An open letter to Katy Perry and others like her: We want you back.
I’m genuinely sorry for your sorrow as your husband Russell Brand filed for divorce last week. I’ll admit, the jaded, cynical part of me saw your relationship as a publicity merger. The better part of me, the small idealistic part, was rooting for you and your man. It still does for all celebrity marriages, despite frequent disappointment.
I’m sure that you are experiencing heartbreak right now. The dissolution of a marriage is a kind of death and no amount of money can buy your way out of sadness.
Heartbreak has a way of focusing the mind, I’ve found, so let’s talk.
Hey, I get the whole church-girl-gone-bad thing. Like so many in your generation, you were raised in a certain Christian culture. There were rules. So many rules. There were restrictions. Senseless restrictions. The outside world was scary and evil. And rebellion against the rules was rebellion against God.
Like so many others, you bought in wholeheartedly, didn’t you? You went to youth group and prayed and read your Bible and only had Christian friends. You only listened to Christian music. You tried, really really tried, to be the perfect Christian girl, I’m guessing. Because you had talent and an opportunity, you even became a Contemporary Christian Music artist.
But somewhere, things went sour. Maybe, like others in your generation, you started seeing the complexity of life. Maybe you wondered, as I did, what was wrong with listening to U2, let alone B.o.B. or Rihanna. Perhaps you noticed the superior quality of secular music and it drew you, even as Christian culture shook its finger at you.
Maybe you had a friend, someone who made it through a chink in that big protective wall, who was gay or tried drugs or slept around and didn’t immediately implode in a little puff of sulphuric smoke. Perhaps something shook you: a hungry child, a devastating tsunami, a senseless war, and you couldn’t square that with a God who wanted to cuddle and coddle His children but let the rest suffer.
You had questions. Complex questions.
Sadly, for the most part, Christian popular culture doubled down in the 80s and 90s. The answer to every question was Jesus. No more questions.
I know. I was there too.
You’ve built a name on rebelling against the rigid culture in which you were raised. You kissed a girl. You liked it. You woke up in Vegas. You went streaking in the park, skinny dipping in the dark, and then had menage a trois.
All I see is a little girl standing in the spotlight on stage with one goal: to shock your conservative Christian parents. As with Ke$ha, I turn the radio whenever your songs come on and talk to my daughter about why they bother me so.
“Let’s go all the way tonight. No regrets. Only love.” Aside from being, word for word, the clichéd line a bumbling fifteen year old would use when he wanted to talk a naive girl into hanky-panky, it lacks nuance.
Sex and love cause lots of joy, but also lots of regrets. If it weren’t so, a lot of advice columnists and therapists would be out of jobs.
But your lyrics don’t tell that side. No questions allowed there either.
You’ve become the reverse of what you’ve rebelled against. The flip side of the same coin. No complexity.
Now it’s all led you here: A love that lasted 14 months. Tragedy no less devastating for being so common.
Somewhere between your upbringing and your current persona, there has to be middle ground. There has to be some kind of mature faith that makes room for questions. The church has been wrestling with complexity for millennia. Part of the problem with popular Evangelical Christian culture in the time we were growing up was that it severed itself from those deep roots. Sure, Jesus may be the answer to everything, but sometimes we have to wrestle with God, as Jacob did with an angel, for a few years or decades before we come around to that answer. Sometimes we end up with a limp.
Katy, maybe you and others of your generation are finding that throwing rules to the wind, throwing the baby Jesus out with the bath water, and believing yourself to be a firework end up just as empty and heartbreaking as shallow faith.
I know you don’t want advice from some two-bit blogger who doesn’t know you, but here it is anyway: Go home to your husband and make it work. Not because Jesus values marriage or marriage is sacred or it’s a sin to divorce, all of which may be true, but because love is a real thing and it deserves a second chance. And because your best chance for happiness in this life is making love work.
Secondly, come back to the faith and wrestle the angel. We fellow questioners and wrestlers are waiting for you with open arms.