Reflecting On What Ben Witherington Might Say to Lady Gaga – Part 1

“It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up’
cause you were born this way, Baby”

A couple months ago, I got to hear Ben Witherington lecture at Gordon Conwell Seminary about humanity being created in the image of God. As you would expect, it was an excellent presentation but halfway through, I started thinking about Lady Gaga. It’s not that Dr. Witherington’s outfit resembled one of hers (your welcome for that mental picture), it was that as he was sharing of the high place that humanity is set, it reminded me of “Born This Way.”  I find myself thinking about that again.

As you may know, I find Lady Gaga compelling. In fact, my last sermon at Montvale was entitled, “What Jesus Might Say to Lady Gaga.” It was awesome, our church organist got all dressed up and ascended from the baptistry (just kidding, we don’t have a church organist).  Anyway, there are several reasons I find her compelling, all would likely sound petty to insert them here and so I’ll spare you from that. But like her or hate her, she has captured the attention of millions and it’s not just for the spectacle. For many, Gaga inspires people to be themselves.  In some sense, what’s not to like about that?

I love theology and I love music and I’m always fascinated when the two overlap each other. Christianity places such a value on the place of humanity and a careful reading of the Genesis account tells us that humanity is the pinnacle of creation.

The hit single “Born This Way” also places a high value on us in its own way:
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

I have no doubt that there are countless Contemporary Christian musicians who screamed at the radio this past summer, “We have lyrics just like that!” I also have no doubt that there are numerous people who are uncomfortable with this comparison with Gaga – stay with me.

It’s been a habit of mine to say that today’s pop-culture is today’s Scriptures, meaning just as Bible-believing Christians see their Bible as their holy book, today’s secuarlists or nominally relgiious see the messagses of society as what is sacred (or “holy”) to them. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what are the words and phrases people know by heart today. They know music lyrics and movie lines. They refer to scenes in sitcoms and use IMDB in a similar fashion to the way a pastor uses a concordance or a lexicon. They use DVD bonus features the way a pastor might use a commentary. For many, their pastors are Jon Stewart, Bill O’Relly, or Bill Maher or … Lady Gaga.

Which brings us back to her and the message of “Born This Way”. This is generally among the messages of our culture – “You’re ok, really, just be yourself.”

Now, though I am fascinated by Gaga, let me confess that I am in no way a student of her music. I’m sure she’s saying more and I’m sure she has distinctions from the many philosophies found in our culture.  But for this post, I’m using her as a representation of it. Among the reasons why is that her mic is turned up the loudest.

What makes the Christian understanding of humanity different from what we find in Gaga’s “Born This Way” is in short, the hit song leaves us hanging. Indeed we all are “beautiful in our own way”, but the mantra is incomplete because if you gain encouragement in knowing that you are beautiful then you are probably self-aware enough to know that you are deeply flawed. Thus, “just be yourself” kinda sucks because you know, you suck (and so does everyone else).

Part 2 will discuss more of what’s missing and how the Christian understanding of the image of God fills the gaps.

On another note, for those that would like to keep up with these posts, consider subscribing via email or through the RSS feed or follow on twitter.  As always, feel free to dialogue and thanks for reading.


  1. Debispragetti says:

    “if you gain encouragement in knowing that you are beautiful then you are probably self-aware enough to know that you are deeply flawed. Thus, “just be yourself” kinda sucks because you know, you suck (and so does everyone else).”

    Bravo. Though, misery does love company, but that’s probably a post about the music of Adele.

  2. Lol – Adele – ugh. Good music that has been absolutely ruined.

    Anyway thanks for reading – enjoy the weekend.


  1. […] I mentioned in my first post, it leaves us hanging. Because from how I interpret it, it says, “You are predetermined, you […]

  2. […]  But I think that’s part of why I’ve blogged a series on celebrities and the series on Gaga and the image of God. And I think that’s why I’m happy for the […]

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