>The Salvation of Katy Perry

>Katy Perry performing at Clutch Cargo's and Mi...Image via Wikipedia

(OK, a little reflection on some pop culture here.  Clearly not my strong point.  However, I’m interested in the religious side of this discussion.)

Much has been made of the Katy Perry interview and cover over at Rolling Stone magazine recently, partly because of all of the “faith” issues it brings up.  See, Katy was raised by some dynamic youth ministers in an evangelical Christian church, she had a short-lived Christian Music Career, and now she’s engaged to Russel Brand (hard-living/hard-talking comedian) and is a pop princess.

There’s a preview of the article, entitled “Sex, God, and Katy Perry” over here at Rolling Stone.

You can see a video here where she talks about her parents.

And there’s a whole lot out there about the revealing outfits she’s worn.

But it’s the transition between that upbringing to what she reveals, in word and action, now that are of interest to myself and others.

MTV talks about her upbringing:

In fact, while she appreciates having fiancé Russell Brand in her life, she just can’t bring herself to say she feels lucky. Why? “I wasn’t ever able to say I was ‘lucky’ because my mother would rather us say that we were blessed, and she also didn’t like that lucky sounded like Lucifer,” she told the magazine, which hits newsstands Friday. “Deviled eggs were called ‘angelled’ eggs. I wasn’t allowed to eat Lucky Charms, but I think that was the sugar. I think my mom lied to me about that one.”

Perry, who has the word “Jesus” tattooed on her wrist, admits that her parents channeled God regularly. “Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as ‘Pass the salt.’ It’s a secret, direct prayer language to God,” she explained, adding that her father is the one who can speak in tongues with her mother acting as translator. “That’s their gift,” she said.

So…no “lucky”…no “Deviled eggs”…no problem with speaking in tongues…

And we see this in the New York Daily News:

Katy Perry may be cool with stripping down to her skivvies for Rolling Stone, but the pop star says she takes her religion very seriously.

“I am sensitive to Russell taking the Lord’s name in vain and to Lady Gaga putting a rosary in her mouth,” the pop star, 25, told Rolling Stone about her fiancé Russell Brand’s often dirty mouth and Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” video. “I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen.”

So…sexually revealing stuff is OK…but blasphemy she still has a problem with.

What I have found interesting, outside of the pop-culture news of all of this, is the questions surrounding Katy Perry’s salvation.  Is she going to heaven or hell?  Is she a believer anymore?

Denny Burke, New Testament professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, pulls out some other quotes from the magazine in a blog post:

“It’s surprising to hear Perry talk about God in this way, because one would think her religious past is behind her, but she says she still considers herself a Christian.  She shows me the tattoo of the word JESUS that she got on her wrist, just like her dad. ‘God is very much still a part of my life,’ she says. ‘But the way the details are told in the Bible—that’s very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I say that. But that’s the truth.’

“‘I still believe that Jesus is the son of God… But I also believe in extraterrestrials, and that there are people who are sent from God to be messengers, and all sorts of crazy stuff… Every time I look up, I know that I’m nothing and there’s something way beyond me. I don’t think it’s as simple as heaven and hell.’”

“Perry started to question the path she was on. Her Christian label shut down, and, she says, ‘My gospel career was going nowhere.’ She started to write songs about love—and boys—on her guitar. And those weren’t gospel songs. ‘Letting go was a process,’ she says. ‘Meeting gay people, or Jewish people, and realizing that they were fine was a big part of it. Once I stopped being chaperoned, and realized I had a choice in life, I was like, “Wow, there are a lot of choices.” I began to become a sponge for all that I had missed—the music, the movies. I was as curious as the cat.’”

So…we have more info here.  She still considers herself a Christian, believing Jesus to be the Son of God, she has some doubts about the Bible.  It appears that she had been taught (or at least she learned) that gay people and Jewish people were not “fine.”  (My assumption is that she had been taught that gays and Jews, because of their sinful ways or lack of belief could barely function in this world out of need for the salvation that Christ offers.  But, when she actually met homosexuals and Jewish persons she found they functioned surprisingly well in society and didn’t seem like they were crying out for much assistance anyway).

Burk goes on to say:

The article is as sad as it is revealing. I hope and pray that perhaps there is a flicker of gospel still alive in Perry and that she will heed it soon. Pray for her. The Lord’s arm is not too short to save.

I don’t want to say that Katy’s journey from Christian gospel singer to pop-princess with doubts isn’t troubling.  The comments on Burk’s post read as if her comments should lead us to question her life…is she going to hell or to heaven…is she really a Christian (and many of the comments clearly believe that she’s not.)

I am not alone in thinking this, but perhaps a better course of action, when faced with the questioning (and maybe even rejection, but I’m not willing to say that) of the faith by a teen idol, is to ask how has the church been acting that would lead one down this path.  Because, I don’t think Katy Perry’s path is so very different than a lot of 20 somethings whose Christianity has painted such a picture of the world that it could not stand when their belief came into contact with the world.  Have we made faith into “just” heaven and hell?  Have we gone “Pharisaic” with our faith, making rules about “Deviled Eggs” or “Lucky Charms,” perhaps straining gnats and swallowing camels.
While the two changes of heart are not connected, can we, as a church, learn something from this as well as Anne Rice saying that she believes in Jesus but can’t call herself a Christian anymore?

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” 

Look, I think it’s well worth praying for both Katy and Anne.  Clearly there are issues going on here and many persons who aren’t singers or writers go deal with these issues regularly.  But I think we also need to pray for a church that:

  1. Feels a need to question the salvation of those whose deal with doubts very publicly in the media (and through a very small window into their lives)
  2. Carries itself in such a way that many persons (young persons in particular) reject or question whether the beliefs of the church really are in line with the Gospel image of Jesus Christ.

Look, I’m not sending Katy Perry to heaven or to hell here.   I question why we don’t celebrate the spirituality that she does express and pray for a continued strengthening of her faith…as well as our own.

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