Singer Kesha just released her first song in four years. It’s called “Praying,” and it’s ostensibly about her relationship with former producer Dr. Luke, a man she claims sexually assaulted her. The lyrics never mention him but the implication is there.
Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things, only God can forgive
But while the video includes all sorts of Christian imagery, the message throughout the song is that Kesha isn’t relying on the traditional Christian God for any change. If God exists, she suggests, He’s more of a pantheistic one, who exists all around us in nature and space… whatever the hell that means. (If God is everything, then God really isn’t anything.)
She questions God right in the spoken word introduction to the song in a way that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever had religious doubts.
Am I dead? Or is this one of those dreams? Those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever? If I am alive, why? If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known? I’ve ever loved? Stranded. What is the lesson? What is the point? God, give me a sign, or I have to give up. I can’t do this anymore. Please just let me die. Being alive hurts too much.
In an essay she wrote for Lenny, Kesha makes even more explicit that the Higher Power she believes in isn’t one that any traditional church talks about.
For me, God is not a bearded man sitting in the clouds or a judgmental, homophobic tyrant waiting to send everyone to eternal damnation. God is nature and space and energy and the universe. My own interpretation of spirituality isn’t important, because we all have our own. What matters is that I have something greater than me as an individual that helps bring me peace. This is one of the reasons why I love swimming way, way out into the middle of the ocean and just letting the sea carry my body. It is my greatest form of surrender to the universe, a full-body prayer — or meditation.
There are going to be Christians who say, “That’s fine! I don’t believe in a Bearded Man in the Sky or a judgmental hateful God either!” But Kesha’s must-not-offend-anybody spirituality sounds like she’s firmly in the category of “Nones,” the demographic that includes a few atheists and Agnostics… and a whole bunch of people who believe there’s something out there. They can’t always describe it. They just know there’s something wrong with the God described by most organized religions, even if they’re not quite ready to abandon the concept entirely. So they just fit God into a box where He’s anything and everything they want Him to be.
It’s cafeteria Christianity. Or we can call it the Belief Buffet. Just take the stuff you like and ignore the stuff you don’t. It’s not intellectually rigorous, but it’s comforting to many.
That Jack of All Trades God, she sings, has gotten her through a very difficult time in her life. I prefer to think her own self-reliance and strength were more than enough. No need to look for guidance from above when everything you need is right in front of you.