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Katy Perry vs. Carrie Underwood

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By Dani Fankhauser on November 5, 2010


Christian kids in Sunday Schools everywhere know that the answer to most questions is “Jesus.” Actually, I don’t think anyone in church will count it against you if you just say “Jesus.” And apparently, radio station programmers still adhere to the rule.

It always pissed me off that Christian bookstores sell Testamints in little canisters – they look just like Altoids – they’re *just* breath mints. Has anyone else been to a Christian bookstore? That’s just the beginning. There’s all kinds of second-rate knickknacks and T-shirts and candles that are no different than what you’d find elsewhere, but that say “Jesus” on them.

Apparently, Jesus sells. Just like sex.

I just don’t think Jesus would be excited about sales of Testamints. And I don’t think he cares if you suck on those as opposed to Altoids, or perhaps, Tic Tacs.

Carrie Underwood cashed in on the “Jesus Sells” principle with her song Jesus Take the Wheel. It’s a good song. The lyrics demonstrate a truth – actually, the backbone of “being saved” is giving control of your life to God.

The only thing that bothers me about this song is that it’s cliche. I’ve heard the analogy before: Pretend like your life is a car. Is Jesus in the backseat, and you ask him questions when you’re bored or lost? Is he hidden in the trunk, and you only get him out for emergencies? Is he in the passenger seat, and he’s your best friend. OR, is he driving? FYI, Jesus driving is the right answer in this example.

The fact that the Christian-topia, the Christian-verse, whatever, continually embraces cliches, is a problem. That said, cliches are appealing because they are true. C-Underwood’s song is true.

But, Christian life these days, in most churches, operates on a mass of cliches. Stuff that’s easy to do. Simple rules. Read Bible MORE, do bad things LESS. Be nice to people MORE, drink alcohol LESS.

When you follow simple rules, you think less. You don’t need to make value judgements. The world is black and white. You, frankly, *don’t need to pray.*

Therein lies the problem.

This is why I like to believe that Katy Perry has a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Why does the Christian music industry not embrace her? Is it because her boobs are too big? Like Jessica Simpson (both girls are pastor’s daughters who started out singing in church)?

Katy Perry has a Christian song on her new album: Who Am I Living For? In it she references Old and New Testament stories and themes, including writing on the wall (Daniel), the story of Esther,  and being chosen. This stuff is original. It sounds like she actually reads her Bible, or pays attention at church (which is more than most of us can say for ourselves).

I like both C-Underwood and K-Perry’s songs, but what I don’t like is how easily people categorize things as good or evil. Singing about Jesus, or singing about girls kissing girls. Pure, or dirty (but never a complicated mix). Personally, as a writer, my goal is never to tell anyone right/wrong, good/bad, but to get people to think.

Turns out, that’s K-Perry’s goal in her own art as well.

My next post *might* be a literary analysis of K-Perry’s lyrics :-)

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