For the Christian faithful, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is sacred. It’s a time of reflection and prayer and fasting. It is Holy Week. It deserves the strongest respect.
But our secular media culture does not bend a knee – or even shut a mouth. Instead, Holy Week means it is time to grab the spotlight with the most indulgent forms of spiritual irreverence and mockery. Start with the infantile Lady Gaga. She released a new single titled "Judas."
Her primary lyrical "thought," if you can call it that, is "I'm just a holy fool, oh baby he's so cruel / But I'm still in love with Judas, baby." She says "Jesus is my virtue," but "Judas is the demon that I cling to."
There is a part of this song I’d like to endorse entirely. She raps this part: "In the most biblical sense, I am beyond repentance / Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind." We know (she doesn’t) that no one is beyond repentance in the eyes of God. As for the rest of her statement, I’d say it’s pretty accurate.
The pop star is spitting in Christ’s face and pounding the crown of thorns into his head. Lady Gaga’s camp insisted a video for the "Judas" song will be released on Easter Sunday, for maximum shamelessness, with her posing as Mary Magdalene. This very creepy person has actually pleaded to a magazine that "I feel like honestly that God sent me those lyrics and that melody...There’s no way for something that pure to be wrong."
Do these Madonna-copycatting pop stars ever wonder whether they could be a God that will judge them negatively for lame stunts like this?
The spirit of Lady Gaga also came alive in April in "The Borgias," the new Showtime miniseries that dwells playfully on an adulterous, murderous pope – a Spanish mobster in papal vestments. (It’s what Showtime considers “religious” programming.) There’s no historical doubt that Rodrigo Borgia (who became Pope Alexander VI) was flagrantly immoral, with seven illegitimate children, one of whom he named a cardinal. He was a terrible pope and a medieval Judas – and the perfect vehicle to sully today’s Catholic Church.
By contrast, Showtime had too much reverence for the Kennedy family to accept the miniseries "The Kennedys." New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley joked "fortunately for Showtime, there don’t seem to be any thin-skinned Borgia descendants with powerful friends who can lobby network executives."
TV Guide critic Matt Roush loved "this lavish series' dark heart and desiccated soul."He was thrilled at the sound of actor Jeremy Irons, playing the vicious pope, ordering a rival’s murder: "What the Holy Church needs at this juncture is someone who can ensure its survival... by whatever means necessary." Roush found it "chilling and perversely compelling. This is the sort of guilty pleasure that could send you to confession."
Unless you’re the people making it – who have no shame.
In Italy, the opportunistic director Nanni Moretti has a lighter touch in his new comedy about "a panic-prone pope who needs a psychoanalyst." The movie's title is "Habemus Papam," recalling the Latin words that announce the selection of a new pope.
The trailer depicts a French cardinal being selected, and as the joyful words are announced, the new pope lets out a blood-curdling scream. After a visit to the therapist's office, the new pontiff fails to return to the Vatican, wandering the streets of Rome unrecognized. The man elected pope decides to announce to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that he is resigning, rejecting the vote of his colleagues – and their belief that God has chosen him.
Some felt this movie was mocking Pope Benedict, who recently recounted to German journalist Peter Seewald that his election was “a real shock.” Franco Zeffirelli, the director of the TV miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,” agreed Moretti's film was an insult to the Pope and the faith. "It's a horrible cheap shot," Mr Zeffirelli said. "I feel especially sorry for this pontiff, who may not be a crowd-pleaser, but who is very civilized and reasonable."
Civilized and reasonable. These are not words applicable to pop stars and movie directors when the topic of Christianity is in their crosshairs. They could show off their faithlessness at any time – but they save it for the precisely the season where they can cause maximum offense.