I’m really sorry I missed the Grammys on Sunday. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever watched the Grammys, but this year’s show seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers. Most of those feathers appear to have been blown out of place by two performances and their accompanying showbiz stunts.
First, there was Katy Perry, who performed her song “Dark Horse” against a dark, smoky background imbued with every witchcraft stereotype you can think of short of a pointy black hat. There were creepy trees, flying crystal balls, horned backup dancers, a broomstick that doubled as a stripper pole, and an ending that featured Perry being burned at the stake. Before morning, supposed “occult experts” were already claiming that Katy Perry had summoned Satan to the Grammys.
Second, rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their song “Same Love” to a cheering audience. The song celebrates the LGBT community and calls out elements of society for the hurt they inflict on gay children, who already have it hard enough. But that wasn’t the real problem. Toward the end of the song, Queen Latifah presided over the actual marriage of 33 couples, both gay and straight. All then celebrated the idea of love to medley of “Same Love” and Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.” Apparently, this mass outbreak of love really rubbed some people the wrong way.
As a witch who staunchly believes in marriage equality, both of these performances perked up my ears. I believe in building bridges among divergent groups rather than rubbing their faces in differences, so I was concerned. Since I didn’t watch the show, I kept hearing about the evil Katy Perry performance and the offensive gay wedding and got more and more worried. Was my community being maligned? Was the gay community that I love and respect going too far and risking a backlash?
And I wasn’t stupid enough to think that Katy Perry was evoking Satan. If anything, she evoked Juicy J from out of a horse.
Perry’s song was entertaining. The lyrics vaguely reference magic and divination, but they are pure pop sugar. If anything, they evoke the goddess of love:
Make me your Aphrodite
Make me your one and only
Don’t make me your enemy
Why was the imagery so witchy? Well, witches are in right now. Between American Horror Story: Coven and The Witches of East End, witches are currently enjoying a short-lived spotlight in pop culture. Music is a business, and Perry was simple capitalizing on current trends to sell more records. Frankly, the lyrics to the song are too vacuous to be an evocation of anything.
If she were trying to evoke the Christian Devil, or somehow promote the occult in some way, she would have used more realistic, modern occult imagery. Instead, she went with the romantic ideal of the “Witch’s Sabbath,” where witches of the medieval times would gather in the forest to dance naked around the fire and sign the Devil’s black book. Based on that mythology, there were some other, not safe to be shown on television deeds that Perry would have had to have done if she were really intending to invite the Devil into the Grammy circle.
If anyone should be offended, it should be witches. While the performance spewed out all the stereotypes if could fit in, that which is sacred to us was caricaturized. But it was such a saccharine-sweet number that we all just laughed and moved on. As Wild Hunt blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters put it, the performance was only a few notches up from Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
The Macklemore and Ryan Lewis number packed a much heavier punch. Critics seem to have a problem with the fact that the song appears to write off the Bible in one quick line:
And God loves all His children
And somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
35 hundred years ago
I don’t know
But that’s not really what the song does. In verse and rhyme, the song takes on multiple opponents of same-sex marriage, calling them out to expose the pain and struggles any gay child has to deal with. Mackelmore calls out hip-hop culure:
If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
And social media:
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily
I realize that it must be very difficult to be on the wrong side of love, justice, and history, but if you make your bed there, you must lie in it. If your community funds attacks on groups of good, loving people, it must be prepared for a backlash. Conservative Christian communities have an established history of opposing equality, and this kind of counter-argument was inevitable. I don’t believe that these lyrics blanket every Christian, just as they don’t blanket every hip-hop fan or YouTuber. A great number of devout Christians stand on the side of love and equality in marriage.
It’s not that Macklemore writes off the Bible. Instead, he questions the “paraphrasing” that has inevitably led to mistranslations over time. It’s not news that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but that’s in the Old Testament, along with some often pointed out other laws. According to Leviticus you can’t:
- Eat fat (3:17)
- Drink alcohol in holy places (10:9)
- Eat shellfish (11:10-12)
- Go to church within 33 days of birthing a boy or 66 days after a girl (12:4-5)
- Mix fabrics in your clothes (19:19)
- Shave (19:27)
- Get a tattoo (19:28)
There are others. This is a long and well known list. But for some reason it is popular to ignore mandates like these (most Christians and Jews I know shave, and a prohibition on alcohol in church pretty much destroys the traditional Communion), and yet they stick to this strange obsession with homosexuality as some kind of great evil. Even when Jesus said that to love your neighbor is one of the greatest Commandments. So why is that one law against homosexuality so much more important than all the others?
It really doesn’t matter. When you put yourself out as a force against a cause, you have to live with your opponent arguing the point with you. People will have a problem with you. That’s democracy. And that’s all the rapper was doing. If you found it offensive, then perhaps you need to get out of your shell and talk to some people outside in the world. There are real people- kids- who are really struggling, sometimes dying, from the pain inflicted on them from by those who choose to hate.
I used to know a great Episcopal priest who, on topics like this, would say, “On this side of heaven, we’ll never get it all right, but if I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of love.” I think that’s pretty good advice. If you disagree with gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex. What others do doesn’t hurt you, and it makes their lives more fulfilling. If you believe they will face judgment someday, fine. They are willing to face it. You take care of yourself.
This performance wasn’t about sticking it to the conservatives. It was about celebrating love and showing the world that all people, regardless of who they love, are real people who want all the same things for their life that anyone else wants. And the first of these is love.