Published July 23, 2021
It is a curious thing that whenever Christianity recedes, paganism ascends. It is like a jungle that knows no boundaries, pushing its way into where ever there is a vacuum created by the absence of the Truth.
Our new paganism has steady characteristics that took root in the 1960s.
As I explore in my book The Anti-Mary Exposed (TAN Books 2019), we live with a cool and edgy cocktail of Marxism and the occult. Women have been drinking it up ever since, with men either embracing it or left unsure how to counter it.
The radical feminist movement messaging has changed slightly over the years. The early years were spent convincing everyone that men had better lives outside the home, and that women too ought to join in the fun and get out there. Women, because we aren’t men but are trying to become like them, were given instant victimhood status, which has since justified the killing of 3000 unborn children each day in the United States. “If men don’t have to have babies, we shouldn’t either,” goes the logic. Meanwhile, the patriarchy continues to be the bogeyman, oppressing the heck out of all of us. Erstwhile pop star Madonna summed it up neatly with a recent tweet:
The Patriarchy continues to try to crush my neck with their heavy boots, cut off my life force and take away my voice—Even those who call themselves artists…………..You know who you are!!! DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY! Now and Forever.
Clearly, the woman worth $850 million knows a thing or two about oppression.
Speaking of Madonna, the 1980s ushered in a new type of entertainment that moved away from getting women out of the house, and moved toward deeper involvement in the occult. Madonna introduced iconoclastic pop paganism that desecrated the Virgin Mary, Christ, the saints and the priesthood. Her songs, such as Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer, offered the profaning of the sacred. She took it all to a whole new level when she performed a 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show full of satanic imagery. Because of women like Madonna and the lure of the occult, Wicca (or witchcraft) now boasts of more adherents in the U.S. than there are members of the Presbyterian church.
And like moths to the flame, pop tarts haven’t been able to stay away from the pillars of our faith ever since. J-Lo, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande, wearing just as little as humanly possible, have all found their own way to besmirch the Virgin Mary and convey the worst possible aspects of womanhood.
The latest pop phenom is Halsey, who somehow thinks she too is doing something groundbreaking and edgy. Before delivering her son in mid-July, the 26-year-old filmed a 13-minute video that includes her “mostly clothed” (like “mostly peaceful”), silently looking at stunning Marian artwork at The Met in New York. The video culminates in the unveiling of a painting of Halsey, breast exposed holding another child, much like the Marian artwork that was featured in the museum tour. The revealed image is the cover art of her latest album, due out in August.
On Instagram, Halsey explained the idea behind the album cover:
‘This album is a concept album about the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth. It was very important to me that the cover art conveyed the sentiment of my journey over the past few months. The dichotomy of the Madonna and the Whore. The idea that me as a sexual being and my body as a vessel and gift to my child are two concepts that can co-exist peacefully and powerfully. My body has belonged to the world in many different ways the past few years, and this image is my means of reclaiming my autonomy and establishing my pride and strength as a life force for my human being.’
It is hard to know what all this means, especially her conflating of the Madonna and the Whore (which cannot be mixed) but it has the words empower, pride, co-exist, powerfully, strength and autonomy in it, so it feels important even if it’s unintelligible.
And then she transitions to the challenges of breastfeeding in our culture: “We have a long way to go with eradicating the social stigma around bodies and breastfeeding,” she says.
Well maybe, but she seems not to realize that the breastfeeding stigma came from the very women who have been telling us to get back to work, or who don’t think we should be having children in the first place. And it came from those who tell us over and over again that the female body is reducible to sexuality.
The title of Halsey’s album, which will feature her mimicking the Virgin Mary, seems to sum up the issue perhaps better than her Instagram explanation: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. This is the true fruit of pop-tart life and the Marxist goal — grasping at power because love has become something incomprehensible because it requires service, selflessness, vulnerability and deep relationships.
Unfortunately, pop music isn’t the only realm where this nonsense gets a pass. The newly-released movie, The Unholy, features a young deaf woman who has apparitions of the Virgin Mary, with miracles following, and a worldwide fascination in the phenomenon. But apparently, this Virgin isn’t really the person everyone thinks she is. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film’s reviews this summary: “Rarely scary and often dull, The Unholy falls back on the same tired tropes that have already been done to death by countless other religious horror movies.” Gratefully, because of its own mediocrity, the film is getting little attention.
Sadly, what is getting a lot of international attention after its preview at the Cannes Film Festival is the new film, Benedetta. Todd McCarthy in Deadline magazine describes it as “a medieval brew of religious fervor, illicit lesbian sex in a convent, Catholic church politics and — to incidentally add a contemporaneous touch — a plague sweeping the land.” The critic adds that the film “is wild, intelligent, pulsating, provocative and vibrantly alive.”
Well, that’s one way to put it. Just watch the trailer. On second thought, don’t. It is awful.
This “film of the moment,” as McCarthy describes it, comes down to these fundamental issues: “Your biggest enemy is your body,” the abbess insists to her flock, a position paired with a parallel edict: “Intelligence can be dangerous.” Yawn. The Church depicted as prudish and anti-intellectual? How novel.
Films like these, along with most every other pop-culture effort, continue to tear away at the fabric of authentic femininity, fruitfulness, motherhood and spiritual motherhood. Sixty years is a long time to tell one ideological story, over and over again. Sadly, the story keeps telling us that nothing is sacred, the profane is just as good, and that women’s power is in their sexuality. Forget about love.
This all might feel like fringe culture-war craziness, but the reality is that there isn’t anything to counter it. While Benedetta is said to be “based on a true story,” one of these days, it might be nice if someone — anyone — in the music or film industry could actually get the true story about women and the Virgin Mary right.
Carrie Gress, Ph.D., is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she co-directs EPPC’s Theology of Home Project. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and is the co-editor at the online women’s magazine Theology of Home.