Lady Gaga is the consummate popular performer, and a predictable sponsor's choice for the Super Bowl LI halftime show.
Worth an estimated $275 million, she uses her wealth and talent for progressive social activism that she and her biggest fans describe as "prophetic" and "revolutionary." Her fight song is the celebration of diversity, especially "sexual diversity."
It's boilerplate coastal progressivism. You can just plug in the variables of sexual license as love winning, set a dramatic stage, fireworks, dancers and a big musical theater number, and set it on repeat. That much is predictable. What is unusual is the way she invokes God's name and even classic Christian themes throughout her performances.
This was immediately apparent from the patriotic outset of her halftime show, in which she stood upon the roof of the stadium to sing in praise of "one nation, under God." Before the dramatic rope drop into the staged gyrations of revolutionary progress, Lady Gaga invoked that great custom of our nation's founders — often scorned nowadays by agnostic elites — of recognizing that politics is not the highest thing, but receives its power from the source of all power, namely "one nation, under God."
It's ironic that an icon of identity politics should open the Super Bowl halftime show with a flair of common-good patriotism. But it's not at all ironic that she, a baptized Catholic who dissents from much of Catholic social teaching, should want to have her revolution grounded in her faith in God. That is entirely natural. Every one of us has a desire for God. The desire can be suppressed, it can find expression in the wrong objects of worship, but the divine desire is going to come out somehow, somewhere, usually in relation to what we love most.
So Lady Gaga's most important "coming out" is the revelation that she desires God. Her honesty and openness on this desire is genuinely to be praised as a virtue. How she understands her faith in God is, however, murkier.
She has praised Pope Francis's words that the "Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect," but is this because she understands that repentance of sin is required to be made of partaker of the sacrament of our redemption in Christ, or does she understand the pope's words as a kind of "born this way" license that contradicts the Church's teaching? I strongly suspect the latter.
Mid-way through her performance, she expressed filial piety towards her mom and dad. Perhaps her Catholic upbringing can be credited for her upholding the fourth commandment to honor father and mother, even if she may have no moral qualms with the sexual progressive dream about "throuples" making designer babies with three genetic parents.
The kind of syncretism Lady Gaga is attempting, between her Catholic faith and the culture's newly-forming religious sentiments around social progressivism, is spectacular, fabulous, fascinating, but finally unpersuasive. Like all syncretism, the internal contradictions mount up beneath the surface, and can only be covered by spectacle which invokes God's name without thinking very clearly about the truth of the matter.
The recognition that every one of us has a mom and a dad, as well as the recognition that the common good of nation depends on recognizing the highest, most supreme good that is God, are coherent metaphysical claims which all Americans would do well to heed. They also happen to be claims which just don't fit well with what many of Lady Gaga's fans find most revolutionary about her.
C.C. Pecknold (@ccpecknold) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an associate professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America, located in Washington, D.C.
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