© 2022 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Madonna's Cross Raises Thorny Questions

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Madonna is stirring up controversy on her summer concert tour. Okay, that doesn't sound like news, but in her current show, Madonna sings the song Live To Tell while she is on a giant mirrored cross with a crown of thorns on her head. Music critics and theologians have called it blasphemy, and prosecutors in Germany are keeping a close eye on her concert there this weekend. They say it might break laws that prevent insulting religious beliefs.

Commentator Donna Freitas wonders if she is the only Christian on the planet who likes what Madonna's doing.

DONNA FREITAS reporting:

It may not seem like it, but Madonna is doing Christians a favor. She is performing a woman's right to stand in Jesus's place. It seems like I'm the only who likes what she's doing. The Church of England has accused her of abusing religious imagery, and the Catholic League denounced her for Christ-bashing. Even the Village Voice says it's a combination of blasphemy, absurdity, melodrama and one hilariously offensive religious image. This is what theologian Sandra Schneider has called a paralysis of the religious imagination.

As a professor of religion, I often wondered how to address this resistance to feminine images of God. So several years ago, I began conducting an exercise in my courses. I asked students to close their eyes and imagine Jesus on the cross. Then I asked them to envision Jesus as a black man, then a Hispanic man, then an Asian man and so on. This exercise is difficult for some but still doable.

But when I ask my students to picture a woman, they laugh out loud or they get mad. Some students even say that the suggestion itself is blasphemy. What I am asking goes against everything they have been taught about the nature of the divine.

This summer, Madonna is doing what I have been trying to get my students to imagine for years. As a Christian, I know that one of the most important spiritual tasks asked of me is to learn to see the crucified Jesus in each and every person I encounter. If this is true, then Madonna is doing the work of the church. And if, as both the Catholic Church and Church of England have insisted, it is offensive, it offends only because our imaginations are so impoverished.

Madonna told reporters I don't think Jesus would be mad at me in the message I'm trying to send. I don't think Jesus would be mad, either. In fact, I am clipping each and every image of Madonna on the cross I can find. This fall, after I ask my students to close their eyes and imagine a woman on the cross and their hearts and minds once again refuse to go there, I'll be able to say for the first time open your eyes, look up at the board. Before you is Madonna on the cross. Let's talk about her.

BLOCK: Donna Freitas teaches at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. She's author of the book Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Donna Freitas

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.