In America: Religions and Religion, Catherine Albanese defines ordinary religion as “the religion that is more or less synonymous with culture.” Each culture has its own style of music, and most people would probably consider music a part of their ordinary religion. Furthermore, many religions also use music as a form of worship in their extraordinary religions, or “the religion that helps people to transcend, or move beyond, their everyday culture and concerns.”
Lady Gaga intertwines music as a part of extraordinary and ordinary religions by singing songs that are played on the radio for people of every religion to hear, but she also sings about a Christian God who loves all people. Gaga focuses on painting an image of a God who accepts all sexualities, including lesbians, gays, transgenders, and bisexuals. For example, in her song “Born This Way,” Gaga sings “There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are, ’cause he made you perfect, babe.” These lyrics are a prime example of Gaga’s actions that are angering conservative Christians, who believe that the Bible teaches relationships should be strictly between a man and a woman. Furthermore, Gaga pushes the boundaries of the extraordinary religion that she identifies herself with. In her music video to the song “Judas,” Lady Gaga sexualizes Jesus Christ, bathes with him, and suggests adultery. Again, this video is shockingly offensive to Christians that believe that Jesus was able to die for our sins because he lived a sinless life. The Jesus in Lady Gaga’s music video clearly gives into temptations.
In Idol Worship: The Beatitudes of Gaga, Xarissa Holdaway describes how Lady Gaga has become a sort of idol to people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. Holdaway says, “Her act, living at the intersection of camp’s sheer excess, queer theory’s rejection of heteronormative gender roles, and Christ’s admonishment to love our neighbor and the stranger equally, goes well beyond style and stagecraft.” This is where her music transcends that of ordinary religion into extraordinary religion. Catherine Albanese states that extraordinary religions must have creeds, codes, cultuses, and communities. For Lady Gaga, her creed would be that of all Christians: Get to Heaven. But, Gaga believes in a very accepting God that allows all types of people into Heaven, and that is where her creed speaks to her followers who she labels “monsters.” Next, the creed would simply state “love yourself,” because Lady Gaga believes that is of utmost importance. The code for Gaga’s monsters in this hypothetical religion has looser rules than that of conservative Christianity, as Gaga disregards normal gender roles. Whether or not Gaga’s followers have all of the components required to be considered an extraordinary religion, they certainly have cultuses. Gaga’s concerts give monsters a feeling of freedom in a place where they feel they can truly be themselves because Lady Gaga has given them permission to do so. Lastly, the community in this case consists of those people who see Lady Gaga as their idol. This community centers around her and her openness and acceptance. Whether or not Lady Gaga and her followers can actually be considered an extraordinary religion, this example proves how people today are willing to turn to almost anyone or anything to feel accepted into that community that Albanese mentions.
Lady Gaga and her concerts remind me of the sacramentalism Albanese mentions in her chapter on Catholicism. She says, “A sacrament is a place where a divine world is experienced as breaking into the human one.” Moreover, Roman Catholics believed that any object could become a sacrament and would allow them to experience God’s grace. Gaga’s followers seem to have turned her concerts into a sacrament. In that open environment, people of all kinds are able to experience the grace of God that Lady Gaga sings about.