To Beyonce fans who follow Jesus
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When the National Church of Bey opened up in 2014, no one looked up from their smartphones. The ridiculousness of beyism was plainly preposterous, and almost no one in the beyhive joined that Atlanta church. But when Grace Cathedral in California legitimized the adoption of Beyonce’s values in what was called “Beyonce Mass,” nearly a thousand people showed up and Twitter was lit
Some were proud that a church bravely led a timely discussion about the unfair treatment of women, the Black experience, and womanist theology. Others were immediately outraged. Then there were a handful of others like me who cautiously trolled from the sidelines of social media—just in case there was some misunderstanding about all of the hoopla.
But there was no misunderstanding. While the service was not about worshipping Beyoncé, it was clearly not about worshipping God. Yes, it gave stage to issues related to the oppression, misrepresentation, and progress of Black women. Finally. And, yes, they served up a relevant, welcoming environment for the unchurched, demonstrating an aspect of God that identifies deeply with the most silenced voices. Pause for applause. But when the church unashamedly started glorifying someone whose main message is in complete conflict with Jesus’ most basic principals, we should have all been giving the side eye.
Forget the good-old days when it was taboo to see young people in sagging jeans worshiping to Christian rap lyrics behind a hip-hop beat. This Episcopalian mass invited the congregation to get in formation, raise their hands to “Freakum Dress”, and sing along to “Flaws and All” (because that could be a song to God, right?).
Now, I’ve got to hand it to the tribe leader, Reverend Dr. Malcom C. Young, who oversees the contemporary mass. If you’ve got the ear of the masses during mass, why not offer your platform to lead the tough discussions? Truthfully, white clergymen could take notes. He was courageous and cunning enough to use the popularity of Beyonce’s politics for the sake of the gospel (I guess). And to do so right off the heels of Coachella? It was a pro-marketer move. Even better, he was ready for backlash. In a statement published on the cathedral’s website, he reminded “fundamentalist” critics that Beyoncé is made in the image of God. That’s irrefutable, but wait, did he just low-key throw shade, calling me a fundmentalist?
Not everyone made in God’s image represents God.
The mass in honor of Beyonce illuminates one of many challenges facing Christendom. It is not the challenge of keeping the doors of the church wide open to all of those made in His image. It is not the challenge of demonstrating God's radical love in unique settings. The challenge is in discipleship.
When we engage in a life-long process of learning to think, act and believe in accordance with Jesus’ teachings, we do so while situated in a culture that often contrasts the very things He has said. As much as we can admire Beyoncé’s work ethic and showmanship, she is a part of that culture. She maintains distinct beliefs, creates compelling messages and spreads them deeply and widely through every media channel available. Unfortunately, those messages don’t all jive with Jesus’. We as followers of Jesus need to be wiser about this.
Where Jesus says forgive, Beyoncé sings, “I’m not sorry,” and leads the crowd in cheering, “Suck my di**". Where Jesus demonstrates humility, Beyoncé demands, “Bow down, bit****.” Sure, she eats kale and says other things that sound empowering, but I live with a 5-year-old, too. I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would have her dancing in a music video where I tell people where I take my husband after he, er...did someone say something about Cheddar Bay Biscuits? I’m a disciple of Jesus, and I live with a 5 year old. So I can’t just be like, “Alexa, play Beyoncé.”
Media functions to package specific messages and change the beliefs, attitudes and values of those who passively engage with it. That’s just how it works. Followers of Jesus must be more keen to this fact and think critically about pop culture’s place in our lives and in our worship services. Beyoncé’s messages are working to change minds and shift culture. Insofar as she is creating anthems for ideas that don’t support our walk with Jesus, we need not give her too much shine.
Rev. Yolanda Norton, professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Beyoncé super fan uses Beyoncé as a case study for womanist theology. She delivered the sermon at Beyonce Mass and referenced Beyoncé’s unwavering loyalty to the blackness represented in her new music. “You sing what God tells you to sing,” shouted Norton from the pulpit. “Never give [your oppressor] your soul.” Yaaas, honey!
But that begs another question. Even if Beyoncé is a worthy case study, has she given God her soul? Is she singing what He told her to sing? Just saying.
If we are seeking a closer walk with Jesus, we must be ever-willing to ask ourselves such questions. Then, we might avoid inadvertently adopting pop culture’s worldview, beliefs and attitudes.
I wonder if I’m overreacting to all of this. Beyoncé’s creating conversation for women like me. Don't throw out the Beyonce with the bathwater. Take it with a grain of salt. But that’s just it. We are supposed to be the salt.
Christians cannot expect to grow as disciples when we take huge helpings of secular culture with merely a single grain of salt. That is what #beyoncemass did.
We have to keep Jesus glorified and let no one stand beside him on the thrown. Especially not the queen of flying insects.
The Beyoncé Mass was a commendable effort, but misguided in nature. The Church of Beyonce should focus on getting its insights from its Savior—and I’m not talking about Jay-Hova.