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Author Karen Spears Zacharias blogged about Lady Gaga yesterday. I like Gaga’s music, but I’m not an über-fan or anything. I only noticed the blog post because a Twitter friend tweeted about it.
Zacharias says that “Lady Gaga’s a Fake & You aren’t great” (capitalization hers). Specifically, she finds Gaga’s over-the-top appearance and performances fake. Zacharias says that this is nothing new — it’s been done before, by artists like Madonna. And she points out that Gaga isn’t just like the rest of us — she comes from a fairly privileged background.
Okay. I can understand that. I frequently find Gaga ridiculous. I do recognize that she’s not the first to embrace the outrageous (and that “Born This Way” sounds an awful lot like “Express Yourself”). And I would agree that Lady Gaga doesn’t have a real rags to riches story.
But she goes on to say that the message of songs like “Born This Way” is wrong, too. That Lady Gaga’s going around telling people how great they are, and to embrace their greatness, and that this is somehow wrong.
Apparently, teaching kids to value themselves leads to “self-obsessed, pot-smoking, whoring-around delusional little monsters.”
Really? That’s what encouraging self-esteem leads to? Huh. I guess I’d better pull my kids out of Girl Scouts.
Zacharias suggests that we embrace humility instead, and “appreciate the wonder of being ordinary.” After all, we can’t all be stars. Most of us are, and will continue to be, ordinary.
Absolutely! Humility is an excellent quality, and a Christian value — but I think it’s possible to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and humility. It’s not either/or.
And ordinariness? Yes. I am ordinary. I’m not a genius of any kind, although I do have my own talents and gifts. I was born this way, and I can embrace that. I think that goes along perfectly well with the message of “Born This Way,” which is to embrace who you are! You don’t have to apologize for your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, hairstyle, OR ordinariness.
Finally, Zacharias makes a big mistake by playing the Hitler card.
But imagine for a moment a world in which future little Hitlers, Pol Pots, Stalins, or Osama Bin Ladens go around singing the chorus of Gaga’s Born this Way:
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Karen, megalomaniacs are going to be crazy no matter what pop songs they listen to. Songs that encourage people to value themselves simply aren’t going to create dictators or terrorists.
Don’t like Lady Gaga? Fine. But the idea that encouraging people’s self-esteem is somehow bad for society? I don’t get it.
John Wesley was one of the founders of the Methodist movement in the 18th century. His directions for hymn singing are still printed in the front of the United Methodist Hymnal. One of his instructions is to sing hymns “exactly as they are printed here.” Yet all too often, in United Methodist Churches and others, congregations sing only the first and last verse of each hymn, in order to save time.
In my opinion, this is so wrong. The hymns are there for a reason. The words, the music, the act of singing all have much to teach us, and we do not get the full impact by singing just the first and last verse. Also, I don’t think worshiping God should be kept on a schedule!
Here’s what John Wesley had to say about hymn singing in 1761. We would do well to follow these instructions in the 21st century (although I don’t think I’ve ever sung the songs of Satan).
Directions for Singing
- Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
- Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
- Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
- Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
- Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
- Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
- Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
–John Wesley, from John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761