Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
February 11th, 2011

God in Gaga

Lady Gaga's latest single is an anthem for the marginalized



Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” is an anthem for the different. The song offers words of encouragement for everyone on the margins of society, including gay people, members of racial minorities, and even the “broke.” She insists, God makes no mistakes,” and later adds:

Whether life’s disabilities
left you outcast, bullied or teased,
rejoice and love yourself today,
’cause baby, you were born this way.

Gaga is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, whether intentionally or not. Her views on celibacy, personal strength and individuality are certainly laudable; and far more compelling is what she has to say about human nature and human suffering.

Unlike Madonna, to whom she is often compared, Lady Gaga seems to understand that human nature is not reducible to sex. Humans are complicated, and Gaga gets that. We can be ugly — that’s true — but Gaga understands that human beauty is only meaningful in contrast to human ugliness. So yes, we are monsters (fallen), but as the song says, we were “born to survive,” (born for eternal life).

Because Lady Gaga is able to embrace the ugly, and in so doing embrace the beautiful, she has a sensitivity and appreciation for inevitable human suffering. She acknowledges that people struggle constantly with their fallen nature, uncertain of their potential to be good.

Because Lady Gaga is able to embrace the ugly, and in so doing embrace the beautiful, she has a sensitivity and appreciation for inevitable human suffering. She acknowledges that people struggle constantly with their fallen nature, uncertain of their potential to be good. She acknowledges that life lets people down. And as she constantly urges her little monsters to love themselves, she adds (in “Born This Way”):

give yourself prudence,
and love your friends.

From her attention to human suffering, I’m reminded of the Christian theme of uniting your sufferings with Christ’s suffering. Gaga is demanding that the marginalized be seen as the valuable, beautiful, Christ-like people they are.

Lady Gaga is eccentric for sure. She can be grotesque. She can be vulgar. But she is a role model of Christian virtue precisely because it seems unlikely that she would be. She has the potential to introduce God to so many people precisely because it doesn’t seem like she is doing so. Lady Gaga is telling a huge, devoted audience that God loves them.

The Author : Helen Lee
Helen is a former Busted Halo intern and recent graduate of Fordham University, where she studied Theology and Communications.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Matt from NYC

    Helen – BTW, I sent your column out on my parish email list here in NYC on Saturday.

  • Matt from NYC

    Helen – Great column! You are correct in saying that Lady Gaga is indeed finding God in all things. God made us all different, but he made us in his (or her) image. As an aside, Lady Gaga is indeed a Catholic and a graduate of Sacred Heart High in Manhattan.

  • Matt

    Julie- I was simply representing a Catholic viewpoint on a Catholic website. I never discarded science in what I said. I believe like Aquinas that the both God and Science are not disparate but prove each other. However, our limited knowledge of science is still a long way from understanding the divine. In my previous post, I took issue with this piece due to the fact that right now, the world (and entertainers like Lady Gaga) are telling us to be ok with who we are, to celebrate sexuality and expression through safe sexual activity, through disordered sexual activity, etc. This is quite dangerous and is actually against everything that Christianity teaches us (no matter what translation you look at). Understanding the sacrament of marriage is fundamental in understanding the Christian life. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is referred to as the Bride of God. In the New Testament, Christ is referred to as the Bride Groom and Heaven is always described as a wedding feast. Open trusting sex within the married state is the closest thing we have on earth to understanding the heart of our Trinitarian God. This is one of God’s many wonderful graces. As marriage is a sacrament, we truly believe that God bestows grace upon us during the expression of sexual love that is open to new life within a married state. However, in our fallen world we are not taught to strive to touch God through sex in a trusting union with our counterpart. We are taught that sex is fun, pleasurable and for everyone. If that is the case, why does each new partner and each new experience cause us to shut ourselves off more and more to the next. Disordered sexual activity causes the hardening of our hearts. It does not open us up. It does not complete us. It leaves us with more craving. More to be desired and a need to be filled. It is not God’s plan of peace for us.
    I understand that being gay is most likely out of someone’s control and once that realization is made, it is something that one does not really look back on. I am in no way stating anything that endorses a lack of compassion. In fact my heart goes out to people who are gay. What that tells me is that just as we are not all ready for Holy Orders, we are not necessarily all ready for marriage yet. We have to trust in God and offer these things up in prayer. We are absolutely called to work on ourselves, to be better than we were born, to rise above the world to the divine and bear our own crosses alongside Christ. We are called to a hard life that requires courage and strength. It is a shame Lady Gaga doesn’t sing about these things… the virtues and a truly countercultural message that through the unwarranted love of God, we are called to stand beside him in ecstasy for all eternity… all we have to do is have courage and trust in Him and his grace.

  • Chris Brune

    Very unwise to take your moral teaching from entertainers. Lady Gaga is a pop singer — nothing more. If she could make more money singing “kill everybody who’s different” she would do it.

    Lady Gaga started out as a rather mousy, but skilled, keyboard player. In order to achieve the level of celebrity she felt she deserved, she re-christened herself Lady Gaga and started walking around without pants. She has no cultural relevance, certainly no religious or moral relevance, and is not worth our time and attention.

  • Julie Hagan Bloch

    First of all, don’t automatically assume that all references to something uplifting have to do with a christian version of the divine. How about accepting that God is not limited to any one mythology or viewpoint?
    And Matt, get over it. You use science to support your viewpoint, but as soon as it differs with your opinions, you discard it. There is nothing wrong with being gay, no matter what some severely edited, culturally limited, mistranslated texts might seem to indicate. Sheesh, man, get a life.

  • Heleni

    God works wonders in unexpected ways! May God continue blessing GaGa with wisdom to see God’s power on the poorest of the poor.

  • Suzanne

    Good for Ms. Gaga! I have heard God’s voice many times in popular music: Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” just to name three. As for lifestyle differences, I don’t care who sleeps with whom as long as they’re sharing love. I do care about being forgiven for my own sins, and when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I’m mindful that God forgives us to the degree that we forgive others. Whenever we start to criticize other people, whose hearts we can never know as God does, let us examine our own consciences instead.

  • William Grogan

    I am a late comer to Lady GaGa. I way outdistance her in years on this planet and thought she was just another nutty cultural icon. How wrong I was, in that she espouses more charity, understanding and tolerance for differences among people than ever I heard from the Catholic church. I am now a fan of hers even though I still don’t care for her style of music. I knew reading down these comments that I would find naysayers, and they are here aplenty. Lady GaGa spreads a message of self acceptance and love, not the constipated dictates of a church still mired in rules and dogma, rather than in the value of each one of us.

  • Jasmine

    While Lady Gaga may have been spreading the news of the gospel, unintentionally, I don’t think we can truly intrepret the song without her commentary. This piece is purely interprative.

    If anything, she is sending people false messages that they can be completely immersed in the culture of death and be completely surrendered to Christ. Her lifestyle, her music and the messages she sends DO NOT lead people to Christ. But let them believe that they do.

  • Matt

    I read through all of this and found myself somewhat frustrated, so here is my attempt at writing out my thoughts to alleviate these frustrations.

    While we have mapped the human genome, we have not found a gay gene. We have found what genetically causes hair color, eye color, developmental disabilities, certain types of intelligence, but we have not found anything that makes one gay from birth. The idea that people are “born” gay is unfounded in any proof and thus should not be assumed. What I do know is that we are born fallen (this is biblical and is a key tenet of our faith). However, despite our fallen nature, Christ calls us to embrace something greater than us, something supernatural and divine. We are not called as Christians to celebrate how we are born, we are called to celebrate what we are called to become while accepting the growth process that leads one towards Christ free of judgement. As an example a child is born fearing death (it is instinctual). If you put an infant on a table, the infant will not crawl off the table, fully aware of the fact that this is a bad idea. Fear of death is in our very nature. God calls us to “be not afraid” and Christ is the example. We are called to willingly suffer, willingly walk to the cross, willingly face persecution and willingly face death out of our love for God. This is supernatural and the strength and courage needed to do this can only come from God and can only come with grace. Being gay is disordered, and I feel very deeply for my gay friends and colleagues because I know what it feels like to be fallen and to be disordered but I also know the strength that comes from grace the strength that calls us to be more than what we are born to be.

    I think the author needs to be careful not to try to view her theology in light of the current state of the world but rather view the world through a theological lens that upholds certain unchanging truths and values.

    We are called to a greatness that far exceeds our birth, we cannot let our King walk alone, we cannot let our Mother weep any longer for her Son and for the rest of her children spiritually adopted through the grace of baptism. All else is trivial.

  • David Wilson

    It doesnt really sound as if she has embraced Jesus. Those that love Jesus actually try to follow His commandments. I’m sure Jesus can take off her devil horns, if she is willing, or perhaps she is endorsing another “god”. As for just loving your friends – as Jesus said – why even the pagans do that. It would be wonderful see her embrace Jesus, flee her sexual immorality and love her enemy.

  • Chelsea

    I absolutely love Lady Gaga, she isn’t perfect but none of us as humans are ever perfect. Lady Gaga understands that through the imperfections God sees the potentional one has for perfection when the resurrection comes. Every flawed human being, which is us all, is a human God loves. It is not by chance that God uses the most “flawed” human beings by society’s standards to show his glory because of their often profound humbleness and realization that without God noone can gain perfection. God sometimes uses ones flaws and mistakes to bring them to their highest potentinal. His understanding is after all not our own.

  • Helen Lee

    @David I wouldn’t want to wrongly insert theology where it doesn’t belong, and yet I do tend to find all things human to be relevant to theology in and of themselves. Gaga deals with issues of humanity, and therefore theology. If you’ve never heard of it, look into anonymous christianity. It’s a controversial idea proposed by Karl Rahner in the mid-20th century that says people who reject the gospel may still be able to be saved, if they say yes to God to the best of their availability (he called such people “anonymous Christians”). I think Gaga is an anonymous Christians, since she doesn’t exactly appear to be a traditional orthodox Christian. So even if she isn’t deliberately speaking on behalf of the Church (though she has a Christian background), there’s no reason not to see God in what she does and says. This idea is not inconsistent with what Paul says, or what the early Church Fathers said. In its developing stages (and even now) Christianity was highly referential of classical philosophy, for more reasons than just the intellectual. The Cappadocian Fathers took so much from Plato because they believed he had a lot of stuff right (in terms of how he talked about God and human nature), and yet he was not a “Christian”. But perhaps the righteous pagans are just Christians in disguise.

  • Helen Lee

    @confused: Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t want to imply that I am in any way rejecting Church teaching (though I do think the Church needs better language regarding this subject).

    Gay people are on the margins of society regardless of whether they are living chastely. Being gay is about way more than just sex. What I mean to say is, the difference between a lesbian and a straight woman is not merely who they sleep with. Both women have completely different world outlooks. The way they deal with members of the same or opposite sexes (non-sexually) will be completely different. A lesbian will bring something completely unique to the table in conjunction with her sexuality, and apart from the actual act of sex. A lesbian will experience struggles that a straight woman never will (again, outside of sex). A lesbian may be able to offer a different type of friendship because of the special way she relates to women. Perhaps she will have a type of relationship with the Blessed Mother that a straight woman wouldn’t have.

    There are a whole host of ways in which gay people are beautiful, unique, and special (in so far as they are gay) that have nothing to do with the mere act of sex. And God did that on purpose. God gave them both a tremendous gift and a tremendous cross to bear.

    You are right that we are called to turn to God for strength to overcome our weaknesses. But we are also told to take comfort in the fact that Christ suffers with ALL of us- not just straight people.

  • JCF

    Predictably, the marginalized hear Gaga’s GOOD News (via Jesus Christ, and all the way back to God’s “Behold, it was Very Good” in Gen 1)…

    …and then The Church comes along to say “Nuh-uh! You’re Bad. The news is, you are all—especially you Icky People–very, VERY BAD! Now, listen to your betters, and SHADDUP.”

    There’s a Sin Problem in this story alright—but it ain’t coming from Gaga or her monsters.

  • confused by this article’s first sentence

    Could you please explain the first sentence: “The song offers words of encouragement for everyone on the margins of society, including gay people….”? The Church teaches strongly that the homosexual lifestyle is sinful and that homosexual tendencies are contrary to the natural order, in other words: disordered. Struggling, chastely, with such tendencies is not sinful in itself, but the Church does not want us to embrace our disordered ways and certainly does not condone embrace sinful lifestyle.

    “…rejoice and love yourself today,
    ‚Äôcause baby, you were born this way.”
    These lyrics have potential to encourage sin as we are born with original sin and our fallen nature causes a tendency to sin through our weakness. We are to embrace our weakness by turning to God for the strength to overcome our ways and be more like He.

    Am I reading this incorrectly? I look forward to your response.

  • David Shepherd

    ‘Gaga is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, whether intentionally or not’
    I would challenge the notion that making theology relevant involves making it resonate with the most popular cultural icons, like Lady Gaga.
    Was her meat dress a fashion statement reminding us of Our Lord’s passion, intentionally or otherwise?
    Paul may have made passing reference to the writings of Aratus or Cleanthus in addressing Gentiles (Acts 17), but he didn’t exactly cite them as unwitting Christian role models, did he?
    He does refer to God’s forbearance towards our attraction to the popular icons, or idols. Then he loses most of his audience by mentioning resurrection and repentance. Rating for Paul’s speech to the Areopagus: content: 10/10; spin: 3/10.

  • James Leo Oliver

    We are also born with original sin. We are all born with a weakness or a cross to bear. We need to know who we are in relationship to that weakness and give it up to God praying for the strength to rise above it, not succumb to it. We also need to accept everyone. We do not have to approve of anything.

  • Erika

    You just made this song so much more amazing and meaningful. I love it! This analysis provides so much depth to the lyrics. I will appreciate this song even more now with this understanding.

  • Victoria

    I love the meaning in this article! Lady Gaga seems to be getting to the heart of what it means to be a child of God.

    “”There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
    She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
    “So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far,
    listen to me when I say”
    I’m beautiful in my way,
    ‘Cause God makes no mistakes
    I’m on the right track, baby
    I was Born This Way ”

    God made us in His likeness and image. We were born this way because He made us this way.

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