“Are you ready for some controversy?”
This was said by music industry icon Madonna who fittingly introduced Sam Smith and Kim Petra’s “beautifully unholy” performance of their latest award-winning hit “Unholy” at the Grammys on Feb. 5. The controversy of the song, and all it stands for, wreaked divisive havoc within the Christian community and the internet in the days following the award show.
“Unholy” reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100 and remained there for four weeks. So far, it has reached 136 million views on Youtube and 35 million views on TikTok for just the teasing track. Whether views were achieved by the catchiness of the song or dispute over its stark rebellion to Christian morals on sexual purity, Smith and Petras celebrated a win with the rest of the LGBTQ community cheering the nonbinary and transgender artists on. Smith and Petras were awarded Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and was the first Grammy award to ever be awarded to a transgender artist in the award show’s history.
The performance embraced the utter rejection of Christian holiness, as the fiery red, hell-themed performance displays a pattern many liberals have been mirroring to intentionally arouse and provoke conservatives. For instance, in 2018, members of the Satanic Temple attempted to install a statue of Baphomet—a medieval folkloric goat-headed deity worshiped by “Left-Hand Path” societies like the Satanic Temple, which are dedicated to preaching opposition to spiritual beliefs of Christianity—outside the lawn of Arkansas’ capitol building. The group claimed that based on the First Amendment, their rights are suppressed by mainstream conservative values. The Satanic Temple themselves state that they neither believe in God and heaven, nor the Devil and hell, but rather are against Biblical commandments and spiritual morals that they believe debilitate them from reaching their “highest personal potential.”
Many Christians online have spoken out about how the presence of Maverick City Music, a contemporary Christian group that has won four Grammys, displays their fellowship with darkness. And with the broadcasting station, CBS tweeting and then quickly deleting that they were “ready to worship” alongside Smith prior to the performance confirmed viewers’ anticipation for a rebellious, disrespectful show that tainted the entire show even more.
After the performance aired, Maverick City Music fans were offended by the group’s lack of conviction to take a stand against the song’s lyrics in which Smith is self-aware of the unholiness of going to nude strip clubs and being homosexual. Many commenters on Youtube spoke out about how if they had known about Smith and Petras’ performance beforehand, they would have planned to walk out during the performance in order to make their convictions known like Jesus instructs in Luke 9: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Many discussions have claimed that Smith knows that what he stands for is contrary to about 64% of Americans who hold conservative values and mocks them by openly associating with the devil. It seems to have been a purposeful move that the song’s title alone is just going to continue to attract a lot of attention from both the Christian community furious over the song and performance and those supporting Smith and the LGBTQ+ community. In an internet-dominated world, reposting, tweeting, tagging, commenting, and sharing are all interactions that have exponentially increased Smith’s and Petras’ view count and infamy—a strategic move on Smith’s media team.
As for the LGBTQ+ community, “Unholy” and other newly-released singles like “I’m Not Here To Make Friends,” which are featured on their recently-released album, “Gloria”, have fans excited about the way Smith’s new album and music videos are showing how hypersexualization in the media is not limited to heterosexual relationships.
It seems as if everyone is mad at everyone. Conservatives want Youtube to add age restrictions on Smith’s music videos and Christians wish the group representing God are lukewarm in their faith that they do not take up the chance to show the full extent of their beliefs when they are given the chance to do so, and when the LGBTQ+ community feels liberated and empowered by seeing a worldwide artist represent them by sexually expressing themselves with pride. In all this, our nation could not be any more disunited than it is now.
Because Sam Smith and Kim Petras, the Satanic Temple, and the LGBTQ+ community all deeply associate and correlate with secular and liberal point of views, their political advocacy for gay rights, reproductive autonomy, and more, utterly infuriate the right more and more.
For Christians, seeing the kinds of people many are becoming what Paul the Apostle said would emerge in the “end times” in 2 Timothy 3 who are “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant… ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit,” the performance of “Unholy” is just another sign of how further mainstream traditionalist culture is diminishing, and therefore how much further people are moving away from God.
For conservatives, as Smith and Petras embraced the religiously rebellious and sinful labels of their homosexual, nonbinary and transgender identities by wearing a hat with horns and seeing nothing but red on stage, it is frustrating to see how more and more their party is losing popularity because less and less people are reluctant to stray away from the Christian customs that the Republican party entails of.
The division within our country has much more to do with choosing a political party–it has to do with the kind of independent lives we hope to live and the personal values we hold for ourselves. A person will not radically switch parties because no one can radically change the governing belief system behind it.
Decisions in our nation are harder and harder to make because every decision for either side is influenced by who each person is and the beliefs they innately carry about themselves and the person they want to become.
So moving forward, whenever our political leaders are choosing a side on a specific issue, they need to place themselves in not just the ideology of the other person in empathy, but in their personal view on the world and who they are in it as well.