Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seriously? Art?

Lady Gaga is in the spotlight for what many consider to be an offensive video depicting Catholicism and its icons in a negative, if blasphemous, fashion. Some call Gaga's artistry (and I'm being very generous here) "bold" while others wonder why Catholicism and the Roman Church are continually depicted in such a negative way throughout the media while Islam, Judaism, and Protestantism remain pretty much untouched.

As a United Methodist pastor who was raised in the Catholic Church, I sometimes hear the outcries and think perhaps we take things a little too seriously. Yet I also look at the very cowardly way these alleged "artists" (remember Sinead O'Connor?) claim to be "boldly confronting" the Church on what our "anything goes" culture generally considers to be controversial stands on such things as abortion, euthanasia, priestly celibacy, divorce, etc. I say "cowardly" because these media bullies are relatively sure the Catholic Church is not going to declare jihad on them or cut off their heads on camera while they beg for their lives. I say "bully" because this is the modus operandi of bullies in general; they will not attack anything or anyone that might fight back. They choose the safer targets because they are quite sure they can walk away unscathed. Sadly, our society applauds these so-called "artists" for their courage.

The truth is ALL Christians especially, and perhaps our Muslim and Jewish friends as well, should take such negative imagery very seriously to the point that we hit these "artists" where it will really hurt them: in the pocketbook. When they start going broke, we would then be able to find out exactly how committed they really are to their "art".

I would find it extremely sad and disheartening that Protestant friends from any tradition would revel in these blatant attacks on Christianity in general - and that's what they are - by pulling out 16th-century Reformation politics and their general disdain for the Roman Catholic Church - or worse, remaining silent altogether. I think we're beyond this (or we should be), and I think all Christians should be offended and disturbed about the fallout not from the controversial videos or public statements themselves but from the SILENCE of the Church Universal. Our Catholic friends are not shy in speaking up for themselves and their beloved Church, but they should not be speaking alone.

Turning off the televisions and radios would be a step in the right direction but will do no good alone when what we need to consider are the sponsors that allow these "artists" to spew their filth on the public airwaves. They certainly have a right to access the media as you and I do and I suppose they have a right to express themselves as they feel they must, but there is no justification for our supporting sponsors who make such public filth possible. It is not unlike less-than-ethical politicians who are continually reelected to public office; it is not so much the fault of the politicians themselves (even as they are ultimately responsible for their own actions) as it is the voting public who don't take a stand where it matters - in the voting booth - but instead chooses to give these people a free pass with and tacit approval of their less-than-honorable conduct and behavior, especially during election seasons.

When will ALL Christians stand up as one? When will the Church universal stand firm as witness to the Truth of the Gospel that as the Lord God alone is One, so too is the Body of Christ one in Him? When will disciples of Christ display such boldness? This goes far beyond simple public boycott of what is essentially bile that poisons young minds; this is a public witness to the goodness of faith. The unbelieving public needs to see unity in the Church. Until they do, however, they will continue to mock and ridicule not only our Catholic brothers and sisters but will soon enough turn their attentions to an already weakened Church. It is the "divide-and-conquer" strategy, and it is extremely effective.

Make no mistake; we cannot make these people go away. They will go long and strong until the Day of the Lord - or until their money runs out and/or popularity wanes. Until that Day, however, we can no longer afford to sit idly by and watch our children be taken in and transformed into mindless, nihilistic hedonists. Judgmental? You bet! But judging between behavior that is destructive and judging the soul of another human being is comparing apples to oranges. One requires spiritual discernment; the other is "hands off" to the faithful.

Above all else, Christians must not respond in kind. Rather, we must stand firm and united in the Scripture that is the "Light" of our path to righteousness. "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21 NKJV).

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