Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga: What They Have in Common, and Why (Hallelujah!) They’re Both Right

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[Update: Just to be clear---because there seems to be some misunderstanding about this, for which I'm happy to take full responsibility---this piece is in no way meant as a commentary on either the political message of Sarah Palin, or the music of Lady Gaga. It's simply a look at what I believe to be the primary reason for their phenomenal appeal. Thanks! Love.]

To those on the left, a person inspired by Sarah Palin is like a person who rushes to pick up a road apple dropped by an oblivious, preening parade horse, takes a giant bite out of it, and cries out, “Oh, yummers!”

To those on the right, a person inspired by Lady Gaga is like a crackhead in a hot air balloon: at best aimlessly floating, and certainly headed for a crash.

For anyone who is or aspires to be a spiritual leader, there is something exceptionally important to learn from both Palin and Gaga. Because though of course their styles of delivery (not to mention their audiences) could hardly be more different, the message each is sending her audience is identical. And that message is the same one delivered by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount.

What Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga are both communicating to their fans is: “Even though the world might care not a whit about you, you are, just as you are, fantastic.”

“No matter how maligned and ignored you are,” they’re saying, “you are special. You’re more than special: you’re awesome. You may not be rich, educated, glamorous, spectacularly talented, particularly disciplined, nagged by ambition, burdened by potential, in control of your destiny, envied, articulate, accomplished, understood, admired, famous, or respected. But, still and forever, you are awesome. You, whom the world has deemed to have nothing, have, in fact, everything.”

That’s a message to which people passionately respond. It’s one that moves product, engenders loyalty, fills stadiums, launches movements. That message is a gift that keeps on giving.

Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the mournful. Blessed are the broken, the sad, the lonely, the hopeless.

The nobodies of today will be the somebodies of tomorrow.

That’s the most impactful, straight-to-the-heart message there is.

Sarah Palin’s appeal isn’t to mainstream America. It’s to people who feel that mainstream America has cast them aside, left them behind, decreed that their values and convictions are superfluous, trite, boring, hopelessly outdated. What people who wonder how anyone can be so stupid as to support Sarah Palin completely miss is that Palin’s message—her brand, as it were—has nothing whatsoever to do with thought, and everything to do with emotion. It may be true that Palin is ignorant of history, geography, current events, the purpose of a dictionary. And to those inspired by her affirmation of their private, instinctive convictions about their own lives, those things are no more relevant than would be news of Harvard University changing the font on its diplomas.

The slogan for the website Women for Sarah Palin says it all: “I Am Sarah Palin.” Immediately following that most visceral of proclamations, the site reads, “Stop getting your news through the perverse, degenerate prism of the leftopathic corrupt media. Sign up for Sarah Palin’s facebook page here.”

Forget the news; the news doesn’t matter. What matters is identifying with Sarah. What matters is being Sarah’s friend.

For her part, Lady Gaga is also reaching out to those who look out at the world and see no one famous or powerful who looks or feels the way they do. Though on the opposite side of the social-cultural spectrum from Sarah Palin’s, Lady Gaga’s audience also consists of people who understand themselves as maligned, shunned, passed over, and ignored.

They’re freaks, misfits, outcasts. No one’s listening to them. No one really cares about their existence. They have no power.

And there’s Lady Gaga, nailing it with just her name. Being as outrageous as possible. Tickling and affirming her fans by calling them “little monsters.” Boldly being on the outside what on the inside they’ve for so long known themselves to be.

Lady G. is telling her audience the same thing that Sarah Palin tells hers: that they’re perfect, just as they are. That it’s not just okay, but righteous to be something that the establishment doesn’t consider normal, that’s beyond the pale of the mainstream, that by all pronounced and supported standards is absurdly subpar. That their values are exciting, admirable, and honorable—no matter what society at large tells them.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” said Jesus on the Mount. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you… .”

And bingo: you’re not just invited to the party. You are the party.

Anyone who cares about the well-being of others should take a lesson from Palin and Gaga, which is that the most important, affective, salient thing you can communicate to another is that they are, just as they are, fantastic. That they don’t need to change in order to be worthy; that they are worthy. I think Christians in particular need to be sensible of the value of this message. Because so often the message Christians lead with isn’t, “You’re awesome; I love you.” It’s “You’re broken; you need to be fixed.”

I know how hard it can be for the Christian to not believe that the non-Christian is, in fact, broken, that they do need to be fixed. And if as a Christian you cannot imagine being inspired or guided in how you engage with others by the likes of a Sarah Palin or Lady Gaga, then cut straight to the model of Jesus Christ himself. Read the most famous part of his Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes. Note that nowhere within them does Jesus say or even suggest that anyone in his audience needs to change anything about themselves in order to become worthy of the kingdom of heaven.

They’re perfect, just as they are.

If you’re a Christian, you probably find the message of absolute affirmation that Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga are sending to their audiences woefully inadequate. And ultimately you may be right about that. But if you really want to be a “follower of Christ,” you could do a whole lot worse than bearing in mind what Palin and Gaga both do as you take your place beside Jesus on the Mount, and, hand in hand with him, first and foremost offer unconditional love, and absolute affirmation.

****

I once also wrote “Five Pros & Cons About Sarah Palin.”

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • http://www.aviewfromtheedge.net/blog Nicole Longstreath

    I have to disagree with you, John. While I think you're right about Gaga's message being, "you're okay the way you are," I believe the message from Sarah Palin is a lot more divisive. Lady Gaga is an entertainer and doesn't claim to be anything else; Palin is a false prophet, a politician who only seeks to rile up her followers against a shared hatred for evil liberals.

    Not so Jesus-like.

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    (The comments program just ate up 90% of my post so I'm going to repost as best I can, leaving out the symbols I originally added for emphasis.)

    If that is their their message, then they are not quite in synch with Christ. There's a world of differencve between feeding an ego and telling a person in physical & emotional pain that healing & reconciliation is still possible.

    The parable of the Prodigal Son is the quintessential redemption story. However, it ends with "It's okay, I forgive you, I still love you" not "Hey, remember the time you took all my hard earned cash and blew it all on hookers & booze? Man, you ROCKED!"

    • Jeanine

      funny

  • Diana A.

    I don't necessarily feel that John is saying that Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga accept people the way Jesus did. Rather, I feel that John is saying that the reason why these people have so many followers is that they feel accepted by Sarah Palin or Lady Gaga the way Jesus's followers felt accepted by him–which is what is contributing to their popularity. He's commenting on the phenomenon–not agreeing with it.

    • Sushi

      I'm with you on that Diana.

      It's about messaging, or perhaps marketing. If your message arises from the desire to make an authentic emotional, connection based on similarities and acceptance, someone is in a better position to accept God's love. If your message is based fear (hell) rules (what you're going to have to change as it says in scripture so and so) or debasing, then you've pretty much lost credibility on the "love" front.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      YES! Exactly. Phew. It's starting to feel like I've entered Bizarro Land. Thanks, Diana, as always.

      • Ace

        Sarah Palin is just one of those topics that's going to make a lot of people start twitching uncontrollably. It's an involuntary reaction, sorry. :P

        • Diana A.

          This too.

      • Diana A.

        Yes, I've been there. Scary place, is it not?

    • vj

      Yes, I think Diana has nailed it completely.

  • Mindy

    Interesting. I will have to process this for awhile. Let me clarify, and see if I understand. You are essentially saying that both of these women are popular and effective in "inspiring" people because they "love them as they are" on a deep, emotional level. They don't (technically) ask their respective flocks to be anybody but exactly who they are. Right?

    I'll grant you that, with a big caveat. And I'll recommend that Palin's success at this be taken as a cautionary tale, so that it can be overcome by those who *actually* live as Jesus would have admired, rather than as a publicity-hungry, egomaniacal fear-monger.

    Here's where I differ from you. Both of these women have ulterior motives. Lady Gaga wants to sell her music and her concerts. She lets her fans know that whoever they are is cool with her, as long as they are enjoying her music. She doesn't cloak her message in layers of anything, and unless I've missed something along the way, she does not invoke some nefarious mystery villian that-shall-not-be-named. Her act is what it is, and while it may include an overall "love yourself as you are" message, it is not a call to action of any kind.

    Palin, OTOH, has ulterior motives that involve politics and power. She wants it. She needs her flock to believe she understands their "marginalized pain." That way, they believe they are marginalized, which keeps them scared, which keeps them malleable, easy to control. AND since she understands them so well, she offers them hope – but only if they do things her way. After all, she made it to the big-time being a regular, little ol' fisherman's wife, right? If she can, so can they. That's not a Jesus-like message, John. Not at all.

    Sarah-bear isn't telling people that THEY are fine they way they are (altho' I grant you that is what they likely hear). Sarah-bear is telling them that their *fear and bigotry* is fine the way it is. That they are justified in feeling marginalized. That they ARE, in fact, suffering reverse discrimination – even when absolutely none of that, NONE of it, is true.

    Their fear and hatred and bigotry is not fine, and no one I know believes Jesus would think so. It is ugly, it is the evil that spews from the mouths of men – as opposed to swear words, as was recently discussed in another comment on another of your thought-provoking posts.

    Their feelings of marginalization are based on NOTHING that resembles reality. Gay people marrying will in no way affect their own marriages, except that they might have to laexplain to their children why Timmy's two very sweet, kind mothers are both going to hell. NOT marginalizing another does not simultaneously marginalize you. Duh!

    Their belief that by granting basic rights to others, their rights will somehow mean less is simply cow-pucky. They are NOT being discriminated against because a different religion is allowed, by the very same laws that protect their right to gather and honor their God, to build a church and gathering place on privately owned land.

    And because the extremists of their religion get lampooned and ridiculed in the "lamestream media," don'tcha know, for their bigotry and hate-spewing rhetoric, they believe they are being persecuted. And she encourages that belief – not a single one of them would know persecution if it bit them on their collective arses.

    She had the gall to stand up and proclaim herself a "mother who raised a soldier." The insinuation, of course, being that her wonderfully effective parenting brought forth the best of patriotism and bravery in her oldest child. Obviously, right, because of our volunteer military and all? Except that her oldest son wound up in military only because he got himself arrested and chose service over jail. Brave and patriotic?? Well, sort of . . . . maybe . . . .

    Lady Gaga has never proclaimed to be anybody but a very eccentric entertainer. She loves her fans, and because she's so off-the-wall, the off-the-wall crowd tends to like her. I like her music. My kids like her music. But we all lost respect for her when she pulled the hypocritical card and got all "leave me alone already!!" at Yankee Stadium, when people had the gall to stare at her and not leave her alone. Ummm, sweetheart? You're wearing nothing but underwear and an unbuttoned jersey. If you want incognito, I've got some fashion suggestions. So we don't look to her for major philosophical guidance, just a good beat for dancing around the house. Her message is good, sure. But she's still best if served as entertainment only.

    I do get your point, John. And I do find it an interesting comparison. But I stop short of agreeing with the "good message" part – because when "who you are" is filled with ignorance and bigotry, no one should be telling you that it's OK.

    • Freya

      I am now a Mindy follower. :)

      • Mindy

        Wow, Freya, I’ve never been followed before! Except by my pug, who then circles me and causes me to trip all over myself every dang time I go toward the kitchen.

        Promise you won’t do that? :)

        Thanks to you and Soulmentor – my existence has been validated for the day!!

    • Soulmentor

      Very eloquent and soooo right on.

    • vj

      I don’t think John was in any way commenting on the *content* of LG and SP’s messages. He was pointing out, as Diana summarized above, that the REASON they both have such large followings is that the people who follow them FEEL validated & worthy. Similarly, the REASON so many people flocked to Jesus was that His message made them FEEL validated & worthy. So John was highlighting the phenomenon of an emotional response, not assigning any value to the message itself.

      It’s human nature to rally around someone who makes you FEEL validated (remember Hitler?), without necessarily analyzing *what* their message is…

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        YES! Thank you, vj.

      • Mindy

        Agreed, vj. I did take a bit of a left-turn with John's post. He is spot on in his analysis of the method of message delivery and its effect. My issue is entirely with motivation, which, I realize now, he was not addressing. But the impact is huge, to me, and worthy of discussion.

        Bizarr-O land is a weird place, but it can be a fun place to muck around now and again and exercise one' brain muscles.

  • Soulmentor

    "…..the message each is sending her audience is identical." "….. first and foremost offer unconditional love, and absolute affirmation."

    To their audiences separately, you are quite correct in your observation but by leaving your focus there, you miss the nuance of the radical difference between the two persons.

    While they equally appeal to their specific audiences, generally, their messages ARE NOT identical. They could hardly be more different. Sarah offers "unconditional love and absolute affirmation" only to her select worthies (which does NOT include gay people and critical thinkers, political Progressives, ad infinitum), whereas Lady G offers it, period, to anyone who wants it. That she gets a very different audience than Sarah says more about the audience than about her. I am reminded of my musical (?!) introduction by a dear friend to Marilyn Manson. His style puts people off causing his message to be missed by many who might otherwise agree with him. Lady G's style puts off the culturally uptight who might discover they agree with her message if they could get past the style. (For what it's worth, I can't stand Manson's style either. He's grotesque, but have you ever actually listened to his message?)

    The nuance you miss, John? It could hardly be more clear. It is the difference between Jesus and the judgmental hypocrites he rebuked. Who do you suspect he'd first choose to have dinner with?

  • Sushi

    An even greater point is that for those of us who find Sarah Palin disingenuous, among other things, – if we love to see her fail, always speak ill of her, live as if we 'hate' her, are we not a step closer to becoming her? In her mind a homosexual, or someone who has an abortion, or a liberal is the enemy. In my mind, I can believe her to be the enemy.

    Hating is easy. Love is hard. Isn't that what Christianity is about?

    • Diana A.

      You just hit it right on the head!

      • Sushi

        Well thank you, Diana.

        If I have indeed hit the nail on the head, do not make the mistake of believing I live like that all the time. It is very difficult. I can be rather sef-righteous when faced with the self-righteous!

        • Diana A.

          Yeah, me too!

    • Mindy

      Great point, Sushi. I'd like to think that I don't "live as if I hate her," because I reallyreallyreally try not to think about her that often. As you said, I do tend to get self-righteous when faced with the self-righteous.

      This is one of those things about Christianity that makes it hard for me to buy into. It's like calling someone judgmental when they call you out for being judgmental. "Don't judge me for judging, OK?!"

      I would not walk up to Sarah Palin, were I to meet her, and slap her. I wouldn't call her names or vandalize her limo or pick on her kids, not even the little ones (I have a feeling the big ones could take me).

      But I would tell her how vehemently I disagree with her, that I find her terribly ingenuous and ultimately divisive and dangerous. I would admit to wanting her to fail, because I believe in my heart of hearts that her failing would be in the best interests of EVERYONE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY. I don't speak ill of her out of spite or meanness, but out of a deeply-held conviction that she is dangerously wrong, that following her is dangerously wrong, that the entire nation and the greater good would suffer if she were to be successful in all she strives to change.

      I understand what you are saying, but I think intent has a lot to do with whether we are becoming like her or not. My intent is sincerely to subscribe to that which makes life better for the most people while inconveniencing the fewest. Her intent, it seems, is to win a popularity contest and take home the biggest prize.

      And I believe there is a difference, and I win.

      So much for humble.

      • Mindy

        Ee gads, I meant "I find her terribly DISingenuous!" So very sorry. Proofreading skills way off today . . .

        • Sushi

          Yes, I totally understand where you are coming from. And you do make a good point as far as intent.

          I am in no way a fan and have never been- of Palin, that is. I'm confounded by her popularity. It's not right, but I've lost respect for people after I've learned they like her, Beck, or those of the same ilk.

          Nonetheless, if God loves me where I am, He must love them where they are. I've no idea what happened in their lives and I can't say that I'd be better than them if I were in their shoes. Such is the saying, "There but for the grace of God go I."

          • Mindy

            Oooh, Sushi, another "hot button" comment. I am an adoptive mom, and as such, have spent a lot of time learning how to be an adoptive parent. I spent a couple of years in some amazing conversations with birthmothers, and at one point, I made that exact comment. Her response stopped me in my tracks and I've never used it again.

            My point was something along the lines of not being judgmental of women who got pregnant before they married, because it could have easily happened to me as well. I meant to say that I felt in no way "superior" to her, which she felt most adoptive mothers did.

            But to her, all that comment meant was that I was somehow more deserving of God's grace than she was.

            She said, "There but for the grace of God? That's what people always say to us. So where I was supposed to be when God was handing out this grace? I believe in Him – what makes you think He like you better?"

            Which, of course, I could not answer. I apologized. I thanked her for pointing out the glaring self-aggrandizement of that statement. I'd never thought of it that way. Basically, I'd never seriously considered her perspective.

            One of the many ways I've learned that empathy goes a helluva long way in building bridges when one actually tries it. :)

          • Sushi

            Excellent point.

            Then, I amend it to say, "If I'd been born under the same circumstances and had the same life, there's no way I can say with any certainty that I would not be just like her.

          • Sushi

            Just reread all of your comments, Mindy. You brought up some extremely good points that I’d not considered. Thank you.

          • Mindy

            As did you, Sushi. Thank ya back.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

        It's amazing how this comment, Mindy, reaffirms John's point so, so strongly. Philosophically speaking, the message itself is not divisive; rather, it is the perceived intent of the messenger. Those in agreement with the perceived intent of the messenger are 100%, all-in, while those who disagree with the perceived intent of the messenger are pretty much 100% opposed.

        • Mindy

          Yup. you are correct, Ric. Which makes someone who is disingenuous even more scary and dangerous.

          When one purports to be all about the greater good even though one is really in it all for one's self interests, but one is so skilled at message deliver as to hide that fact well from those who want to believe the message, one is very, seriously a danger to be careful deconstructed at every opportunity.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

            Your comments (concerning Palin) provide remarkable insight into the hearts of those who oppose Jesus/Christianity/Christians/the Church.

          • Diana A.

            In what way?

          • Sushi

            Ooooh. Very interesting take. Unfortunately I must not be insightful enough to understand this without a little help. Would you mind expounding on this Ric? Thanks.

          • Mindy

            Huh? I'm sorry, Ric, I don't follow. And FWIW, I don't oppose Jesus, or Christians. I oppose self-serving, hypocritical and judgmental Christians, but then I oppose self-serving, hypocritical and judgmental Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, atheists . . . those particular qualities are qualities I just sort of oppose universally. I am not, admittedly, a huge fan of organized religion – but I am a fan of Jesus and his lifestyle and teachings, of the wonderful charity work done by many Christian organizations, and lots of Christian people, including John Shore, many of the regular posters here, my sister, her family and friends, and many, many of my close friends in real life. And I'm a fan of humanism and spirituality all rolled up together.

            Honestly, though, I'm not following your train of thought here. Can you elaborate?

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

            Mindy (and Diana A. and Sushi),

            Sorry. First off, I did not and do not mean to imply anything about what or who you oppose or support. But philosophically speaking (again)… the message of all three is the same (John's point) and the response to all three is the same (my point). One is all in or opposed. There are few (very few) in between. The reasons you state for opposing Palin echo reasons for opposition to Christ.

            Take, for example, an edited paragraph from your one comment and imagine someone speaking from a position of opposition at around 33 AD:

            But I would tell [him] how vehemently I disagree with [him], that I find [him] terribly [dis]ingenuous and ultimately divisive and dangerous. I would admit to wanting [him] to fail, because I believe in my heart of hearts that [his] failing would be in the best interests of EVERYONE ELSE IN [Israel]. I don’t speak ill of [him] out of spite or meanness, but out of a deeply-held conviction that [he] is dangerously wrong, that following [him] is dangerously wrong, that the entire nation and the greater good would suffer if [he] were to be successful in all [he] strives to change.

            Your follow-up comment echos the nonbeliever's view of Christ/Christianity:

            When one purports to be all about the greater good even though one is really in it all for one’s self interests, but one is so skilled at message deliver[y] as to hide that fact well from those who want to believe the message, one is very, seriously a danger to be careful deconstructed at every opportunity.

            So, without intending it (obviously), your response to Palin provides remarkable insight into the thoughts and convictions of those opposing Jesus. The kick-in-the-gut is they see the Jesus we collectively present as disingenuous. The message is beautiful. The messenger (that would be us) is dismissed.

            (And just for the record, I think we are on the same page with both Palin and Jesus. I don't know if we agree on Gaga and that's okay.)

          • Ace

            *blink*

            ….

            ….Did you just compare Sarah Palin's "message" to the Gospel of Jesus?

          • Mindy

            Unable to reply directly to Ric, as we're down to that dreaded 6th degree of separation from the original message.

            Wow, Ric. I had no intention of providing insight into the minds of non-believers, and that you said so means that you missed my point entirely.

            I believe Jesus was completely genuine. I have issues with him being the actual son of God – that whole thing is a bit too magical for me. But I believe he was a great man, a prophet, if you will, who was delivering a very genuine message of compassion and commitment to a greater good. The writers of the bible say it was a commitment to God, which is possible but open to debate. But the overall message was one of being good to one's fellow man, living a life based on generosity, compassion and empathy. I'm all over that message.

            And in no way do I see that as similar to Sarah Palin, nor do I think most non-believers do. Most non-believers with whom I've spoken or interacted acknowledge that Jesus was a real person and a good man. It's the magical stuff they have trouble buying into. But I'd wager just about anything that very, very few of them would compare him to Palin, or the message to Palin's.

            She is, as I've said many times, in it for her. For the wealth and the attention and the power. Jesus was not, and I can't imagine anyone accusing him of that. So I'm still baffled by your comparison, even though we may be on the same page in our sentiments about her.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

            Yeah, John.

            (I'll be back.)

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

            So just to reset, John is pointing out what appears to be a (one) similar message being sent from Palin, Gaga, and Jesus (specifically in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount). Neither he nor I (nor anyone I've met) is making any other comparison. As part of that point, the passionate response of their respective followers is then better understood… from this John challenges us (Christians) to learn something valuable.

            I added that there is reinforcement of John's point in the passionate response of their respective opposers as well. That the reason for opposing is not so much to do with the message but to do with the perceived motive of the messenger.

            I've not commented on your response to Palin. I get it. I just have not commented on it. That is (in my book) politics (poly-ticks?) and politics isn't my cup-o-tea. Besides this post is not really about politics or whether I agree with Palin or love Gaga.

            The things you point out about Jesus beyond the message of the beatitudes is indeed very dissimilar from Palin. And from me. And from, well, everyone. No one is making that claim.

  • Diana A.

    This is an interesting take on the Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin phenomenons. Thank you for sharing this.

  • mm

    “Forget the news; the news doesn’t matter. What matters is identifying with Sarah. What matters is being Sarah’s friend. You are Sarah Palin.”

    So following Sarah Palin is actually a lot like being in fight club? Interesting, never thought of it that way.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      The key difference being that members of Fight Club don't talk about Fight Club…

      • Mindy

        Is that the first rule, or the second rule?

        ;->

        • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

          I'm not allowed to say.

          • Mindy

            I actually did just laugh out loud. I was being all serious and philosophical, then this popped up.

            Thank you. The other members, whom I know you can't identify, would be proud.

          • vj

            Me too! I’m just about crying into my muesli! Awesome thread!! :-)

  • Ace

    They both manipulate and play on their audience’s collective emotions to sell them something – in Gaga’s case, music (I’d say records, but I guess mp3s are what kids like these days) and in Palin’s case, her political platform.

    I don’t think I’m quite comfortable comparing Jesus’ beatitudes to a commercial or political sales-pitch though.

    I do think there’s one HUGE difference you are overlooking – Jesus offers salvation freely to any who choose to accept Him. Prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners of all stripes, the whole lot of them. And He doesn’t offer a fantasy world or tell lies and half-truths to do it.

    In comparison, Lady Gaga charges a ticket price to her show, and as for Sarah Palin, you’re only welcome to her tea party if you agree to her political ideals (and maybe donate a few bucks to the campaign funds of the candidates she endorses). Neither of them truly tell their audience they are “perfect just as you are” – you still have to conform to *their* ideals to be welcomed to the table, even if those ideals are different to the most common. You wouldn’t fit in at a Lady Gaga concert in a plaid shirt and old blue jeans and you’d probably be shown the door at a Sarah Palin rally if you showed up with a “vote for Obama” sticker still on your car bumper.

    I do get your overall point though, that Christians need to be less condemning of others and more welcoming, but the metaphor kinda falls apart upon scrutiny. :

    • Richard Lubbers

      I agree. Palin and Gaga have learned that appealing to the basic need of people to be accepted and loved gets them what they want. It’s the psychology of success.

      Jesus wasn’t working to fill auditoriums, sell music or win political office. But men and women have done all three in His name since.

      I can imagine Sarah Palin saying to the man with the Obama bumper sticker, “Go and sin no more.”

  • Argy-bargy

    “Because so often the message Christians lead with isn’t, ‘You’re awesome; I love you.’ It’s ‘You’re broken; you need to be fixed.’”

    Although the messages should be substituted, it isn’t just the “message Christians lead with” but the message *Christianity* leads with. We are broken…we do need to get fixed. And at just the same time, Jesus said (paraphrasing), “But the Father loves your anyway.” However, Christianity all too often (overwhelmingly so) focuses on the “you’re broken, and boy do I have the handy-dandy process to fix you, in just a few easy steps!”

    I’m sorry. From everything I’ve seen, Christianity is what’s broken (not the concept of the Christ or His message).

    But John, I do take exception to the idea that the Terrible Twins (Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin) are saying “Even though the world might care not a whit about you, you are, just as you are, fantastic.” The qualifier for them is always, “you’re fantastic as long as you’re like me.”

    • Mindy

      Argy-bargy said, <>

      Or, the qualifier is: “You’re fantastic as long as you like me.”

      • Argy-bargy

        Ah, true, true. That also works….

  • Mindy

    Have to add a quick PS – my point about bringing Palin’s soldier son was to point out her self-serving hypocrisy. She raised a kid who got arrested. That doesn’t make her a bad mother; kids make mistakes and, hopefully, he’ll turn out to be a decent man. But she took credit for his soldiering in front of crowd, and it irked me. Maybe because my baby nephew, who grew up way too fast and is suddenly old enough to enlist, just did so, out of volunteerism and a sense of duty. My sister, who is the kind of Christian who would undoubtedly make Jesus smile, DID raise a soldier. And I resent Sarah Palin for trying to put herself on the same level as my generous, compassionate, good-hearted sister.

  • JAy.

    “Because so often the message Christians lead with isn’t, ‘You’re awesome; I love you.’ It’s ‘You’re broken; you need to be fixed.’”

    But, really, Jesus’ message was “You’re broken, and I love you, and you are welcome here.” I don’t recall Jesus calling anyone “awesome,” and if that phrase was addressed to me, I would outright reject whatever else that person had to say. I am not awesome; I am a sinner. I am also loved and welcomed by Jesus.

    I pray that I can do the same for those I encounter daily, regardless of their level of brokenness.

  • Freya

    We are ALL broken, people! But you are AWESOME and I LOVE YOU!!!

  • http://joechianakas.wordpress.com joechianakas

    I appreciate that you are able to view both controversial figures from a positive perspective. Your metaphor is interesting, but I’d like to extend the metaphor not just to those who follow Gaga and Palin but (perhaps) more importantly to how Gaga and Palin treat their opponents– specifically in terms of how they encourage their followers to protest and how their followers actually protest. If we want to examine the quality of leadership, after all, shouldn’t we examine the actions of their followers?

    Gaga has spoken up about major issues such as gay rights and immigration reform. Highlights from her concerts have made national news, particularly when the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside of her St. Louis show this summer and when she spoke about Arizona’s immigration law during a concert in Arizona, one which other artists encouraged her to cancel because of Arizona’s law. On both accounts, Gaga responded with powerful rhetoric but most importantly told her fans to “protest peacefully.” She emphasized not giving up, not resorting to violence, and to instead celebrate through music and life. She speaks out against her opponents, but she reminds her followers to be peaceful and loving.

    On the other hand, Palin sends out tweets like “Don’t retreat. Reload.” She tweeted such a comment when Obama won health care reform and put a map of gun targets on her Facebook page targeting Dems who voted for HCR. She tweeted the same message to Dr. Laura, after Dr. Laura repeatedly used the N-word on her talk show and was criticized for the language. Her followers show up comparing Obama to Hitler and Democrats to evil socialists. Her followers proudly wear t-shirts and make signs with racist and disrespectful elements. And Palin does nothing about it.

    So- you have Gaga, who encourages her followers to protest peacefully and avoid disrespectful methods of protest. And then you have Palin, who uses “loaded” language (pun intended) and does little to nothing to discourage the disrespectful rhetoric and protests of her followers.

    Yes, they both speak out to specific audiences and make those audiences feel welcome, but if we really want to judge the content of a “leader” then we must look at how they deal with their opponents, how they encourage their supporters to fight, and how the supporters actually fight. The actions of one’s supporters say more than the words of the “leader.”

    • Mindy

      Joe, thank you for this comment; I did not know this about Lady Gaga, that she spoke up the way she does on political topics. Good to hear that a young star is doing that, and good to hear that she encourages peace.

      Secondly – your analysis is spot on – and I think dovetails with the point I was trying to make in my ramble above about motives and intent. Palin encourages her followers/supporters to “reload,” etc. precisely out of her motivation for more power and more political muscle.

    • ManimalX

      @ joe

      So… when did Palin encourage her "followers" to protest violently? When did she encourage anyone to wear racist or disrespectful t-shirts? When was that again? Oh, right. Never.

      To the tune of "Turn, Turn, Turn":

      "Everything Palin says, spin, spin, spin! / Even if she is right, spin, spin spin! / And distort every soundbite / under heaven"

      The bottom line is both encourage their "followers" to oppose their "opponents," in nearly the same way, and both do exactly what John Shore was writing about: affirming their "followers" as "good enough, smart enough, and doggonnit, people like them."

      Step away from your anger and bias, and treat both of your subjects fairly.

      Palin Derangement Syndrome lives! Zoinks!

      • Mindy

        Palin is all about "reloading." If that isn't violent, I don't know what is. Palin would have the government overthrown by force if she could figure out how to do it on snowmobiles.

        Uh-oh. I've devolved in snarky. Time to shut up now.

        • Diana A.

          That was cold. Funny but cold.

          • Mindy

            Yup. Which is why it was time to shut up.

      • Sushi

        Did Palin ever denounce those who came to tea parties with racist bells and whistles? Made a statement the reflected her desire for them to not fall to that level? Has she ever suggested peaceful protest?

  • http://jfaraday.wordpress.com jfaraday

    IIIIIIIIIIIII’m not so sure about this one, John. I’ll admit, it’s an interesting take on both Palin and Gaga (and I feel about the same about both of them), but I’m not sure that either of them is reflecting, consciously or unconsciously, the message that you’re putting forth.

    But it was an interesting article, and as ever, I appreciate *your* interpretation of Scripture in favor of love and inclusivity.

  • Curt Russell

    No matter how you feel about either of them, they affirm anyone’s right to stand up and be ridiculed for our amusement. Thank you Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga.

    • Diana A.

      There is this–though it’s mean to ridicule anybody. Sometimes hard to resist, though.

      • Sushi

        Especially when some make “ridiculing’ sooooooooooooo easy.

  • ManimalX

    As great as everything in this piece is, and as much as I want to be a yes-nodding bobbIe head, I (of course) have to point out the point with which I disagree. (After all, if all we did was agree with each other around here, you'd have, like, 10-15 responses to your blog updates, tops. Controversy sells print!)

    John, you present the messages of, "You’re awesome; I love you,” and, “You’re broken; you need to be fixed," as being somehow mutually exclusive. They are not!

    In fact, the entire gospel message is EXACTLY Jesus saying this!!! "You're awesome, I love you, you're broken, and you need to be fixed." Yes! That's it! Salvation and sanctification all rolled up into one simple statement.

    It is the cliched saying, "God loves you so much that He accepts you as you are, but He loves you so much that He would never leave you the way He found you!"

    Consider, "You're awesome, I love you," in light of Romans 5:8, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us," and John 3:16.

    Consider, "You're broken, and you need to be fixed," in light of Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," or Romans 6:22, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."

    God saves, and then begins restoration (aka "sanctification")

    It's like the guy who loves old hot rods. When he comes across the rusty old GTO in the junkyard, he loves it and buys it immediately. And then? Does he proudly display the rust bucket in his driveway for the rest of his life? No! He begins restoring, repairing, renewing, replacing, and polishing. He removes the corruption that has decayed the thing he loves, restoring it to the condition in which it was originally declared "very good!"

    :)

    • Diana A.

      Thank you, Manimal X. The "hot rod" analogy is just about perfect. You really hit the nail on the head with that one.

    • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

      Actually, the hot-rod analogy is very good, as Diana A says. We are the rusty hot-rod. Loved by the hot-rod lover. He changes us. We will not clean ourselves up.

      However, often the Christian world is guilty of demanding that the hot-rod go clean him/her-self up. We are quick to take on the role of God in judging the condition of the other hot-rods. We are slow and often absent in taking on the more difficult role of loving them (the widows and orphans for instance).

      • Diana A.

        Yes Ric, what you have said is very true as well.

      • Mindy

        Excellent point, Ric. I loved the hot-rod analogy as well – it makes great sense. Except for the lack of self-reflection by said inanimate objects. The metaphor breaks down a bit at that point.

        Question for you – and maybe this just shows my biblical illiteracy – how, exactly, do widows and orphans equate to broken-down hot rods?

        I don't get that.

        Perhaps I am too close to the situation . . . as I am the proud mother of two "former orphans" (funny, I don't think of them like that until I read something like your comment) who were not then, and certainly aren't now, broken down or rusty in any way. They are amazing – people I am blessed beyond measure to know, let alone parent!

        lucky me. . . .

        • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

          In ManimalX's analogy, we are either the broken down hot-rods or we are the hot-rod lover who has the power to make all hot-rods new. There were no other characters in his analogy. Jesus uses sheep, gold coins, branches, etc… In the end, they are simply analogies.

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    It’s been inferred that I am a “little monster” this week, but it wasn’t by Lady Gaga. So what does that make me, John Shore? Where do I fit in? Or am I like Kwai Chang Caine on that incredible 70s show Kung Fu.

  • Richard Lubbers

    This one’s a hit, John! Way to go.

    As always, excellent food for thought.

  • Tim

    God loves us and sees us as awesome, fantastic, just as we are. But like any good parent, God focuses on our potential instead of our impotence. Like any good parent, it's God's work to bring that potential out from among the impotence. "He who began a good work will bring it to completion" Phillipians 1:6

    I haven't read through the responses, so forgive me for reiterating someone else's point. But if that affirmation is what Christianity leads with, why would anyone bother examining the claims of Christ's gospel? If we are already so awesome and fantastic, what is there to be redeemed from? Or better yet, why would any of us be ignored, maligned, or rejected in the first place if everyone is so awesome and fantastic?

    The challenge of abating the I'm OK and You're Not, mindset, is to focus on the potential of people instead of the impotence. Something we so easily fail to do. Philippians 4:8"…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things." (NIV)

  • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

    I'm not done reading the comments but, John, this is phenomenally well-written. And just the point my husband (or someone– jk it was him) and I were discussing yesterday.

    "It's His kindness that draws us to repentance" anyway. Nothing else mattered to me but being loved by God.

    And people who were willing to love me were a bridge to Him.

    I cringe when I think of some of the times I've failed to be this for others…

    Thank you, not just for the message, but the good read. :)

    Good writing will always be appreciated. I've told my students this repeatedly.

    Great writing will be celebrated

    even when people don't understand why.

    But this: the rhythm, the word choice, the easy accidents of language are just so NICE to read. This is me throwing a little party!

  • http://www.pilgrim-platform.org Phillip Ross

    John, sorry for coming to the party so late. It would take a long time to comment on the comments to your post. So, I’m not going to do that. But I simply must speak to your central point, which is that Jesus’ message was:

    “Even though the world might care not a whit about you, you are, just as you are, fantastic.”

    If this is truly what you think Christianity is about, please cite some biblical references for me because it seems to me that this is very much not what Jesus was saying. It is not totally what He was not saying, but only very much what He was not saying. What do I mean?

    Jesus did not treat everyone the same. Why would He? Everyone is not the same. So, trying to treat everyone the same when they are not the same would be unfair and insensitive to their unique personalities.

    The very thing that makes love loving is that we treat those we love differently than we treat other people. Don’t believe me? Try treating your neighbor’s wife like you treat you own and see how she likes it. Even if it doesn’t devolve into sex, she’s not gonna be happy with you.

    Back to my point: Jesus didn’t treat everyone the same. He healed some people, but not everyone. He called twelve disciples, not forty. He got really mad at the Pharisees and called them bad names — to their faces. He walked away from the rich young ruler. Etc.

    Why did Jesus treat people differently? Because they needed different things from Him. Some needed healing, some needed counsel, some needed encouragement, some needed a kick in the butt, and some needed to know that they were going to hell if they didn’t change their ways.

    Jesus discriminated between people. OMG! Isn’t discrimination un-Christian? (Discriminate: “the ability to see or make fine distinctions.”) Well, Jesus not only did it, but He spent a lot of time and energy teaching His disciples how to do it.

    We’ve been fed a lie. Discrimination is not all bad. Oh, it can be bad if it is done poorly. But if people fail to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, true and false, etc. they will live unhappy and unfulfilling lives, and may even find themselves in hell in spite of their professed belief in Christ. Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 7.

    And this is the point that you have missed: Jesus thought that the correct faith of the faithful was awesome good, but that the incorrect ideas of the unfaithful were awesome bad.

    And as for Jesus liking people “just as they are,” well that’s not true, either. Jesus changed everyone He “touched.” If people are okay just as they are, then they don’t need Jesus — oops! There goes the gospel.

    And you blog on Crosswalk? Hmm. Someone’s asleep at the wheel. Or perhaps they have swallowed the lie. An awful lot of people have.

    Jesus was not saying that the “nobodies of today will be the somebodies of tomorrow.” He was saying that the world treats those who cling to their faith as nobodies, but someday those faith clingers would rule the world. You see, not all nobodies are the same. Some nobodies are faithful and some aren’t. And it’s really important to be able to tell the difference.

    You also said that the best thing that we can say to people to motivate them is that they “don’t need to change in order to be worthy; that they are worthy.” While this is the message in many churches today, it is not the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It does motivate people, and big churches can be built with it. But it is not the message of Christianity. If you think it is, cite me a verse or provide a biblical reference. And if your handlers at Crosswalk think it is, we have a bigger problem.

    “Note that nowhere within them does Jesus say or even suggest that anyone in his audience needs to change anything about themselves in order to become worthy of the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 3:8 “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.” That would be change, wouldn’t it? Matthew 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38 “And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” The whole taking up the cross thing usually involves some changes. Matthew 6:31 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed?” This is real basic, do I have to spell this out? Doesn’t Crosswalk read its own bloggers? Or have they lost their ability to discriminate?

    In closing, let me assure you that God loves you so much that He is willing to tell you the truth, even though it will upset you. But don’t worry, your upset doesn’t bother Him. He’s used to it. Over the years, He’s upset a lot of people with His version of the Truth. If you don’t like it, take it up with Him. And please don’t get mad at me. I’m just the delivery guy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You don't interest me enough to rouse in me anger.

  • Alyssa

    Jesus’ message was that we should be accountable to His Father God in all we do and in who we are because we were created by Him in His image. Lady Gaga’s message is that we should be who we are and do what we feel is right for ourselves and only ourselves….where is Jesus in her message? She never expresses being accountable to God or being the person God intended each of us to be. I would have to disagree with the idea that her message is the same as Christ’s…in fact I feel that it represents a very secular perspective in that many people in today’s world who do not know Christ are only accountable to themselves and have an “anything goes” attitude. Be who you want. Act how you want. And be proud. That is what Lady Gaga preaches and that is not my understanding of Christ’s word.


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