Dear Katy Perry, It’s Time to Come Home

An open letter to Katy Perry and others like her: We want you back.

Dear Katy,

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.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a movie critic. Check out her work on Rotten Tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • Dennis

    Yeah, some good thoughts here. If only her story was unique…I think it has happened lots, just not always with famous people. thanks for your words.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you Dennis. Good to see you on here. I think it’s all too common. In fact, I know quite a few people who fit in that category.

  • mary e nolan

    Thank you Rebecca for helping me put faith, love and acceptance in perspective.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks Mary. That’s high praise.

  • Tami

    Well said. Having grown up in that culture, I strive to make sure my children understand that importance of focusing on their relationship with God, not on man-made decreed by a church.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks Tami. Any time we make it formulaic, we get it wrong, I’m thinking.

  • Tara

    I’d never heard of Katy Perry before reading this (which I assume means I live in that weird Jesus bubble). Still, this letter is beautiful. I’m going to read it with my 14-year-old (who has, no doubt, heard of Ms. Perry) and save it to read with my boys when they are older. Wonderful, wonderful.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Tara: She’s the number 3 top music artist for 2011. Sells like hotcakes. Partly because, I think, her songs are about hotcakes, if you catch my drift.

  • Elia@conservamom

    Wonderful letter,so well put!! Having little ones we are really trying to protect them from what is out there and unfortunately it’s a hard balance. All we can do is pray and ask God to help guide us. Thank you for posting this!

    • Rebecca Cusey

      It is a hard balance, I agree. Thanks for the comment.

  • Stefne Miller

    I love, love, love this post! Did I mention I love it?
    I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Not just to Katy but to girls/women in general.
    I write novels for Young Adult Christian girls and I write from the very same spot you wrote this post from. Do you mind if I share this link on my website and my Facbook page? I would love my readers to read this!

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you Stefne. Please share at will.

  • Anna

    While I also wish she would “go home to her husband and make it work”, I would point out that it is he that is divorcing her. A nice sentiment, but since we don’t know the reason for the divorce, perhaps it is for the best.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      True, and a very generous caveat to make.

    • Allison

      I do have to point out that they have declared publicly that Katy asked Russell to file the divorce papers so as to not upset her Christian parents too terribly. Not saying I don’t agree with this post, I do, it’s just a bit more complex than that. From media portrayal, she wanted the divorce but didn’t want it in her name.

    • Jane Ellen Smith

      You have written an insightful article, but I agree with others that divorce is more complex. I’m going through a divorce that I didn’t ask for, still don’t want, but will be final in April. Thirty one years, then he decides that he doesn’t want to be married anymore. The elders of my church have tried counseling him, but he is not interested in reconciliation. Their counsel to me has been to protect myself and my children by getting a lawyer who will guide me through the process. So you see, even between 2 Christians, divorce is complex. In Miss Perry’s case, her first rebellion was choosing to marry a non-Christian whose personal life (as read in media) is despicable.

  • Pam

    While I think I see where you are coming from….there are many of us who would have loved nothing more than to have had the marriage where BOTH people were willing to work on the problems through a God-centered relationship. However, speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that had I gone back to my husband to “make it work” I would be dead, and my daughter would be either dead along with me or severely injured physically and/or emotionally. And as one of the previous posts states, it is her husband who is requesting the divorce, not her. So unless we have walked in another’s shoes, should we really be saying what that other person should be doing in something as personal/life altering as a marriage/divorce? Again, I think I understand where you are coming from, and understand, but there are reasons that some things have to come to an end. Divorce did not come lightly for me…..but years of emotional abuse and finally physical abuse….I don’t believe my God expected me to “work it out.”. I believe He expected me to shield and protect my daughter as He was shielding and protecting me. And i did not marry a non-believer, but a man who boldly lied about his faith. I am now in my 13th year of post-divorce and am a single mom to a 14 year old daughter, and daily rely on God to help us make it through very day. He does and will continue to do so.

  • Jackie F

    @Pam: I don’t think Rebecca was throwing stones at anybody who has gone through the horror of having to leave the man who promised to honor and cherish you… Til death do you part. More than a few of us have been there….. We obviously don’t know the dirty little details…. Maybe he’s divorcing her because she wanted to have children right away & wanted to be part of something bigger than herself… Could be.

    I think she was saying we have ALL questioned our faith & by the grace of God Himself, I think a lot of us have also found our way back home. I am certainly not a pious person – far from it. My sense of humor gets me in trouble more often than I’d like to admit, my language at times can make a sailor blush, I lose my temper, I don’t always make it to church on Sunday. But I do know that there is a God above that I can talk to – He accepts me with all of my faults and questions. I think what Rebecca is saying Ms. Perry may be thinking is that maybe she CAN’T come back…. Was she brought up in a place that rejected her? Possibly. The point is – ANYBODY can open their arms back up and welcome our Lord back into them. All you have to do is ask. And she’s inviting Ms. Perry to do just that.

  • Rebecca Cusey

    @Pam I am sorry for the heartbreak in your life too. I think we (and by that I mean Evangelicals in general) oversimplify love and marriage. We often reduce it to a math equation, a list, when it’s really art and music and hard work and a bit of luck.

    I am not condemning divorce and I certainly think the only thing to do in abusive situations is to sever the relationship and the abuse. Good for you for being strong.

    But I also know that love is a real thing and it is a great tragedy when you can’t be with the one you love, for reasons like he’s abusive or he leaves you or he’s a drug addict or severe mental illness or whatever the case may be. Sometimes it’s necessary, but in my view, it’s always tragic.

    We do not know the details of the Brand/Perry marriage, it’s true, and I was making some assumptions. However, I think it’s nearly universally true that people have a better chance for happiness in making something work than in walking away. Sometimes you can’t, but that makes unhappiness in itself.

    Clear as mud, right? Sort of like human nature. :)

  • Jackie F

    Absolutely Rebecca… Divirce is sometimes necessary, sometimes frivolous – ALWAYS tragic…..

    And at Pam – you did the right thing & I know you haven’t doubted that from the moment you picked up your baby girl and ran out the door…. My Granny used to say you have to pray AND watch….. The Lord gives us the message when it’s time to go – and you heard it loud and clear!!! You didn’t wait for it to change on its own :)

  • Pam

    And very sad that sometimes during the process of the situation we do lose some very valuable beliefs. I believe in the love of God, I believe in the love of a parent for a child…Other types of love, gone in my mind. Don’t see it ever coming back.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Yeah. I get that. Blessings to you.

  • Jackie F

    Oh sweet Pam….. That makes me so sad for you…. I hope you can find a place where you can love and receive love again….. I truly pray for peace in your heart. Your day will come.

  • BL

    This post came to my attention this morning via a Sixseeds email. The SixSeeds headline (like the blog) encourages Ms. Perry to “come home” to both her husband and to the church.

    In light of the recent reports (published after this piece was written) about what her father has been preaching at her church (see link below), I would ask you to please consider refining the wording of the blog and the headline. Hopefully Ms. Perry can find her faith with a preacher and church that is far closer to god.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I saw that this morning too. I know little about his theology, but what is being reported in the press is troubling. I’m concerned about his comments about Jewish people, which are completely inappropriate if reported accurately, but also about what appears to be a “health and wealth” gospel. Christianity has its problems, to be sure, but I’d still urge Ms. Perry to come home to it.

  • ariel

    ok so….don’t know this from experience- just took 3 years of french….& hate when things are mispelled. ;-) but isn’t it ‘menage et trois’ not ‘manage a trois’. good article though.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I wasn’t sure when I wrote it, so I looked it up on the interweb. Apparently the interweb spells it wrong a lot because you’re absolutely right. That’s what I get for trusting the interweb. In related news: do NOT google “ménage a trois!”

      Thanks for the catch!

      • Jane Ellen Smith

        I suppose if one were in a menage a trois, one would need to manage a trois, after all.

  • Wendy

    I’m not a great speller and I’m lucky I was able to pass my college French class, but I believe Merriam Webster Online uses “ménage à trios.”

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I took Spanish and Russian and I don’t know how to spell it in those languages either! Thanks for the definitive word.