A Modern Madonna

When you hear that lovely Italian name "Madonna," what do you think of? Mary, the mother of Jesus? Or the blond-bombshell rock star? The rock star Madonna seems to delight in religious ambiguity. It's not just her name. She also wears religious jewelry. Before every performance, she leads her troupe in a mock prayer. Her performances abound in things like crucifixes and dancers dressed as priests. Just what is she up to? Madonna has discovered something: Religion sells. Or rather, mockery of religion sells. One of Madonna's steamier videos shows her in a Catholic church, praying before the image of a saint. The statue comes to life and the two begin to kiss passionately. It's classic Madonna--the fusion of sacred and sex. The religious symbols Madonna uses on stage are remnants from her Catholic upbringing. But today she rejects everything the symbols stand for. She denounces the Catholic Church as "disgusting," "hypocritical," "unloving." In nearly every interview she gives, Madonna makes bitter remarks about the Church and what she calls its "rules." She apparently sees no moral order behind those rules. All she sees are arbitrary infringements on her freedom of self-expression. To Christians, Madonna's mockery of Christian symbols is nothing less than blasphemy. But something about it obviously appeals to a broad sweep of American listeners. Her concerts sell out. Millions watch her videos. She's fabulously wealthy. Why is Madonna so popular? Why do Americans flock to see religious mockery dressed up as entertainment? The sheer fact that people like that sort of thing is a telling indication of how post-Christian our entire culture has become. Madonna seems to appeal to some sense that orthodox Christians constitute the one group in society that is safe to attack publicly. Under the reigning code of correctness, you're liable to get your wrists slapped if you say anything that might offend homosexuals or blacks or a thousand other certified victim groups. But blaspheme what is sacred, in the name of Art, and no one complains. In fact, just the opposite: People pay to come see it. This could only happen in a post-Christian culture--a culture once saturated with Christian truth. You see, people never exposed to the Gospel generally have no strong feelings about Christianity one way or the other. They're pre-Christian pagans. The people most vicious in attacking the faith often had a Christian upbringing that they're rebelling against. Post-Christian pagans. We see the same post-Christian hostility in the notorious photograph by Andres Seranno of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine. In the blasphemous movie, The Last Temptation of Christ. In the way members of Satanic heavy metal bands make a point of wearing crosses around their necks. It's not religion these entertainers are mocking. It's Christianity--and only Christianity. Madonna actually apologized to a Jewish leader who was insulted by one of her songs. Obviously, she has a keen sense which religions are protected minorities and which are open targets. What about you? What do you think of first when you hear the name "Madonna"? Sad to say, in our post-Christian culture, more people think of a blasphemous young rock star than of the Mother of our Lord.


Chuck Colson


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