Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"I kissed a girl" and our identity in Christ

Its pretty cool being a parent. There are few dull moments with children around. One such non-boring moment was a few weeks back when a bouncy song was playing on the car radio and the girls were singing along with Katy Perry’s “I kissed a girl and I liked it”. Well, that could be my song, couldn’t it?! Except after quite a long nanosecond I realised it was a girl singing the song. So we talked about that, had a few laughs, and joked about whether lip gloss really does taste nice or not. It is a great song by the way. No wonder it is now No 1 in a few places that matter.

Fast forward to yesterday. I am listening to the car radio again, but this time its our “serious” Radio New Zealand National radio, and Jim Mora raises with his panellists the news that Katy Perry’s parents have denounced the song as shameful and disgusting. Then the plot gets a bit thicker, because when I mentioned this at home I was informed that her parents were Christian pastors, and, like, they did not agree with the lesbian character to the song.

So today I have hunted around on the internet for a bit more information. You can read about it on nearly a zillion news sites, so here is just one which has some nice pics, including one of Mum. But on one site I read this interesting bit of news,

I Kissed a Girl has caused massive controversy in the US with conservative groups claiming it encourages homosexuality among young girls and gay rights groups saying it is exploitative.”

Why would such a “positive” song for celebrating lesbian experience be exploitative? I presume it is because Katy Perry is not a lesbian, so singing as though she is one and making pots of money exploits the experience of genuine lesbians. But the point which most intrigues me here is the strong sense of group identity which lies behind a group claiming it is exploited by a non-member. It is precisely the kind of statement a tribal group makes when (say) a non-tribal person or entity exploits for money some exclusive element in the tribe’s culture.

Now fast forward with me out of this very popular song’s controversy to Anglican Communion troubles. Part of our troubles are through confusion about the question of ‘identity’. On the conservative side I think we generally fail to recognise that although some gay and lesbian people exist in our midst as individuals, and perhaps invisible ones at that, many have taken up a specific tribal identity as (say) ‘members of the gay and lesbian community’. With this identity their situation in respect of the gospel has shifted in their perspective from questions of ‘morality’ to questions of ‘inclusion’. To be gay and lesbian in today’s world has become like being Samoan or Inuit or Welsh. The church does not discriminate against the Welsh or the Inuit or Samoans, so why should it discriminate against gays and lesbians … so the argument goes.

But some recent comments on posts below have underlined for me the converse failure to recognise that Christians who read the whole of Scripture can scarcely deny that the one and only identity which matters for this life and the life to come is our identity ‘in Christ’. Galatians 3:28 offers a vision of the indifference being ‘in Christ’ has in respect of gender, tribe, and class. Philippians offers a vision of the decisive importance in the face of death of a life devoted wholly to Christ and dedicated to knowing Christ while counting all else as rubbish. In the gospels Christ calling us to take up our cross and deny self, losing our life in order to find it, draws us into a life in which we leave behind elements of human identity – our nationality, our family, our achievements, and our ambitions. The anonymous commenter on this site reminds us that those ‘in Christ’ do not seek to be accepted into the church as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ with whatever agenda for living implied by that, but seek only to live by the agenda, or law of Christ.

Now, much more can and should be said. Even those ‘in Christ’ appreciate the ‘identity’ given through marriage and family, for instance. Others would draw attention to the fact that an Indian Christian does not cease to be Indian, nor a Christian woman cease to be a woman, with all that may mean for celebrating being Indian or woman or both. But there is a challenge to be considered: what is our identity as Christians? What element in that identity is more important than any other element? Is there any part of my being which I am unwilling to let go of in order to be found ‘in Christ alone’?

As for Katy Perry and her parents? Maybe they all need to see some light!

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