An Alabama radio station runs the following ad: “Some people believe in God; I believe in music. Some people pray; I turn up the radio.” When music lovers turn up the radio, what do they hear? The worldview underlying most popular music was on full display at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
While this year’s Grammy Awards featured stellar and occasionally soporific performances by legendary artists (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Chicago), the awards show also featured the obligatory and predictably “provocative” performances of popular artists like Beyoncé and Katy Perry. Although these stars go to extreme lengths (which frequently include extremely limited clothing) to attract attention, audiences are now accustomed to their outlandish acts.
So in order to attract more viewers, Grammy producers engineered an extreme stunt that generated an ample amount of buzz online. After Macklemore performed his ode to LGBT equality, a stale song titled “Same Love,” Queen Latifah presided over a mass wedding ceremony for 34 gay, lesbian, and straight couples. Once Queen Latifah pronounced them man and … wife? … Madonna, who looked like a creepier, more decrepit version of Kane from the Poltergeist films, arrived in order to sing a celebratory verse.
The focal point of the gay marriage ceremony was Macklemore’s track “Same Love,” in which the rapper insists that there is no moral difference between heterosexual and homosexual behavior. Indeed, echoing the common refrain that people are “born this way,” Mary Lambert sings the following chorus, “And I can’t change/ Even if I tried/ Even if I wanted to.” “Live on and be yourself,” Macklemore raps, no matter what is said in a “book written thirty-five-hundred years ago,” i.e. the Bible. The song concludes with Macklemore saying, “Whatever God you believe in/ We come from the same one/ Strip away the fear/ Underneath it’s all the same love.”
Interestingly, Macklemore, who won four Grammy awards including Best New Artist, positions himself as a defender of the voiceless (gays and lesbians) who have had their rights stolen, while at the same time adamantly advocating abortion rights. Either Macklemore is unaware that a baby in the womb is a human being who has a right to life, or he blatantly disregards the welfare of the voiceless whenever it impedes on a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body, as he indicates in this awkward, cringe-worthy ACLU promo. Considering the political views held by the entertainment world’s power brokers, it is likely that Macklemore’s “song with a message,” which served as the anthem for gay equality in Washington State, propelled him to victory in every rap category at the Grammys, proving that the LGBT community is far from voiceless.
Of course, Macklemore is not alone in promoting a “do what thou wilt” ethic. Katy Perry, who was nominated for two Grammy awards and currently has 49 million Twitter followers, performed her latest single, “Dark Horse,” which she says has a “witchy, spell-y kind of black magic-y idea.” In a recent GQ profile, Perry claims to “see everything from a spiritual lens.” Shortly thereafter, she expresses her belief in astrology and aliens. “I do not believe God is an old guy sitting on a throne with a long beard … I don’t believe in heaven and hell as a destination.” Perry, a former Christian singer raised by traveling ministers, has clearly abandoned her faith, opting instead to believe in “a cosmic energy that is bigger than me.” Conveniently for Perry, this New Age-y universal spirit makes no moral demands, leaving her free to do what she pleases.
Since many artists adhere to a relativistic ethic that considers every viewpoint to be morally equivalent, they have little trouble declaring all expressions of love to be the “same love.” Indeed, if all love is the same, if all romantic relationships are equally valid, and if we are not accountable to a transcendent moral law, then we have every reason to pursue our own romantic desires. In a world with no God, there is no objective, universal moral standard. In a world with no God, the goal of life becomes, not the pursuit of God, but the pursuit of record sales, Twitter followers, and ad revenue generated by millions of viewers. By appealing to the most basic human desires, such as the desire for complete autonomy, Macklemore, Katy Perry, and the producers of the Grammys are experiencing tremendous success — by their standards, at least.
Like Sheep We Have Gone Astray, Pursuing Our Own Path (Isaiah 53:6)
Macklemore, Madonna, and Queen Latifah represent a significant part of our culture that is intent on ignoring God’s plan for marriage (the permanent and exclusive union of a man and a woman oriented toward child-rearing). With God’s plan out of the way, they are free to institute their own plan for marriage and family life. The collapse of traditional marriage will be detrimental for society, since countless studies show that children are better off when they are raised by their biological parents. Traditional marriage, supported and incentivized by our government, encourages couples to stay together and raise the children that they produce. But the benefits of traditional marriage matter little to hedonists who refuse to let traditional institutions restrict them from living for the sake of pleasure.
The antics of pop music icons at the Grammy Awards give full expression to the human dilemma: We are as sheep that have gone astray. For “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Each of us has, in at least one instance, prioritized our will over God’s will. Our deliberate evasion of God’s law is the reason for the evil, suffering, and pain felt all too frequently in our daily lives. The breakdown of the family, fueled by no-fault divorce, abortion, and adultery, has led to poverty and the disintegration of strong communities. Still, our iniquities have been laid on Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate punishment for our sins. When will we stop paving our own path instead of following God’s path, which is the only one leading to regeneration and renewal? Many of our favorite pop stars are not free from restraints, as they would like us to believe. In reality, they are in bondage to the sexual and avaricious desires that dictate their every move. We ought to pray for our neighbors who live by a similar philosophy and show them, through our deeds, the fulfillment — and freedom — that is life in Christ.
Our Culture Worships the Creature Rather Than the Creator (Romans 1:25)
Katy Perry claims to be spiritual, yet she doesn’t believe in heaven or hell. The cosmic energy to which she is supposedly devoted is an impersonal, amoral deity, who requires no lifestyle change. By clinging to this kind of cosmic energy, Perry, in the words of Macklemore, can unhesitatingly “live on and be herself.” Perry is not worshiping the Creator, but the creation. Unfortunately for her, all of us are under God’s judgment, and unless we follow Christ, becoming his apprentices and living in accordance with his teaching, we will not be reconciled with God and we will not experience the regeneration that only Christ can give.
The thought of a God who judges probably repels someone like Katy Perry. But the same God who is the judge is also the justifier, the merciful redeemer who has shed his blood for his creation in order that they might have life. After a controversial performance at the American Music Awards, Perry, who dressed up as a Geisha, said, “I was thinking about unconditional love, and I was thinking: Geishas are basically, like, the masters of loving unconditionally.” Why Perry would think that Geishas, who are hired to provide entertainment for wealthy businessmen, are the masters of unconditional love is anyone’s guess. But, in reality, God is the master of unconditional love. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease” (Lamentations 3:22). Jesus came not to judge the world but to save it, and “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).
Our culture — and, as a result, the Grammy Awards — will not be transformed until the Christian proclamation of God’s love (in word and deed, in private and in public) overcomes the messages of postmodernism and secularism that dominate today’s entertainment industry.