a meaning. People might misinterpret them, or interpret them differently, but they have a meaning, a fixed meaning. And the point that they change over time and across cultures… well sure, words evolve, ideas evolve, language evolves, thoughts evolve. But this song was written now, in contemporary verbiage. To take the words that Lady Gaga said this year, and turn them into something she did not intend, well that is the very idea of post-modern, polyvalent language. She knows what this song means. And even if I can take the words and make them inspirational or motivational to me, well, that is not what Lady Gaga says, thinks, believes, or means. Should we not allow her work to stand or fall and be critiqued on its own merits? If she wants to put out a strongly unbiblical message, fine. But why should we try to sanitize/purify/christen it?

too be continued (too long, sorry)

Nick Nichols 7:57 AM  


I too am one who works with Christian teenagers every day, mostly about reading the world, and ultimately contributing to it. This is a big point we make – we have to move from being Consumers to being Critics and ultimately to Contributors. Why not, rather than taking Lady Gaga’s song and stripping it of her message, create an entirely new song that offers another way? Let Lady Gaga’s powerfully unbiblical and anti-Christian ideas shine through. If we cannot offer another way, then we are not trying hard enough. I am not arguing for a Christian subculture segregated from the rest of the world. If we cannot offer enough truth in a contemporary voice that is as good, musically, lyrically, visually, etc., as Lady Gaga, then shame on us.

Listen, I know I am arguing strongly, and I am hopeful that you hear the tone I am taking. You are a great example to ministers of Christ everywhere. You are faithful to reach out to Christian young people well after most have jumped ship. You are making a difference, and the people that have gone through your youth groups are the better for it, I would offer – even if I don’t know them. I believe you are a faithful witness for Christ, and I am very glad that you take such a public stance for who Christ is, who you are, and the way the world is. And… I think I really disagree with you on this occasion. As a person who was active and is still in some ways active in the arts, who works really hard to bring a thoughtful and meaningful existence to the lived Christian faith, I think that we have to be mindful to see the world for what it is, honor the truth where we find it, and stand against what needs to be stood against. I think we don’t see the same thing in this particular instance.


brian c. berry 3:11 PM  


I wrote this post in 20 minutes based on a reaction to a facebook comment thread. I was trying to say, "hey, look at this, someone found the best in something and made it better. props to them." that's all really. I think the second video took the best of the first video and made something good in it. They found the diamond in the rough, the treasure in the trash can, the needle in the haystack. Pick your metaphor.

Somehow that struck a much deeper nerve in you than that, but pretty much that's all I was saying. It reminded me people find God or Biblical messages in dark places all the time and that I could use some tuning up in my ability to do that before I dismiss Him as completely absent.


Nick Nichols 7:32 AM  

Fair enough. It was also not really my intention to "throw down" with you on this. I was very curious at the post, it did not square with me, and so I inquired.

Personally, I find Lady Gaga, on the whole no worse than Madonna was, and beyond just ripping off her song, she is clearly trying to be the new Madonna. And the way I see her message is how I see Madonna's, some it is pretty good, some of it is marginal, and some of it is rubbish. This video of hers struck me as the last. It's really awful. Sometimes I feel the best response to such things is "not worth my time" - and that is what I teach. Musically, I find her quite vanilla, but that is really not the issue. Pop music may not mean much to me any more, but it does to my students and my own kids. Some things don't need to be "cleaned up" or redeemed - they just need to be allowed to lay there in their own filth. Her message on this speaks for itself, and why someone would try to do what the duo did, I don't know. I think taking a different approach is the way to go as an artist. But, as Paul said, "nevertheless the gospel is preached". People sometimes try to do good in ways that I do not agree with, and I will not stop them. But I will challenge the logic of it when I have the opportunity. And so I did.

I am a faithful reader, and hopefully you don't get too flustered by my comments!




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