Saturday, May 27, 2006

Missing the point again

Madonna opened her new tour this week in Los Angeles and, as usual, used multiple methods of shock and awe to wow the audience, who she knew consisted of more than just the thousands inside the arena.

Apparently, at some point in time, she was raised up on a mirrored cross, reportedly wearing a crown of thorns, as she sang her old ballad "Live To Tell." This stunt, as you might guess, infuriated certain Christian organizations, most notably the Church of England which issued a statement that included these lines:
Why would someone with so much talent seem to feel
the need to promote herself by offending so many people?

The same article quotes David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance:
Madonna's use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous...She should drop it from the tour and people need to find their own means of expressing their disapproval.

At the risk of appearing to defend Madonna, which I'm not, I'd like to take exception at the way in which these (and other) organizations responded. It appears they didn't take the time to investigate, much less understand, the context of the cross scene.

Thanks to a wily concert-goer, you can view footage of the criticized performance, and see that it actually served a higher purpose, a purpose which Madonna can't even live up to. As she sings the ballad, three huge video screens show faces of African children, and tout statistics concerning the plight of children orphaned by parents infected with AIDS. Halfway through, Madonna comes down from the cross, and the screens show flames igniting, interspersed with the faces of children. Words from Matthew 25 appear on the screen, ending with, "What you did for one of my brothers, you did to me."

Taken by itself, the episode is powerful, and it's almost as if by coming down from the cross, Madonna is challenging Christian believers to get off their religious kick long enough to actually do something about the plight of children in Africa.

But the Church doesn't like to hear that, especially from an outsider who's such an easy target. I'm amazed at the failure of many organizations and denominations to perceive that the world is screaming for the Church to be authentic, and to truly start caring for people the way Jesus cared for people. Instead, we sit in our ivory tower of salvation singing "This world is not my home" all the while forgetting that "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son."

Of course, Madonna can't live up to her own presentation. According to, Madonna donated $100,000 to the relief program. While that may seem praiseworthy, keep in mind that her current tour is expected to gross more than $200 million, or 2000 times the amount of her donation.

Still, sometimes the world makes better points than the Church. And sometimes, just sometimes, the Church becomes wise enough to stop being defensive about its sacred symbols and realize that we still have much praying, learning and giving to do.

No comments: