In 21st century Philippines, there are still medieval forces lurking and attacking the very halls of freedom this country stands for.
I am talking about religious fundamentalism: the kind of religious fanaticism that attacks religious freedom and shoves their own religiosity down people’s throats. And with recent developments such as President Obama’s same-sex marriage stance, and the debate on the Reproductive Health Bill, these medieval forces are once again volting in behind the guise of morality and respect for religious beliefs, to attack the very thing that makes this country liberal.
Its most prominent victim today is Lady Gaga. These medieval forces claim that the Grammy-award winning singer is the epitome of Satanism. From the lyrics to her famous hits, down to her flamboyant, rebellious fashion statements, it all cries foul with pagan and satanic stench. Not to be outdone by their counterparts in South Korea and Indonesia, these forces have also called for a ban on the singer’s “Born This Way” concert at the Mall of Asia Arena this weekend. Their approach may not be medieval at all, with placards and press conferences replacing stones and pitchforks, but the obsolete, if not redundant, ideology that goes with it is still very much potent. It is the same potent ideology that drove a certain “national hero” and “public servant” to issue anti-gay marriage comments when he is supposed to be training for his next fight.
It is the same potent ideology that drove a certain beauty queen to bash the LGBT community on Twitter. It is the same potent ideology that brought hurt and discrimination to the hearts and minds of many innocent gays and lesbians, exterminated suspected witches and wizards in many parts of Europe in the medieval courts of Inquisition, and brought to life notorious criminals like the Ku Klux Klan and Osama bin Laden.
I’m not a big fan of Lady Gaga. Honestly, I don’t buy the flashy, renegade image she’s trying to portray, nor the over-the-top music and performances. Not really my cup of joe. But to portray her as a modern witch out to reap the souls of millions of unsuspecting youths from all over the world through her music and sell it to Mephistopheles or Bahomet (or whatever they’re calling these “demons”), is just as over-the-top as Gaga’s music. These religious groups’ so called “closer” relationship with God neither gives them the right nor the privilege to label anyone’s self-expression as devilish. I hope they realize that what they’re attacking is a serious and passionate artist just wanting to express herself and reiterate the importance of being true to one’s self rather than being pretentious and hiding behind “religious” values one can’t really consistently uphold. It just so happens that the artist involved sees this message as more meaningful and easily understood if expressed in a language and style these medieval forces still find taboo.
Lady Gaga isn’t the only artist who has this ostentatious, almost blasphemous approach to music making. In the past, we had Madonna, Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Nirvana, Metallica to name a few, and yet we didn’t hear from these medieval forces when Madonna or Michael Jackson had their performances in Manila. In fact, we don’t hear from these medieval forces even as indecent shows or pirated child pornography, or even sex abuse by priests still prevail in the nooks and crannies of this “Christian” bastion in Asia. I sense a double standard in their approach to these things. Are artists such as Gaga being singled out because their work just happens to be more popular and appealing to youths than their medieval ideology? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash Christianity or anyone’s religion here. What is medieval here is the absurd belief that you should shove your beliefs down other people’s throats and attack freedom of expression in a very much democratic country.
If they are to justify their ideology behind the twisted technicalities of law, by saying that such artistic works evoke violations such as “indecent show” and “attacks religious beliefs”, then maybe we should publicly stone to death Filipino artists such as Manix Abrera or Mideo Cruz, or perhaps burn copies of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”. Maybe we should also censor or prohibit films such as “The Twilight Saga”, “The Harry Potter Series”, or even “The Chronicles of Narnia” for portraying “characters which offend religious beliefs”. Let’s try that and see if we are no different from Nazi Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. Are these artists and their works really the enemy? Do they turn right away into Satan’s minions by simply exhausting their creative juices and artistic license? These artists are normal human beings too, with decent, noble lives behind the glitz and the glamour. I’d bet that if we let these medieval forces have their way, we’ll be losing all of our greatest artists in no time and pave the way for even greater international condemnation for human rights abuses.
We’re not Khomeini’s Iran or Taliban’s Afghanistan; we’re a democratic country which ensures everyone’s right to freedom of expression, and free exercise of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, whatever that religion may be (see Sections 4 and 5 of the Bill of Rights). Thus, even if claims of these medieval forces are true, that Gaga has indeed embraced total worship of the Devil (which is totally laughable, and I am laughing right now), they still can’t nail her to the cross for doing so. Satanism is still a valid religion, and if Gaga is indeed professing such beliefs, the Constitution and the State shall and must protect her and her monsters. Who says that a religion should only worship some good, all-knowing, all-powerful god?
In the end, I admire the tolerance some religious folks in this country have for Lady Gaga and her likes. It only goes to show that in the midst of these medieval forces, there are still people who hold tight to Jesus’ true teachings: that we should love one another, regardless of who are and what we’ve been, the same way Jesus took in the harlot Mary Magdalene, the tax collector Matthew, and the traitor Judas. Instead of shoving their belief down everyone’s throats and pretending to be pure and chaste disciples, these forces should focus their energies on being just like Lady Gaga — yes, flamboyant, rebellious, almost blasphemous! – but a true and good-natured human being.