And now for something completely different…
I won’t embarrass myself by even pretending to like or listen to Lady Gaga; anyone that knows me well will know that it’s not really ‘me’. But today I sat down and listened to her five most popular tunes on Spotify. I did so because Lady Gaga is a popular artist and as such reflects the current culture we live in.
So what I’m going to do is take the lyrics of ‘Poker Face’, ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Telephone’ and try and work out what they say about modern culture then I’ll take verses from a two thousand year old book and see what that has to say about modern culture. Interested? I should hope so.
Each song presents a view on love, what it is and what it isn’t. The first thing that hit me was how necessary love was as this verse from ‘Bad Romance’ shows:
“I want your ugly, I want your disease
I want everything as long as its free
I want your love, love, love, love
I want your love”
You get the impression that love isn’t just a ‘nice thing’ it’s a burning desire that needs to be filled; it’s a need, something without which life would be unbearable. Yet at the same time the love it talks about is all about ‘I’, it shows no consideration of the man’s feelings or wants only what ‘I want’. This is repeated in ‘Telephone’ where again the song is all about ‘me’ and not about ‘him’. And ‘Poker Face’ is probably the most ‘me’ focused song of the lot.
Another thing that struck was how much her songs are about concealment. Obviously you got Poker Face:
“Can’t read mine, can’t read mine
No he can’t read my poker face”
She’s expressing pride in the fact that she’s not emotionally connecting with the man, she’s glorifying in the fact that he can’t understand her. And also in Bad Romance
“I don’t want be friends
(I want your bad romance, I want your bad romance)”
The same feeling is expressed: she doesn’t want them to be friends; she doesn’t want to be open and share her feelings with the man. And the next line shows how she knows that it’s kind of childish: “I don’t wanna be friends” Talk about being petulant! Childish language for a childish feeling.
So what? Well, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say on love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13 v 4 – 7
It is almost as if Lady Gaga’s songs are seeking to express the complete opposite view to that of the Bible. Here we have an entirely different view on love.
In Lady Gaga’s songs she presents a picture of a love that is self seeking, is proud and boastful of the power it has, it’s rude (notice repeated uses of the word ‘bitch’ in more than one of her songs) and doesn’t rejoice in truth but seeks to conceal. Was the love that Lady Gaga sang about trusting, protecting or helpful?
“I want your love and I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance”
That line was, amazingly enough, from ‘Bad Romance’ and it’s not a hopeful love but one of despair, the girl knows that the relationship is going to end badly and by the end of the song she still expresses a want to be in a ‘bad romance’.
I would suggest that it isn’t love that Lady Gaga is singing about. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, etc. And whatever emotion contained within the songs isn’t that. No, instead Lady Gaga’s songs are about infatuation and lust – emotions which are selfish, proud and boastful. Emotions which do want to conceal, hide and twist. Emotions which aren’t truthful, hopeful or trusting.
Why then does Lady Gaga call these emotions love when they are quite obviously not?
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
Romans 1 v 21 - 23
These verses in Romans show what happens when you pursue a self centred rather than God centred life. Lady Gaga’s songs clearly show how modern culture has exchanged the truth of God (that is, the absolute truth) for lies. Her songs say that lust and infatuation are love. The Bible says: no, love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast. This perversion of what real love is goes part in parcel with the problem of sin. Biblically speaking all rejection of truth is sin and all sin leads to unhappiness, eventually. And that is where infatuation leads you too: heart break, loss, pain and suffering; ‘bad romance’.
What’s more modern culture claims to be wise, it claims that as long as your having or trying to have a ‘good time’ that’s all that matters. As long as you’re in ‘love’ you’re good. Lust and infatuation are celebrated. But this, as Romans 1 says, is foolishness! For let me ask you this: what love would you rather have?
Would you prefer the selfish, boastful, proud, concealing ‘love’ of modern culture so clearly expressed in Lady Gaga’s songs? Or would you like the love that the Bible says is the real deal? The love that is patient, kind, trusting, hopeful, never angry?
Modern culture makes an idol of lust and infatuation and in doing so produces so much pain and suffering. For doesn’t every human have the desire to be loved within them? Yet people reject the only true source of love this world knows: God. They reject God and his love for them and as such seek love in idols - in lust and in infatuation – in lies. And because they seek love in lies it is bound to go wrong! Sadly we see this all to much in today’s culture where divorce is so common. The correct picture of love has been rejected for one of lust, sex (outside of marriage) and selfishness.
My hearts bleeds that the marvellous picture of love the Bible paints has been rejected by our cultural and twisted into such a pale imitation. Modern culture would suggest that ‘love’ is selfish, envious and based more on lust than anything else. Doesn’t that strike you as being, well, completely gaga? Doesn't the description of love in the Bible just appeal to you so much more? If so, then why is that? I would argue that it's because we're made in the image of God and therefore we know that the love of the Bible in infinitely more preferable to the love of Lady Gaga's songs.
It isn’t surprising that Lady Gaga got it so wrong or that modern culture seems to embrace her view. The Bible plainly lays out the root problem humanity has: sin. And our sin perverts everything that we do including love. And we cannot change that ourselves. Maybe you want the love described in the Bible, I hope you do, but we naturally don’t love like that. You could try being perfectly patient, kind, without anger, hopeful and trusting but you couldn’t help but fail. By default we're all Lady Gagas - selfish, insecure, proud and manipulative.
But there is hope! The Bible clearly points us to our problem: sin and wonderfully to our salvation as well: Jesus, his death on the cross and resurrection. For if we’re talking about love, true love, then let us remember this:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5 v 8
Through his sacrifice on the cross Jesus took our punishment for sin, he took the curse of sin, so that all who repent and believe are freed from their slavery to sin. We cannot come to God; God comes to us with an offer of salvation. It is an offer of salvation that can reform individuals and also reform a culture. God comes to us in love, a love that is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. A love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. A love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. A love which never fails.