The provocative faith of Lady Gaga

Today’s Super Bowl halftime show will undoubtedly be a provocative spectacle, but it will also be a form of religious devotion for some.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta will step on the world’s biggest stage as Lady Gaga, the Catholic schoolgirl turned chart-topper. Along with the electropop and theatricality, she will deliver an overt, yet often unnoticed, faith.

In an American context where the media equates religion with social conservatism, Lady Gaga represents a welcome, non-fundamentalist Christianity.

She is the closest pop culture version, in values if not tone, to her fellow Catholic, Pope Francis. She champions Christian values not of exclusion and discrimination but of empowerment, grace and self-acceptance.

Lady Gaga’s most unapologetic hit is also one of the most culturally influential contributions to the theology of human sexuality. “Born This Way” is the hymn for LGBT Christians that is sorely missing from your average church hymnal.

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

Her faith and values shine through not just in “Born This Way,” but throughout her discography.

She wears no poker face about her love of God and affirmation of all people bearing the image of God.

Her theology might best be summed up in the chorus of “Hair:” “I just wanna be myself / And I want you to love me for who I am … this is my prayer.”

Her prayer is the same as countless progressive Christians who recoil at the hypocritical judgment of fundamentalism yet still seek to follow Jesus.

She prays to an affirming God with expansive love, not a narrow-minded magician in the sky who damns non believers to eternal conscious torment.

Lady Gaga’s faith confounds a popular narrative of religion in America.

She is considered both a practicing Christian and a passionate advocate for progressive values. She simply doesn’t fit in the controlling narrative, endorsed by both the secular left and the religious right, that relegates religion be the sole domain of social conservatism. Continue reading

  • Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes at the intersection of faith, public policy and pop culture. He completed his master of divinity degree in 2016 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he led a chapel service on the “Gospel According to Lady Gaga.”
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