“In former days, the heretic was proud of not being a heretic,” G.K. Chesterton wrote just over a century ago. “. . . All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, ‘I suppose I am very heretical,’ and looks round for applause.”
Chesterton could have had Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in mind. Known by her stage name, “Lady Gaga,” Germanotta has reveled in her heretic status—and cashed in handsomely. The crucifix-wearing, sexually depraved image that Germanotta portrays on stage and in her songs (including “Judas” and “Born this Way”) has been a flashpoint for some critics.
“Her assault on the culture has been meticulous,” writes James Parker in theAtlantic. “It’s Pop music, but Gaga-dom is the thing: a persona, something like the incarnation of Pop stardom itself, that she has foisted upon the world. In wigs and avant-garde getups she appears, strange-eyed, her large, high-bridged nose giving a hieroglyphic otherness to her face. On red carpets the presence manifests, where Gaga, like a dome of many-colored glass, refracts the white radiance of Pop.”
Germanotta, 26, has gone from applause to applause, secure in her heresy. Until now.
Her mockery of religion isn’t translating so well in Indonesia, which has the most Muslims of any country. For some reason, these followers of Muhammad are not applauding. In fact, they have put out a “not welcome” sign.
Islamic hardliners, in fact, are calling Germanotta a “devil-worshiper” and threatened violence at her planned concert in Jakarta. With police unable (or unwilling?) to guarantee security, Germanotta canceled the event, saying she is “devastated.” A spokesman for the extremists (yes, they have spokesmen), stated, “This is a victory for Indonesian Muslims. Thanks to God for protecting us from a kind of devil.”
Apparently heretics are not quite so popular in other parts of the world. Of course, some of us are not surprised when Muslim fanatics act, well, fanatically. Islam, born in violence and conquest, periodically erupts against its neighbors, as the “religion of peace” seeks to impose its will. Bernard Lewis, the great scholar of Islam, tried to warn us of all this back in 1990.
“Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women,” Lewis wrote in his famous article “The Roots of Muslim Rage.” “It has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievement, enriched the whole world. But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that part, though by no means all or even most, of the Muslim world is now going through such a period, and that much, though again not all, of that hatred is directed against us.”
Joe Loconte, an associate professor of history at The King’s College in New York City, reminds us in his new book The Searchers that “the poison of religion” is not confined to Islam. Loconte acknowledges that the Christian church has committed its own horrors, such as the Spanish Inquisition, and he notes with approval Islam’s stated belief in God’s mercy. Yet he is realistic about the source of violent religious fanaticism today.
“Virtually all the terrorist attacks against the West over the last decade have been committed by individuals invoking Islam and the Qur’an,” Loconte writes. “They have found support for their deeds in the life and teachings of the Prophet.”
And it is these Muslims in Indonesia who have done what Christians in the West have forgotten how to do: to take a clear stand against blasphemy and for God’s holiness—in a word, to be outraged. Now, don’t get me wrong: I find the use of threat, force, and terror not only to be wrong, but to be an offense against God—whether committed by Muslims, Jews, Christians, or atheists. And let us remember that the tolerant, pluralistic society in which we happily find ourselves has deep Judeo-Christian roots.
But we Christians have apparently lost the ability to be outraged by the likes of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. We are too cool, too tolerant, too much like the world for that. While “Lady Gaga” struts her stuff, we keep our mouths shut, or even hum along quietly. We are afraid to come across as narrow-minded or bigoted. While we take understandable pride in a Lord who hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other various sinners (and surely ought to reach out to lost people like Germanotta whenever possible), we forget that zeal for His Father’s house consumed Christ. Where is our zeal?
No, we Christians don’t want to act like Muslim fanatics. By God’s grace, let us pray that those ugly years of religious poison are behind us forever. But isn’t there a happy medium between fanaticism and indifference? It surely isn’t loving to look the other way as human beings made in God’s image go to hell.
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