Winston Churchill famously said, “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
Similarly, if the Devil had something good to say about queerness, the Jesuits would make at least a favorable reference to him in the pages of their magazine America. A Catholic reader sent in this column from America, calling it an example of “peak Jesuit.” Headline, as it appears online:
Pop star Lil Nas X is no stranger to going viral. The artist’s smash hit “Old Town Road” is the top certified single of all time, going platinum—having a million downloads, streams or purchases—a record-breaking 15 times. (For comparison, Post Malone and Lady Gaga have never had a song make it past 11.)
But last summer, the gay pop star found himself in the middle of an internet storm. After releasing the music video for his hit song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” featuring an infamous scene in which he pole dances into hell to give Satan a lap dance, Lil Nas X became the target of Twitter vitriol from everyone from Fox News to the governor of South Dakota.
The so-called “Satan video”—and the conservative religious backlash it inspired—is the extent of what many people know about Lil Nas X, but the artist and his work deserve better.
Notice the assumption: that liberal Christians weren’t offended by a gay performer’s sexual pantomime with Lucifer, God’s archenemy. And hell, maybe they weren’t. But if they weren’t, that tells us a lot about what it means to be a liberal Christian. More:
But the most prominent example of religious imagery in his work is in his Book of Genesis-inspired music video for “Montero (Call My by Your Name).” While some Christians might understandably feel uncomfortable with its use of satanic imagery, much of the religious backlash to the video missed that its central point is not Lil Nas X’s descent into hell, but the estrangement from heaven that caused it.
Christianity made Lil Nas X go to Hell to become Satan’s catamite. One more:
“Montero” is the result of Lil Nas X’s struggle with aspects of his life, his religious experiences and his gay identity. Its honesty and introspection invite us into a kind of communion not only with Lil Nas X, but with those who have shared his experiences more broadly. The exclusion and maligning of L.G.B.T. people, including from Christian schools, churches and communities, has led and will continue to lead to religious trauma in these communities, and thus to a reckoning with Christian imagery in gay culture. It is vital we be open to listening to these stories and engaging with them in a spirit of dialogue and understanding. “Montero”can offer new perspectives into the realities of Black queerness; for some, including some Catholics, it might even give a voice to their own experiences. We are lucky to have it.
Read it all. You can’t make this up. See, Tridentine Rite Catholics must be denied the Latin mass, according to the Jesuit pope, but the Jesuit magazine can publish paeans to gay singers who romance Satan. A sign of the times.