Like a Prayer

First of all, let me thank my friend P. for even making me seriously consider one of the most epic songs of the 80s, and of my all-time favorites. Madonna is giving a performance in Saint Paul, MN, USA tonight, and there are religious protesters outside Xcel Arena (where the show is being performed):

madonna protesters

(photo courtesy of @patricknathan, all rights are his)

My first thought was something like “‘Like A Prayer’ was published the same year Taylor Swift was born. Don’t these people have better things to do? Wasn’t this controversy resolved in the George *H. W.* Bush administration?” Then I thought about it.

A burning cross will never be an uncontroversial image; the second-most powerful image of an enduring legacy of racism and hatred (you can guess the first, but it’s not an image I will ever show and that I’m disgusted even thinking about). But there are some for whom a burning cross is a shibboleth of sorts, a symbol of a long-simmering hatred that has borne witness in my time to Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott; the list of names goes on, and you know them. That’s just one aspect — a critically important one, but there’s also black Jesus, which I think is what most arouses religious conservatives’ ire about this pop song. The notion of Jesus as a blue-eyed white person, which is eminently false, is engrained in so many white Americans that to question it so brazenly and openly seems heretical. I imagine that that lingering image influenced some protesters.

But the kicker, I imagine, as it usually is, involves sex: Madonna’s assertion of female sexuality (yay), and her sexual… let’s call it “tension” with black Jesus. This, of course, raises a whole host of issues: women’s sexuality (and their right to it), interracial sexual relations, Jesus having any kind of sexuality, etc. Though nothing is consummated, the tension is apparent; there’s also the theological matter of the obvious Mary Magdalene reference, since exploited by Dan Brown and others. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while I can see the sticking points from a strict conservative Catholic perspective, give it up already?

Addendum: there’s also the scene in which black Jesus is violently arrested for a crime committed by white individuals, which seems eerily similar (this was filmed in 1989) to situations in 2015.

~ by Benji on October 8, 2015.

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