First and Foremost
What in the world happened in that video? Vivid colors attract the eyes to a would-be beautiful scene transformed into a mystical adventure about a serpent, a black man, and a lot of Zack Snyderian Justice League-esque visual effects.
I thought of rewatching the video for descriptive clarity but opted against it. Mind you, it is not because I’m overwhelmingly disgusted by the content but because there isn’t much content to describe. I recall a perennial dancing pole. High heels. Several, I think. An enchained Lil Nas X, facing judgment for biting into what is portrayed as the forbidden fruit. Soon after this is where I think the infinite pole shows up and homeboy is riding it down to hell?
I’m curious, also, why there’s a dancing pole from what is possibly a judgment seat in heaven or some other ethereal place to the lowest degraded fire pit in hell. I’m quite sure the damned, having had former education on aerobics and physical fitness might be able to climb their way back up to the place from which they were banished. No?
Either way, toward the end of the two-minute music video, which worked like a multi-million dollar TikTok post, Lil Nas X or whoever the character it is he plays is intimate with the dark lord of the south. Not the confederate south. He wouldn’t be welcome there.
The dark lord is none-too entertained by this event and finds himself dethroned by the rapacious new recruit, who dawns the horns of hellish power to, then, I presume, possibly bully someone at Chic-Fil-A?
I don’t know.
What would someone do with a red devil’s horns? They seem uncomfortable as an accessory. Plus, no one likes the look as much as Lil Nas X, but who’s to judge the condemned? The dude is already down the pole of perpetual dance halls without hope of return so let him be.
Lil Nas X has set the bar for the most random video of the year and I’m hoping Katy Perry, Kanye West, or Tyler Perry beat him on the next one. If they collaborated it would be quite the adventure. Clouds, a black Kanye Jesus, and a Madea strolling about, doing God knows what for the cameras in hopes of winning a Grammy.
But whose to say? Pop culture is known for its risque innovations, whether it’s DMX jumping from a building to escape the mayhem of a police officer crowded building, abseiling, or safely rappelling to a party that just so happens to be taking place on the streets or if its Lady Gaga waltzing about the red carpet dawning a meat dress, pop culture seems to stand out with the help of the extreme.
The shock factor of Marilyn Mason’s ‘tenebrous’ makeup, Korn’s Freak On A Leash video, Brittney Spear’s head-shaving episodes, or that weird period where America had an unhealthy fascination with the Jersey Shore and Teen Mom ‘reality TV’ shows, it all comes down to how much the arts can shock us out of boredom to get us talking about things, people, or the things people are doing again.
There was hope that this work of contemptible art would have produced great thought and conversation as did DMX’s Damien series. If one were to go back and read through the lyrics of his songs, how he interacted with an ambiguous character whose sole purpose was to buy out X’s soul and force him to commit acts of violence you would appreciate the story format and lyrical prowess Earl Simmons wielded in his music. There is a struggle between good and evil, love and hate, success and failure, and spiritual oppression. Ultimately, X calls on the Divine for help in the midst of utter darkness and loss.
But one does not find that here. I could barely cope with the lyrics from this song because I was bombarded with an array of colors, images, scenes, visions of God knows what that I could barely focus on the lyrical content of the video. I spent more time laughing at the randomness of it all that I could not foster a meaning for why it was created in the first place.
I can most assuredly guarantee that sometime in the next, say, I’m being prophetic here, one hundred years, someone will do something just as or more bizarre than Lil Nas X/Montero (Call Me By Your Name).
Artists live for the shock factor as did the first man to paint a naked person. The first to mold a naked body out of a boulder. The first to photograph a naked body. And the first to film that naked body in motion.
All… all for the awe, hiss, gossip, and later, financial gain of such an endeavor.
It is no different for pop culture to paint religious or the misrepresentation of religious literature in the most bizarre fashion.
Watching a young black man fly down a dance pole from either Eden or Heaven to give the devil a lap dance in a post-Christian American culture will do nothing but incense the wrath of a pseudo-religious society.
I say this in confidence because I am not here to judge Lil Nas X, I believe that took place in the video, but to condemn the knee-jerk reaction of a hypocritical culture. One whose reactionary fervor Lil Nas X used to his advantage.
Again, the arts were at one time used as an expression to glorify God or other deities, hence, the Greeks honoring their gods, the Babylonians etching their kings into stone as if they were gods, and the Americans engraving the constitution, their country, and their military as their idols into the hearts and minds of their own for generations.
The revering of these things and places and persons is not new.
The issue here is when a post-religious culture wants to condemn the arts for being just that, post-religious art.
Now, I’m no artist, granted, I blog but I cannot compare my form of expression to someone else’s creative endeavors. I write but I’m not Agathe Christie. I throw a football when given the chance but I wouldn’t say I’m likened to Tom Brady. Yes, I swim, but I’m no Michael Phelps.
In that, I am saying that being within the same industry or sharing the same interests does not make me equal in the success or creative success as those we admire.
But, that does not mean I cannot pick out bad artform when I see it or appreciate the good work that went into creating that bad artform.
Lil Nas X will capitalize on this video. If he wasn’t rich before I’m sure he will be now. Granted, his success will come more from reactionary hum and buzz than from producing something that allows for the advancement of the arts. His effort was not to bring forth awe and admiration but distaste and revulsion. There’s no enlightenment here.
Again, I remind the audience that those most disturbed by his video are not those of a healthy religious background but those whose concept of religion is based upon an outward expression of habits and conducts rather than an inward transformation of the heart.
If a man dances on a pole, people freak out. If a woman does it, they pay for it. Should a man dress in a red suit, wear black horns, eyes blazing red as he receives a lap dance from a black boy, everyone loses their mind.
But should our political leader and ideological hero solicit porn stars and prostitutes for sexual favors, cheat on his first, second, and third wife with the same cast of people culturally baptized as untouchables, we elect him to the highest office of the land, dismissing his wrongs as if they were minor scruples of a long-forgotten past.
Therefore, the outrage over Lil Nas X’s video and the ensuing shoe-line he has collaborated with (which Nike says it knows nothing about) is humbug.
The verdict on that video is the same verdict genius writer and poet, Oscar Wilde enacted on fashion. It’s here for six months, it’ll cause a buzz, and shortly after, something else, something more, something just as insanely repulsive or artistically depraved will take its place and we’ll go on to react to that, making the artist and the producers of these artists more famous because of our hypocritical reactions.
So go on about your business and have a nice day.
This marks the end of my somewhat neutral rumination on Pop Culture and Lil Nas X/Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’s video.
Proceed now, onto my heavily religious rumination on the same topic.
I believe the church has much to grapple with when it comes to condemning secular material as if the secular were itself redeemed, regenerate, and saved.
This fascination with controlling secular morals and mores is likened to a state religion that focused more so on the behaviors of its people to correspond to the edicts laid out by a king, emperor, or president than it calls for us to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, independent of what the culture does or states.
For too long we’ve lived under the guise that we live in a Christian society but too many have made the arguments and rightfully so that there is no such thing as a Christian society or country, since, as scripture states, we will not come into a euphoric utopia led by Christianized leaders, speaking Christianeze, buying and selling Christan goods, in Christian markets run by Christian distributors in a global Christian effort. That’s antithetical to eschatological thought. (Depending on your theological lineage, but we can all agree on a redemptive second advent of this crucified King).
From a Judeo-Christian standpoint, none of that is guaranteed to the faithful. What we are guaranteed is the presence of a redeeming and faithful God who will walk us through life, sanctifying us (daily transforming us unto His likeness) and leading us to share the marvels of a saving gospel with others. We’re not to force faith on others. When we do so that’s when we force people into habits that portray an idea of having been saved and transformed but they’re just living out the steps to fit in, socially and religiously speaking.
And that’s what we’ve done to our culture in America and the greater west, making people believe that everyone is born Christian or into a Christian nation and therefore should exhibit Christian behaviors to comport with the status quo and live out as the culture deems socially acceptable.
This is nonsense.
Granted, Christians have a moral compass by which to judge the individual and the collective but Christians do not wield power over a culture so as to control its unregenerate patterns in hopes of Christianizing it without the Holy Spirit having redeemed it first.
I’m the least perturbed or disturbed by Lil Nas X’s content because it’s in line with humanity. Fallen humanity. People who are not saved or have not experienced the refreshing and rekindling of their soul by the work of God will behave as God states so in His word.
I know right?
But biblically speaking, Lil Nas X is correct about the corruption of humanity through the devious tongue of a serpent compelling both man and woman to consume the forbidden fruit. The fruit, in and of itself, was not evil but Adam and Eve’s response, their disobedience to God’s edict led to the corruption of their hearts. The seed of disobedience to the Divine is what created a great chasm between God and man, which could only be crossed if God were to reach over and pull humanity to Himself.
He accomplished this in Christ Jesus by being the bridge on which humanity could be reconciled to the Divine. Where mankind was disobedient in the face of temptation Christ was obedient in the face of the cross.
One act brought forth the spiritual enslavement of humanity whilst the other the redemption from those chains.
Christ came to save the sinner, and granted, while the sinner may act intentionally so to relieve the ills of society, namely slavery, injustice, introduce women’s suffrage onto the platform of modern thought, hostels, hospitals, and orphanages, scripture does not call for us to Christianize or force the unsaved and unregenerate to live as though they were.
This is dangerous.
When we do that we place people in a moralization bubble where they live like those who are redeemed and regenerate while not being so themselves. It places them in a dichotomy, a duality where they’re ashamed of failing to live up to a particular standard and unaware that this system and standard are put in place to keep them spiritually confined to sin. Invisible chains, if you would.
Therefore, Christians, leave Lil Nas X to perform his idea of what pop culture is and you go out and create your own artwork. Not to combat the evils of a satanic Hollywood but to glorify God and love your neighbor.
If Lil Nas X wants to plunge headfirst down a perennial pole to the lowest pits of hell to give the devil a lap dance in the name of the arts, let him.
We are to live for Christ, representing His word, His message, His ways on earth, and to call out hypocrisy within the Church and the body of the redeemed. We have our fair share of pole dancers behind the cloth as is.
If we called each other out more, held one another accountable for abuse of power, sexual abuse, financial, emotional, and psychological abuse; national idolatry, greed-avarice, xenocentrism as much as we called out Lil Nas X for his stuff then maybe people would look at us differently. Look at us as if we did have a healthier moral and spiritual ethic derived from Holy Scriptures and God Incarnate.
Like the followers of Christ instead of Christian Nationalists bent on controlling people and their behaviors through earthly and unspiritual, unbiblical, and ungodly means.
But hey, I’m no artist and I’m no theologian so why listen to me?
This post, like Lil Nas X’s video, will be forgotten within six months time anyway.
So, take some time and pray for Montero Lamar Hill (Lil Nas X), that the love and light of Christ may warm his heart and bring his soul and intellect into a saving knowledge of Jesus. That way, perhaps, his next video may be of him and Jesus taking a stroll through Miami beach, no perennial dancing poles involved. Just sun, fun, food, music, and a lot of Cuban-Americans shouting overpriced menu items at you in Spanish. Sounds amazing.
That way Mr. Hill will be called by His name and we’ll call it a day.
Featured Image from The Internet.