On the Church and Society
May 30, 2006
How should one react to the pathetic gyrations of 47-year-old singer Madonna?
The aptly named Material Girl kicked off her summer concert tour of North America and Europe in Los Angeles on May 21. Proving that little has changed since the early 1980s when she first hit the dance and pop charts, Madonna offended the largest religious faith on the globe Christianity.
It wasn't just the S&M-themed outfits or riding a saddle/stripper pole while singing "Like a Virgin," as noted by reviewers. No, that apparently was tame. At one point, she appeared suspended on a cross of mirrors, donning a crown of thorns, to sing "Live to Tell."
Madonna reportedly said that the mock crucifixion, with video screens showing poverty in the developing world, was about AIDs awareness. She was quoted: "I don't think Jesus would be mad at me and the message I'm trying to send. Jesus taught that we should love thy neighbor."
AIDs awareness by offending Christians -- does this make any sense? Of course not, but that's Madonna, who dresses up self-indulgence as a kind of perverted virtue. She has done so throughout her career, with, for example, the music video for "Like a Prayer," seemingly designed to anger Roman Catholics, and that profound bit of post-modernism from the tune "Vogue": "Beauty's where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it." How ... um ... deep?
BBC News recalled recently: "In 1990, the Pope called for a boycott of the Blond Ambition tour, in which Madonna simulated masturbation during "Like a Virgin.'" And don't forget Madonna kissing Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears a few years ago at the MTV Video Music Awards.
But we have always had those who try to shock and titillate. What's amazing is that Madonna has been doing this shtick for nearly a quarter century, and may I add, quite profitably. Her current "Confessions" concert tour, for example, has six sold out shows in Madison Square Garden, and the tour's gross could hit a $200 million record, as noted by the New York Post.
In reality, Madonna's success says a lot more about concertgoers and our culture than about her. USA Today's review of her L.A. kick off spoke approvingly of a "visual orgy," and Rolling Stone pointed out that "the majority of the frenzied throng paid as much as $350 a ticket."
Depending on the report, the L.A. crowd was either upset or did not care at all about Madonna's thorns and cross. I'm guessing few, if any, were offended. After all, no mass exodus from the L.A. Forum was reported. The Los Angeles Daily News reviewer pointed out: "Of course, Maddy has always used Christian imagery to provoke. These days, though, she's no longer the polarizing figure she once was that honor now belongs to Tom Cruise - and the 18,000-strong fans at the Forum didn't raise an eyebrow."
This is the state of much of our culture a kind of frenzied orgy --- and no one should be surprised by the crowd's lack of reaction. With all the anti-Christian sentiment Madonna has spewed over the years, could there really be any devout, traditional Christians counted among her fans? It seems unlikely. Rather, those forking over big bucks to see Madonna bump and grind it presumably agree with her sentiments on some level. That is, assuming they've given such things even a few moments of reflection.
What is truly disturbing is the size and resilience of Madonna's fan base. They are not offended, but instead relish Madonna's antics. If there were no market for her trash, the Material Girl would have re-invented herself, as she supposedly has been adept at doing during her career.
Still, some Christians might be a bit confused. The Los Angeles Forum - the arena where Madonna blatantly mocked Christianity is owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church. On their website, the church declares: "We are uncompromised in our belief that the Bible is God's Word and that His Word is the standard by which we are to measure our every word, thought, and action."
Well, perhaps the Faithful Central Bible Church needs to keep a closer eye on who in fact is using their house of worship to attack and compromise the Christian faith.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.
Copyright © Raymond J. Keating