Lady Gaga is at it again. She just released a single titled Judas, praising the man who betrayed Jesus. As expected, it is completely catchy and completely sacrilegious. Told from the perspective of Mary Magdelene, Gaga sings, “Oh-oh-oh-ohoo I’m in love with Juda-as, Juda-as… I’m just a Holy fool, oh baby he’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby.”
Before condemning Lady Gaga, it’s important to remember that there can be great literary import to exploring the perspective of Judas. Judas’ situation prompts wonderful philosophical questions. If Judas had free will, could he have chosen to not sacrifice Jesus? If he had free will, how would the prophecies about Jesus been fulfilled? The ancient Gospel of Judas (dating to the 3rd century, so unlikely written by Judas himself) portrays Judas as having made an agreement with Jesus to fulfill the prophecies, earning himself a place as a star in the sky. It would be interesting to read a piece exploring some of these issues.
Of course, one can’t expect something of that caliber from pop music. I’m going to mostly ignore Lady Gaga’s blatant mixed metaphors (“I’ll wash his feet with my hair… forgive him even after three times, he betrays me… I’ll bring him down… A king with no crown – somehow you manage to reference Jesus and Peter and Judas all at the same time?”) and focus on my biggest issue.
The line that most troubles me is this: “in the most Biblical sense, I am beyond repentance. Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind.” Jesus called all to repentance, doctoring in particular those who were sick with sin to make it clear that even the prostitute and the tax collector are included in God’s kingdom. The prostitute is closer to God than the Pharisee. Mary Magdalene’s inclusion as a disciple disproves Lady Gaga’s verse.
Yet I can’t blame Gaga for having this impression. The Church has historically failed terribly in modeling ourselves after Christ in this manner. We do not seek out the prostitute to heal her, but instead we condemn non-Christians who are predictably lost in sin. All the while, we fail to deal with the unrepentant Christians with whom we ought not even associate (1 Cor 5). We judge those outside the church without dealing with those inside it – the exact opposite of what Jesus and Paul told us to do.
The lesson I take from Lady Gaga’s latest release is not that Christians should jump to condemn her or modern culture; God will judge those outside the church. It’s that we should take more seriously the call to love the lost, that we should redouble our efforts to share the gospel in prisons and on street corners. Our greatest worry should be that Christians will never be accused of what Christ was accused of – hanging out with the tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners.
On a college campus, that is always bound to be applied the wrong way. I’m not saying that we should blend in with a culture thoroughly corrupted by pride, sex, and selfishness; we should still strive to be perfect as our Father is perfect and should strive to avoid sin as Christ was sinless. We are called to be the light of the world. But we need not fear about associating with sinners so long as we are clearly fleeing from sin ourselves. The danger is that very few people I know can constantly be around sin without soon falling into it themselves. It takes a very, very deep love of God to be capable of fully loving the lost without losing oneself again. But until Christians learn to do that, we will always be subject to the criticism of outsiders like Lady Gaga.
The sad thing is that lovers of pop music have little recourse but to listen to the likes of people like Lady Gaga. That’s why in the end, I have to side with Jon Acuff. We really need a Christian version of Lady Gaga. Oh Bruno Mars, you could almost be there if you haven’t totally invalidated the sanctity of marriage in “Marry You.” Sigh. How long, O Lord? Will you forget us forever? How long will you hide clean pop from us? How long must we censor Cee-Lo and feel guilt for loving Enrique? At least we’ve got Ke$ha on our side…