I was baptised a Catholic. I’m not the most devout or observant, but I’ll attend Church when I can, I’ve read my Bible, I acknowledge the Vatican. I practice my own brand of the faith. I’m also a big proponent of freedom of speech and expression. That’s why I’m not going to rip into Lady Gaga (I feel as stupid writing that name as I do saying it) for her latest single Judas the way Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, did this week. However, and this may be the first time I’ve ever thought this, I understand his, and many other Catholics’ outrage over the song. It has as much to do with the timing of the song’s release as anything else. For those of you who don’t observe or don’t know, this week is Holy Week for the Catholic religion, which ends with Easter weekend, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In the Catholic faith, this week is the most important of the year; so it hardly comes as a coincidence that Lady Gaga chooses this week to not only leak the song, but also spread the rumour that the accompanying music video will be released on Easter Sunday. Whether it ends up being true or not is irrelevant, the desired controversy and publicity has been generated. Further, Lady Gaga has also come out and said that God told her the lyrics – Actually, that makes complete sense to me, there’s no way her stuff sells without divine intervention –
Now, and this is the part where I *cringe* agree with Bill Donohue, what was the point of all this? It seems like the whole purpose of this song’s release before the album itself was to piss of the Catholic community. And it’s not the first time Lady Gaga’s targeted the Catholic community; in the video for Alejandro she’s seen dressed as a nun and swallows a rosary, a scene spliced with a bondage scene…probably described as “tactless” at best. Which leads me to my second point – I’m all for freedom of expression, but this is ridiculous.
Donohue suggests that if Lady Gaga tried this with another religion, he uses Islam, there might be a violent response, and thus she, nor anyone else, would dare attempt it. But that in its essence is the beauty of the Western world: we can make fun of Catholicism. The religion’s presence in nations where freedom of expression/speech has grown and become a paramount right has afforded people the ability to satirize it without much fear. It’s why we have an entire Family Guy episode depicting Jesus as a wild party animal and ending with his giving The Trashmen’s Surfing Bird back to the world; or Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, the difference that those were intelligent, in good humour, or at the very least a good use of Surfin Bird. But Gaga’s Judas isn’t satire. It’s shock entertainment, and really, does pissing off Catholics honestly sell more records? Does having a segment about your song on Fox News reach the audience your trying to reach? Lady Gaga gains nothing by attacking the Catholic (or Christian) community.
Some people have tried to explain that Judas about Mary Magdolin (that name should ring a bell, and admit it, you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code) expressing her love for the betrayer of Christ. Frankly I don’t buy that. The most offensive part of this song is how unbelievably bad it is. The tune it catchy enough, but the words! I honestly couldn’t make them out when I first heard the song, so I looked them up. Here are some lines:
When he comes to me, I am ready I’ll wash his feet with my hair if he needs Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain Even after three times, he betrays me
I couldn’t love a man so purely Even darkness forgave his crooked way I’ve learned love is like a brick, you can Build a house or sink a dead body
In the most Biblical sense, I am beyond repentance Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind
But in the cultural sense I just speak in future tense Judas kiss me if offensed, Or wear ear condom next time
That’s offensive. Not just to Catholics, but to anybody who’s ever picked up a pen and thought about writing.