Thursday, March 5, 2015

Katy Perry's God-Given Freedom

"Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of the world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'?" - Colossians 2:20-21

"I kissed a girl and I liked it." - Katy Perry


I recently came upon this article, When God speaks to Katy Perry. It talked about how Katy Perry posted a bible verse on twitter before her superbowl performance, and also claimed that God spoke to her. The writer says a lot of Christians responded by saying there's no way God would speak to Katy Perry like that, I mean seriously, she's all immoral and satanic and all that. But the writer says, not so fast, aren't we all sinners, and God still loves us and speaks to us.

That's nice, but it's not good enough.

"Because maybe (just maybe) He still speaks to those who are broken and afraid. Maybe God is still a father, and maybe He still likes to encourage. People will say that it is impossible for God to be nice to Katy Perry right before she was about to sing 'I kissed a girl and I liked it' in front of millions of people. But if God refrained from speaking to humans based on the proximity of their next sin, trust me friend, no one would ever get to hear His voice."

In other words, God loves Katy Perry and spoke to her even though she sins. Even though her whole music career and the things she loves are OBVIOUSLY totally full of disgusting sin. Ah, isn't God so nice?

Image source.

First of all, isn't it adorable how Christians always pull out "but we ALL sin!" as an excuse to judge other people. "Yeah so look, you're doing all these things that are CLEARLY not what God wants, but hey, I'm not judging, I sin too! Like, for example, I'm selfish sometimes. Yeah so anyway you pretty much need to change everything about your whole life because seriously everything that you value is a pile of garbage in God's opinion. I mean, we all sin, but come on, at least I'm trying not to."

Yeah, I don't think so.

God loves Katy Perry even though her entire public image is driven by sin? No. I think God is bigger than that.

Because I experience God's love through Katy Perry's music. To me, so many of her songs proclaim freedom, and the bible is clear that God wants us to have freedom.

Perry grew up in a pentecostal/charismatic Christian family. Her parents were pastors, and they seem to be more on the extreme end; this article from 2010 says the use of the word "lucky" was banned in their home because it sounds like "Lucifer," and they couldn't use the term "deviled eggs" either.

It seems that Perry's upbringing was full of restrictions and rules, but she has broken free, and her music celebrates that freedom, even going out of her way to break the rules just because she can.

That's what I see going on in "Dark Horse." After seeing her performance at the 2014 Grammy's, Christians were running around in a frenzy, "oh my it's SATANIC!!!!"

Well, yeah. Of course it was satanic. That was the point. But not because Katy Perry actually worships satan; no, it's because she's lived her whole life in fear of satan, forbidden from even using words that might be vaguely related to the concept of satan, and now she is free from that. She is living in the freedom that Christ gives us. (Though she no longer identifies as Christian, I believe "Dark Horse" gives an amazing picture of what it means to have freedom in Christ.) We don't have to be afraid of that stuff. Everything in that "Dark Horse" video is just pretend, just for fun. And it is so over-the-top, so extremely satanic just to prove that no matter how many fog machines, lines about "so you wanna play with magic", and pole-dancing witches you have, there's nothing to be afraid of.

Make a video that's as satanic as possible, and it's okay! Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And not because "God loves her in spite of that", no, God knows that this is something she has to do as she takes hold of the abundant freedom that God offers.

(To be clear, when I talk about "breaking the rules" and having freedom, I mean the rules that prohibit something because it is "bad" in a vague and unclear, fear-based way. I do not mean it's okay to "break the rules" in ways that are harmful to others.)

Similarly, the song "I Kissed a Girl," one of Perry's first hits, is totally about breaking the rules. Christians seemed to think it was evil because it supported "the homosexual agenda", but... actually it's not really about support for LGB people at all. The message of "I Kissed a Girl" seems to be "oh my goodness, I did this naughty and taboo thing, and it's okay, I liked it." If one truly supports LGB rights, one would not consider two women kissing to be "naughty and taboo", yeah actually it's pretty normal, for lesbian or bisexual women. (If any LGB people would like to weigh in on this, I would appreciate that.)

"I Kissed a Girl" isn't about LGB people; it's about sexual experimentation. It sounds like it's coming from someone who's just starting to question and break the rules. Just starting to realize that the divide between things that are "good" and things that are "bad" isn't as clear as we've been taught.

It's a first step, but such an important step. Definitely keep questioning and breaking rules until you no longer think it's a big deal for two women to kiss. But yes, this is an important step. To say the words "I kissed a girl and I liked it" can be incredibly empowering. That's the freedom Jesus wants us to have- no longer living by the fear-based rules "DO NOT HANDLE! DO NOT TASTE! DO NOT TOUCH!" but by living in a way that values people above rules, which puts loving one's neighbor above any other concern.

One more example: toward the end of Perry's "California Gurls" music video, which appears to have been filmed in Candyland, she attaches cans of whipped cream to her breasts... yeah, so, whipped cream shooting out everywhere.

Again, this says to me, "FREEDOM." Maybe I'm projecting too much of my own experiences onto Katy Perry, but I can imagine that, since she was brought up in conservative Christian culture, she was taught that women need to cover up any part of their body that might maybe "cause" men to think about something sexual. Basically, try to hide the fact that boobs even exist.

And now here she is, as if to say, my body is great, and I have whipped cream coming out of my boobs, deal with it.


Back when I was a Good ChristianTM, I knew that most "secular music" was bad and we weren't allowed to listen to it. They were always singing about sex, apparently, so it was bad. And the music videos, oh definitely not allowed to watch those. All the women were "immodest" and dancing in "suggestive" ways, whatever that meant.

It's a really hard situation that evangelical teenagers find themselves in: we really like "secular music", but we believe it's evil and we must resist listening to it. This issue is so pervasive that it's common for Christian magazines to present look-up tables of Christian bands that are similar to mainstream bands. Oh, you like Rihanna? Well, of course we're not allowed to listen to Rihanna, so here are some Christian singers that sound kind of like her, but probably not as good.

My musical interests were restricted by these rules. I wanted to listen to the popular songs on the radio, because the music sounded fun and exciting, and I couldn't find anything as good in the land of approved Christian music.

But now I'm free from that. Now I believe we don't have to be afraid of that. Now I can listen to the songs, I can watch the videos, I can enjoy it all. (Experience it and enjoy it, but also call out harmful messages that show up in the media we consume. Research and discuss and gain more knowledge, not hide from the world in fear.)

I'm so happy for this God-given freedom, and I think Katy Perry is too. Her music is a celebration of freedom, of loving herself, of being a firework.

And God loves it.


Disclaimer: I obviously don't know Katy Perry's reasons behind her songs. From my point of view, it seems they come from a feeling of incredible freedom, but of course there are also less positive possibilities, like pressure from society for female singers to be sex objects. This is why some actions or choices can be empowering for one person but restrictive for another. I'd like to imagine Katy Perry may have similar experiences and motivations to mine, but, who knows?


  1. You've perfectly articulated how I feel about Katy Perry's music as well. I love it--because I feel free when I listen to it.

  2. It's funny. I have a small plastic Tiki man totem (it's a child's toy from a cereal box) sitting on the dashboard of my car. I keep it there because it has a cute smile that lifts my spirits, because it's friendly and nice to look at.

    I also keep it there because my old church would have proclaimed it a pagan idol, told me I should worry that there might be a demon in it, and questioned my devotion to God because I even had it in my possession, let alone brazenly displaying it in full view of everyone who walked by or rode in my car! I keep it to say, "excuse me, old church, but *raspberry sound*."

    It's very freeing and empowering to have a Tiki man toy on my dashboard. So I really get what you're saying.

  3. Cool~ yeah that's exactly what I'm saying. :)

  4. I have just installed iStripper, so I can watch the best virtual strippers on my taskbar.