Anointing Lady Gaga as Billy Graham

Maybe it's her flaming breasts or her telephone, but some reporters seem slightly obsessed with Lady Gaga. Leave it to a British newspaper to use religion to snark its way through a profile of the pop star.

Help me make sense of this fascinating and bizarre article from The Guardian where writer Simon Hattenstone blends religion to highlight Lady Gaga's "Jesus complex." After all, the artist recently released her "Judas" video and uses religion freely in her work.

The 4,000+ word profile contains some pretty interesting comments from the singer about less than traditional ideas about religion. Unfortunately, the reporters' running commentary throughout doesn't do much to understand her ideas.

After singing about fame on her first two albums, she says she's bored with the subject. "On Born This Way, I'm writing more about pop culture as religion, my identity as my religion: 'I will fight and bleed to the death for my identity.' I am my own sanctuary and I can be reborn as many times as I choose throughout my life." She has never shied away from the grand statement.

Quotes like these help us understand how Lady Gaga approaches religion and how it might play into her work, but it's hard to get past the author. He uses religious metaphors continually to describe her fans (disciples), the artist (evangelist) and her shows (revivalist meetings).

Perhaps she's simply playing a role – she knows the iconoclasm, the Jesus parallels and parables, are all of a piece with flogging her new single, Judas. But I think there's more to it than this. She is a sincere believer in the cult of Gaga – she really does think she's a modern-day Messiah, here to lead her fans to a brighter, better future. And if they buy the records and spread the word along the way, so much the better. Gaga has now set her sights on breaking into India – a vast, untapped market.

...She's become the Billy Graham of pop, I say. She laughs. "It's more self-worship, I think, not of me. I'm teaching people to worship themselves."

And there you go with the Billy Graham appointment. The writer seems conflicted between his fascinating and his skepticism of her and continues on his religion thesis.

What is going wrong with conventional religion if kids are looking to her for spiritual guidance? "The influence of institutionalised religion on government is vast. So religion then begins to affect social values and that in turn affects self-esteem, bullying in school, teen suicides, all those things." Her message, she says, is simple and perfectly Christ-like – love yourself and love others.

Perhaps the reporter could have clarified a few things here. Does she see institutionalized religion as positive or negative when it comes to bullying, self-esteem, etc.? Maybe some of you readers can help me remember when Jesus said to love yourself--I'm coming up short--but I do remember the love others part. The artist then talks about a past where she was bullied in her early teens.

Could she have become who she is without having gone through all this? "No, I don't think anybody could. That is, in many ways, the point, and the point of Judas; in fact, Judas was not a betrayer, he was just part of the over-arching destiny of the prophecy. Those things in your life that haunt you are just part of what you must go through in order to become great."

I'm trying to wrap my head around the "Judas was not a betrayer" statement, because even in her video, it seems like she portrays him as the betrayer with the infamous kiss. It seems like the reporter could have played devil's advocate (no pun) a bit more. There's more on religion, but it's a little vague.

As she talks, I think of Lennon's statement, "We're more popular than Jesus now." Just as Lennon did, she insists she's not anti-religious. "Don't say I hate institutionalised religion – rather than saying I hate those things, which I do not, what I'm saying is that perhaps there is a way of opening more doors, rather than closing so many."

If she's not anti-religious, what is she? "Show business, pop culture that is my religion," she says.

So, no, I didn't pop out of nowhere and become a pop singer. It's been a very real and arduous journey through Judas all the way to Jesus." Just as she's talking from her heart, she has to go and ruin it all with the Judas-Jesus shtick.

If the writer is going to use so many religion analogies, why not explore a little bit of her Catholic background and ask her how it has influenced her work now? The artist certainly isn't shy about using religious imagery, perhaps for the shock factor. Similarly, the profile's author appears to have little intention of helping us understand the pop star's beliefs, but he will freely employ religious analogies to fit his thesis that she is "Lording it."

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