By U-Jin Lee
The room was quiet. The lights were dim. Music played in the background as students relaxed around the table, fascinated and drawn by the title of the event — “God and Gaga.”
Presented by TheUpperRoom, PRISM and Canterbury House in coordination with the Queer Awareness Month, “God and Gaga” took place at 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10 in the Social Sciences Building. The event, attended by 25 students, encouraged participants to comfortably engage in a classroom discussion circling the coexistence of religion and sexuality, while shining light on the mission statement by junior philosophy major Taylor Enoch — “Gay Christians exist. You can be Gay and Christian. It can coincide. So many people say there’s no such thing. Then I’m no such thing. I’m the living proof that it exists.”
Twenty-year-old Enoch, an ambitious student, was the main speaker and creator of the event. Since he comes from a Christian background, Enoch said he admires Lady Gaga because of the forthright Christian symbolism in her songs. Also playing an inspirational role on campus, he is the advocacy chair of PRISM and spreads awareness by sharing his past experiences, setting goals like establishing a fraternity for gay and progressive men and introducing a new organization called TheUpperRoom.
According to Enoch, the event’s purpose was to serve as a pilot program in implementing this new organization. TheUpperRoom will be a Christian organization representing Enoch’s faith.
“We’re modeling it off of the atmosphere of the Last Supper, because that is when Jesus really introduced his love for people, and love is the core of what we believe in,” Enoch stated. “The whole message behind TheUpperRoom is that you don’t have to fulfill the quintessential image that Christians have, specifically in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation.”
When students were asked what made them attend “God and Gaga,” some replied that it was a requirement for a class and others were drawn by the title or interested to share their stories about coming out of the closet while being religious.
“I chose this event because I’m a huge Bowie fan, and Bowie changed music, and I guess Gaga is like (the) Bowie of our generation,” senior psychology major Alexander Yasneski said. “Gaga and God seem like a good combination, so I’m interested to see what this is about.”
The atmosphere was filled with somber, heartfelt stories as students analyzed a line from a Bible verse, “I am who I am,” and shared negative, discouraging experiences when they were once told that you have a mental disorder if you are gay.
However, the mood turned upbeat as students listened and analyzed Lady Gaga’s inspirational song, “Born This Way”.
“At first I thought, ‘Wow! This is a really great gay anthem.’ But, as I started listening to it, I realized that the lyrics applied to every race, every gender and everyone,” said junior sociology and women’s and gender studies double major Remi Lourenco.
The discussion continued as students began to feel a sense of togetherness and a sense of hope. Many religions do not officialy accept homosexuality, but people in the LGBT community are struggling to eradicate divisions and are instead aiming for acceptance and unity.
“Especially nowadays in media and politics, with the new presidential candidates, what a lot of people are hearing is that the gays are over here and the religious people are over here,” Enoch said. “There is no difference between religion and sexuality. You can be both, like me.”
As the students became empowered by the common ideas everyone shared about destroying the “cookie-cutter ideals” that society constructed regarding religion and sexuality, the importance of forming your own beliefs and adhering to them were strongly encouraged and emphasized.
The event concluded with the presentation of Lady Gaga’s music video for “Judas,” and students gathered around a table. They broke bread after saying a prayer, ending the evening with communion.
“At the Last Supper, Jesus gathered with his disciples and his friends, but we do not know anything about them, their color, sexual orientation or gender identity because it did not matter at all,” Reverend Lisa Caton, Chaplin of the College, stated.
At the end of the day, Enoch strongly adheres to his beliefs: “If you put love first, then it doesn’t matter what else you bring to the table.”