Gaga and Judas

The video for Lady Gaga’s song “Judas” has premiered, ending weeks of speculation stirred up by several religious spokespeople who denounced it before seeing it. The video is set in a motorcycle gang; Jesus is the leader, Judas a thuggish member and Gaga is torn by her attraction to both. As a quick first reaction, I find it moving, both artistically and spiritually. What has always fascinated and frustrated me is the disconnect between the Gaga haters and what I, and some of my friends, see in her work. Many of my religious young adult friends love Gaga; most of the rest don’t have any serious problem with her. They understand what she’s trying to do, even if it isn’t their taste. This is true across Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals. So, what is it about Gaga that excites one devout person and intimidates another?

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The Eternal Temple in the Eternal City

There was tenderness and reverence in his voice as Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), said the Mormon temple being built in Rome, Italy, “uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.”

Monson, considered a prophet by Mormons, addressed millions of members around the world in a biannual satellite broadcast in April. Recalling the Rome groundbreaking on an overcast day in October 2010, attended by Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi along with many Italian members of the LDS church, he said that as the choir sang, “one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained.”

Why was this occasion so special in the heart of the Church’s leader? What is it about a temple — any Mormon temple and specifically the Rome temple — that causes Mormons from around the world to celebrate its construction?

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