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World-renown singer and LGBT rights advocate Lady Gaga is no stranger to controversy. Hits such as "Born This Way" celebrate the LGBT community, while song such as "Judas" play with Christian religious themes. Unfortunately, Lady Gaga's music and concert antics have earned her the ire of religious conservatives in Asia, now that her "Born This Way" world tour is in full swing. Muslim conservatives raged over a concert planned in Indonesia, and the authorities later denied Lady Gaga a permit for her Jakarta concert, according to the Guardian. Meanwhile, CBC News reports that Christians in South Korea condemned her music as "pornographic," "homosexual," and disrespectful toward religion. The Philippines have been no exception, with Catholic and evangelical Christian voices condemning her concerts.
According to CBS News, Filippino Christian groups protested Lady Gaga's upcoming concert in and around Manila over the weekend. The CBS article featured a photograph of protesters holding signs that read "LADY GAGA: THE ICON OF PERVERTED VALUES" and "LADY GAGA, JESUS LOVES YOU." The Associated Press estimates that 200 protesters marched against Lady Gaga in Manila.
An AFP video of a March 19th protest against Lady Gaga featured Orlando Cutaran, president of the Christian Professionals Evangelism Fellowship. An interpreter quoted Cutaran as such.
"She's a sinner too. We're giving her a chance. Instead of throwing tomatoes at her, we would wait for her to ask for forgiveness for what she's done. Once she has, everything's going to be all right."Several Filippino political figures have weighed in on the controversy. GMA News reports that former Manila mayor Jose Atienza Jr. and attorney Romulo Macalintal called Lady Gaga's music "anti-Christian." The article states that Atienza and Macalintal wished to speak with Pasay City mayor Antonio Calixto so that they could urge him to ban Lady Gaga's concert. Other political figures are similarly incensed. Pink News quotes Manila mayor Alfredo S. Lim as saying "we should inculcate into the minds of the children and adolescents the benefits of healthy and normal living and discourage them from indulging in gay activities or becoming one."
One Catholic leader has loudly voiced his disgust over her music as well. ABS-CBS News reports that Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles lambasted Lady Gaga during a mass at the Shrine of Jesus, The Way, The Truth and The Life parish. The article quotes Arguelles as saying that Lady Gaga's music can "destroy the spirit of those who listen." He referred to the singer as Gaga, refusing to use the honorific "Lady" title. "We are here to pray for all those who have been instruments in bringing here in our country beloved by God, bringing here evil things, the evil that comes from outside," he said.
Evangelical Christians have also entered the fray. Prominent among Lady Gaga's detractors is Biblemode Youth Philippines, a Christian youth organization which hosts the annual Baptist Heritage Youth Convention. Biblemode Youth's Facebook page quotes a pastor named Reuben Abante who condemned Lady Gaga's "lewdness." (See www[dot]facebook[dot]com/biblemodeyouth)
"We have laws and ordinances against lewdness, nudity and the sort. But we have a system of government in the Philippines that when nobody stands to protest, the authorities will never act to implement such laws and ordinances.Abante's comments may refer to a Filippino law that punishes participants in "indecent shows" with up to six years in prison.
In addition to being a Bishop and a Pastor, I am a Christian Filipino. As a Filipino, I stand to give a wake up call and a reminder to our government authorities to implement the country's laws and the ordinances. For all of Lady Gaga's lewdness and nudity in appearance, let her face the law of the land ... For all of what Lady Gaga declares and sings about the Lord Jesus Christ, I never expect the laws of the land to go against her. Who will? And for what the law of the land provides, as freedom, Lady Gaga thinks she can declare and sing how she wants about Jesus Christ without regard to Bible-believing, God-loving, Christ-honoring Christian Filipinos."
Protests notwithstanding, Pink News reports that Lady Gaga's Philippines concerts would take place on May 21st and 22nd as scheduled. Lady Gaga herself remains undaunted. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, during her May 21st concert at the Pasay Arena, Lady Gaga sang "Judas" and proclaimed, "I'm not a creature of your government, Manila". Her concert was well-attended, with tickets selling at high prices.
What are these Asian controversies really about? Why was Lady Gaga the target of so much anger? I suspect that these religious outcries are not so much about Lady Gaga as they are about the tensions within diverse world. As the world grows smaller, religious conservatives across the globe can no longer hide from religious and sexual diversity. Lady Gaga's concerts are a jarring reminder to fundamentalists that not everyone shares their religious beliefs or sexual attitudes. While Lady Gaga may have been an easy target because she is a foreigner, fundamentalists will soon learn that religious and sexual diversities within their own countries as well.
As the world transforms into a global village, we will encounter people of different religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Understanding how to live peacefully alongside other people is crucial now, but it is a lesson that some Asian and American fundamentalists alike need to learn.