Although it may be hard to fathom that Vice President Mike Pence and Grammy-winning pop star Lady Gaga have anything in common, they do: Both were raised in devout Catholic families before forging their own (vastly different) spiritual paths.
Pence, who comes from an Irish Catholic family and once considered becoming a priest, shifted to evangelical Christianity as an adult. His conservative Christian beliefs have inspired his political agenda ― whether it’s trying to defund Planned Parenthood or make it easier for conservative Christians to refuse service to queer couples.
Lady Gaga, who was born Stefani Germanotta, was raised in an Italian Catholic family in New York and attended a Catholic girls’ high school in Manhattan, the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Even though Gaga has critiqued institutionalized religion, she’s still willing to identify as a Christian. But, unlike Pence, her stances on social and political issues ― her support for Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ community, for example ― place her squarely in the progressive Christian camp.
Pence’s and Gaga’s interpretations of Christianity came head to head this weekend when the singer called the vice president the “worst representation of what it means to be a Christian.”
Gaga was lashing out at Pence for his wife’s decision to work at a school that discriminates against LGBTQ students, employees and allies.
In an interview Thursday with the Catholic television station Eternal World Television Network, Pence suggested the backlash against his wife’s job amounted to an “offensive” attack against Christian education.
But Gaga had a different idea about what it means to be a faithful Christian ― demonstrating how one branch of the religion can produce such widely different views.
“I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome,” the singer said during a Las Vegas concert Saturday.
This was just one of many times Gaga has referenced her Christian faith. In the past, she has described herself as being a “very spiritual” person who prays often and believes in Jesus but wishes that religion were more “peaceful.” She’s posted pictures of herself on Instagram praying the rosary and attending Mass at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.
Christian imagery has also shown up in Gaga’s lyrics and music videos ― most prominently (and controversially) in songs like “Judas” and “Bloody Mary.” Her 2011 hit, “Born This Way,” proclaimed, “I’m beautiful in my way, ’cause God makes no mistakes.”
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a progressive Christian writer, called the song a “hymn for LGBT Christians that is sorely missing from your average church hymnal.”
“In an American context where the media equates religion with social conservatism, Lady Gaga represents a welcome, non-fundamentalist Christianity,” Graves-Fitzsimmons wrote in a 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post. “She champions Christian values not of exclusion and discrimination but of empowerment, grace and self-acceptance.”
In fact, Gaga’s support for LGBTQ Americans is becoming increasingly reflective of the views of American Catholics as a whole. About 67 percent of American Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center ― even though same-sex relationships are officially condemned by church doctrine. Young Catholics are particularly likely to be supportive of lesbian and gay Americans.
In 2016, a writer at a Catholic website reflected on how Catholics should respond when celebrities, such as Gaga, share their faith on social media while “still leading a typical Hollywood lifestyle void of Christian values such as modesty and purity.”
In a response on Instagram, Gaga pointed to Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus who is considered in some Christian traditions to have been a prostitute. Gaga wrote that Mary Magdalene was “protected and loved” by Jesus, even though she was “someone society shames as if she and her body are a man’s trash can.”
“We are not just ‘celebrities,’ we are humans and sinners, children, and our lives are not void of values because we struggle,” Gaga wrote. “We are as equally forgiven as our neighbor. God is never a trend no matter who the believer.”