On the One Hand… On the Other Hand…

Last Sunday I began my sermon  (“More Than Skin Deep” — read it, watch it, or listen to it here) on an unusual note—talking about Katy Perry’s tattoos. Katy was born in Santa Barbara, California, and grew up in a Pentecostal home where both of her parents were engaged in evangelism. As a young person, Katy sang in the church choir. She attended Christian schools and camps. She was at church whenever the doors were open.

While she was still a teenager some record producers here in Nashville heard her singing and signed up on a Christian label. She recorded a Christian album. But her music didn’t do very well, and before long she crossed over into pop music. And when she crossed over, she really crossed over. She told reporters that she idolizes Madonna and wants to be like her. Many of Katy’s songs are explicit. They embrace a brazen sensuality that includes bisexuality or whatever kind of sexuality brings a sense of ecstasy—exactly opposite to the values of Christianity.

But here’s the interesting thing. Katy Perry insists that she is a still a spiritual person and that God is in her life. And that brings us to her tattoos. On her left wrist is the word “Jesus.” It’s a tattoo she got at age eighteen. But on the other arm is a tattoo she got in India while dating Russell Brand. It’s a Sanskrit phrase meaning, “Go with the flow.”

That is just about a perfect symbol for the pluralism of our culture. On the one hand, we want God. We want Jesus. We want spirituality. On the other hand, we want it our way, to go with the flow, to go with the crowd, to go with our own lusts and lovers.

Katy told reporters that she still considers herself a Christian, but she just doesn’t get into the details.

How different isthe philosophy of Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). For us, it’s Jesus on the one hand — and Jesus on the other.