Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

As is typical, the Grammy Award show this year had its fair share of ups and downs — the ups including Adele’s standout performance and Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston and the downs being just about everything else. However, what stood out as being particularly strange to me about this year’s awards show was that issues of spirituality and Christianity remained at the forefront of the show thematically. Framed by LL Cool J’s prayer for Whitney Houston and Nicki Minaj’s whacked-out The Exorcist homage, I was caught off guard by how much Christianity was still at the forefront of creative thought in our culture.

However, it seems as though there is a certain part of Christianity that pop artists are more inclined to address. Nicki Minaj’s performance was essentially a coming-out show for the more artistic, creative side of her branding. In her performance of her new songs “Roman’s Revenge” and “Roman Holiday”, she played her alter-ego: a boy named Roman Zolanski who is undergoing spiritual and societal pressure. In an interview with Hip Hop DX, Minaj recently explained the character:

“I had this vision for [the Roman character] to be sort of exorcised—or actually he never gets exorcised—but people around him tell him he’s not good enough because he’s not normal, he’s not blending in with the average Joe. And so his mother is scared and the people around him are afraid because they’ve never seen anything like him. He wanted to show that not only is he amazing and he’s sure of himself and confident, but he’s never gonna change, he’s never gonna be exorcised. Even when they throw the holy water on him, he still rises above.”

It’s clear enough that Nicki Minaj is, of course, not making any kind of religious or spiritual statement. Instead, it seems like she is more interested in using the imagery as a device to talk about herself and her quest for greatness (albeit in a bit a pretty half-baked manner). Ever since Lady Gaga wrote a pop song about Judas Iscariot and the betrayal of Jesus though, it seems like just about anything is possible. So what’s the big controversy all about? Should we be offended by Nicki Minaj?

It seems that in our culture when someone wants to be “artistic” or “creatively daring”, they usually end up doing something that will offend church-goers — which, let’s just admit, is no big challenge. While most people were more offended by the fact that you couldn’t dance to the new songs, prominent members of the Catholic Church have already raised a flag about the performance, even stating that it’s up-in-the-air whether or not Nicki Minaj is possessed. While the song and performance did put the Catholic Church in a position as being “the haters”, so to speak, this pop star isn’t exactly making a serious attack on the church.

Not only do I not think Nick Minaj is possessed, I also think it might be a good idea to rethink how and when we protest certain parts of our culture as the Church. We already know what pop culture thinks of us for the most part, so are we protesting just for the sake of protesting? Are we getting offended because we think we’re supposed to? If we’re honest with ourselves, is it our pride, or the glory of God we are worried about protecting?


  1. I think the protests simply serve as reinforcement for the idea that Christians are part of a sub-culture with inalienable rights. We protest because we love our sub-culture and we don’t want anyone picking on it. We don’t like other sub-cultures and have no problems going after them, but when we’re the targets of an attack, we rally the troops and begin to attack.

    Not that I’m for attacks on Christianity or Christians, or especially when some “artist” thinks it’s artistic to place a crucifix in a bottle of urine. At the same time, we have brothers and sisters around the world who are having their homes taken, facing rape, facing beatings, facing murder, and a whole assortment of other issues for the simple fact that they worship the risen Christ.

    It seems to me that instead of protesting such actions or gaining a persecution complex, it would be better for American Christians to actually reach out to the culture where they are. Instead of acting as a sub-culture, we should probably engage the current culture. We’re a bunch of Peter’s who want to sit at our table with the other Jewish believers, but we’re lacking enough Pauls to go out to the Gentiles.

  2. Totally agree. Sub-culture mode thinking is something we’ve bought into for far too long and it has almost nothing to do with the Gospel or defending the name of God.

    “We’re a bunch of Peter’s who want to sit at our table with the other Jewish believers, but we’re lacking enough Pauls to go out to the Gentiles.”

    You nailed it Joel.

  3. It seems to me that it’s the casual use of historic Christian symbolism that ought to be more worrisome. I think what happens in an increasingly secular age is the slow evacuation of the meanings behind the symbols. We can see it in more commonplace settings, such as the casual wearing of a Christian cross not for religious devotion, but as a fashion symbol. Taking the symbols as neutral, raw material for artistic re-expression having virtually nothing to do with the meaning of the symbols themselves is sort of the ultimate demonstration that its power is gone.

  4. Hey bitches its yo barbie bitch, Nicki Minaj. So who wants free tickets to my concert!!!!!!!! Just go to austin mahone and press chat and put your email and your name and mine and we will send you a free ticket!
    Barbie Bitch

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