Friday, March 26, 2010

holiness as true freedom

At a rollicking debate Wednesday night on the existence of God between William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley (short story: Craig won, and the God of Israel exists), Dr. Craig illustrated a key premise of his moral argument by noting that without a moral law giver, and hence without objective moral facts, something like "murdering babies for fun," instead of being objectively wrong, would be "unfashionable ... like Lady Gaga" (!). This brought welcome laughs, but I think Dr. Craig was being clever in a purpose beyond levity. Now it is not my interest to comment on his argument, but rather the spiritual significance of Lady Gaga.

It appears to me that the Lady's music represents a sort of inversion of what it means to be free. Her artistic addition to the world serves as yet more propaganda for a counterfeit version of freedom. I wondered what evidence I should produce to demonstrate she actually is calling for liberation - should I quote her lyrical tropes, her interviews, plugs to the homosexual community, or what? - when all I needed to do was check her much-followed (3,290,518 and counting) twitter feed. Here a few exhortative tweets:
"rejoice + free yourself" 

"Glasgow was so amazing, serious liberation tonight. I think it set ME free.

"What a f------ night. Sweating, pumping, dancing, mental human beings my fans are. Paws for miles and liquor. Freedom! Ill never leave u" (edited)  
They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom. etc.

What is this freedom her fans are called to seek after? Judging by the above and by the impressions of her not-always-avoidable oeuvre, "freedom" seems not to have gotten any more sophisticated than the "freedom" of the 60s (I admit that's heresay for some of us). I don't mean the foundational notion which led to e.g. civil rights, but that which was and is expressed by sexual promiscuity, intoxication, and insanity. That last term "insanity" (see: "mental") is salient. Generally the opinions expressed by many of my peers (yes, among those who just LOVE her, but also among those who are not so keen) is that she "is insane." I am not sure that is just an exaggeration, but perhaps in some sense constitutes a slang-ideal. Not insane meaning "not sane," but insane meaning "truly liberated from the constraints of sensibility."

This freedom equates to slavery. We see it portrayed physically (e.g. in a prison), sexually (like Spears and Madonna, she both dominates and is enslaved), intellectually (as even her name suggests, she expresses blankness and silliness in every song, and if there is one thought extending through her music, it is that extended thoughts themselves and the speech which express them in her world - on the dance floor - are akin to blasphemy). Ultimately then, this slavery is also spiritual. It seems to be that the Scriptures ironically turn Gaga-esque freedom on its head, offering an understanding which first appears as slavery. My dad points points out:
I would have never imagined that Passover might find its fulfillment in the spiritual freedom though Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua. 
But with misinformation like the above coming from powerful people, we have to work blasphemously hard to conceive of "spiritual freedom." Perhaps this looks at least something like the classical ideal of happiness: not characterized by toxicity, but by virtue, not by stupification or insanity, but by focus, and so on. But it is distinguished further in that its goal is holiness - being set apart. Not only set apart from norms, but set apart to HaShem. Thus, Israel was freed so as to serve - i.e. be enslaved to - God. But of course this slavery was not slavery at all, but sonship. And of course there is much more to be explored here. Publish post.

UPDATE (4/29/10): What does the Lady's recent talk of "celibacy", besides an insatiable need to promote, mean for the above?  While it might seem to contradict or represent a change of mind, it actually is a case in point (cleverly disguised and promotional).  True celibacy for unmarrieds is really about radical fidelity to Messiah. Whereas Gaga promotes it under the rubric of "do whatever you want; be yourself" - that is, self-fidelity. The upshot of that motivation is that there is nothing about abstinence itself that could be valued. Its inevitably, well... flaky. As Laura Leonard notes at Her.meneutics:
Her message, as the article points out, is more about choice than abstinence itself. “Something I do want to celebrate with my fans is that it’s okay to be whomever it is that you want to be. You don’t have to have sex to feel good about yourself, and if you’re not ready, don’t do it.” She adds, “And if you are ready, there are free condoms given away at my concerts when you’re leaving!” And this, in the context of an interview to promote a MAC lipstick that supports global HIV/AIDS projects — a lipstick Lady Gaga hopes will make women “feel strong enough that they can remember to protect themselves . . . [so] that when your man is lying naked in bed, you go into the bathroom, you put your lipstick on, and you bring a condom out with you.”

Not exactly the champion of abstinence many seem ready to make her.
 She makes the point that if celebrity proclamations of abstinence like this are allowed to carry the day, it undermines radical discipleship and self-sacrifice. 


Anonymous said...

"...happiness: not characterized by toxicity, but by virtue, not by stupification or insanity, but by focus..."

Well spoken.

~ Brandon D

Ian said...

Very good post!