Theologian Karl Barth famously observed that a Christian ought to be a student of the world, ‘with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.’
With that in mind, consider the challenge of being a Christ-following media consumer today. If you are forty or less, chances are you spend way more time in front of a screen than ever before. Where once we were defined by the TV shows we watched or the magazines or books we read, now all the different media have merged together into one stream, and it is flowing like a fire hose. Video games are as much like movies as they are past-times. TV is streaming on the Internet, and you can read a newspaper on your phone.
Successful celebrities today are not just musicians, writers, or actors; they are media authors. Recording artists are constantly covered by the tabloids. Movies are video games and then books (or is it the other way around?) Convergence among media forms is here to stay which means if you have a tween in your house these days (and God help you if you do) you are probably more familiar with Katy Perry than you would like to be, and your kids are too.
I got to know Katy Perry while driving a van of 13 year old girls up to Thessalon this summer. If the phrase ‘cupcake bra’ doesn’t mean anything to you then you can count yourself fortunate. If Katy Perry speaks for young girls (ages 11 – 17) then it is probably important to be a discerning media consumer of her music and teach your own kids to do the same. If you have girls ages 11 – 17 in your house and you aren’t helping them make sense of this stuff then they are doing all on their own and who knows what meaning they are coming up with.
The title track of her new album Teenage Dream starts like this:
You think I’m pretty
Without any make-up on
You think I’m funny
When I tell the punch line wrong
I know you get me
So I’ll let my walls come down, down
While it appears like we are describing an unconditional love, the last line describes the exchange that so many girls fall for. Girls give sex to get intimacy and Guys give intimacy to get sex. Once the exchange is complete, only one side of the equation will get what it set out to acquire (the guy). Girls always lose at this exchange. The chorus says,
Let’s go all the way tonight,
No regrets, just love.
We can dance until we die,
You and I,
We’ll be young forever.
Regret is not something you choose. Regret (guilt) is the sound a wounded conscience makes. This whole thing is a lie: you won’t be young forever, guys hate to dance, you will regret.
The point isn’t picking on Katy Perry lyrics (talk about shooting fish in a barrel). The point is more, how do you interpret these lyrics? In what framework do you try to make sense of them?
Barth says we should see the world through a Biblical framework. In other words, read the newspaper, blog, ebook, watch the video clip through the lenses of Scripture. But how do you do that?
The process of seeing the world in light of Scripture takes time and usually comes after you spent some time thinking about it. Hearing this song a half dozen times has given me some time to think about it. On the third or fourth time through I caught this at the end of the second verse
I finally found you,
My missing puzzle piece.
Katy says we are seeking this missing piece, and that part is bang on. But the lie is that you find it in another person. To quote an equally incorrect line from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” A human being is born bent (literally the Hebrew word for wicked is ‘bent’) We are incomplete but it is not another ‘bent’ person that we are seeking. Jesus is the piece we are missing. We each have, what Mathematician / Philosopher, Blaise Pascal called a ‘God shaped hole’ and we are searching for something to fill it … and nothing else will fit! Jesus is purpose that brings completion to our life. Katy knows better.
Before she was Katy Perry, she was Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, daughter of a husband and wife pastoral ministry team. When she was fifteen, with her parent’s blessing she released a solo album of Christian / Worship music which included a song called Piercing
by Katy Hudson
Living in fear is not what you had in mind for me.
But holding to you is so hard,
I cling to what I see.
In a world where my emotions
Seem to rule my every move
They will challenge my devotion
To seek and know the truth
You’re piercing me
This wound will bleed
You’re killing all of my securities
Lord, help me see the reality
That all I’ll ever need is You
Here in this haze, a distant light seems to draw me near
But in the shadow of my doubt
My faith just disappears
The songs she recorded before she was famous are a heart breaking testimony of a lost faith. God wounds the ones He loves but the question is will you ever believe it. Will you ever believe that all you need is Him.
The last line speaks better than perhaps anyone knows. ‘A distant light draws near’ but it isn’t the shadow of doubt that disappears as the light draws near, it is her faith that vanishes.
I am no one’s judge so don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking judgmentally. Never-the-less, the sad thing here is a faith without Jesus as it’s central cause; a Christ-less faith folds, fades, and fails.