Glimpses of God in the everyday world

December 15, 2017


By Christopher Menzhuber

If we believe God knocks on the door of every heart, . . . would He be working through Kesha and her new song Praying?

“I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees praying.”

In her first song to be released in almost four years the pop artist Kesha urges a nameless person who put her “through hell” to pray and change. Given the superficiality of Kesha’s other hits, “Praying” could be one more declarative ballad about triumphing over one’s enemies along the lines of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” or Queen Elsa’s “Let it Go”. But the emotional song also seems to contain the deeper religious message that interior peace comes with forgiving our enemies. And surprisingly, the music video reinforces this message in a couple of remarkable ways.

In the video we watch Kesha being brought from a kind of spiritual death to life, with the climactic moment unfolding at the summit of Salvation Mountain, a giant slab of painted clay in California topped with a Christian cross and dominated by the giant words “God is Love.” Kesha struggles out of fishnets and outruns monsters to arrive at the sunny peak, where she kneels down to pray.

“Sometimes I pray for you at night,” Kesha sings of her offender as she approaches the cross. It’s a lyric she described as particularly important to her in an interview with Zach Sang and it expresses she is willing the good of the other, which is at the heart of a Christian understanding of love. Then she respectfully touches the cross, which puts her in touch not only with other great men and women who have discovered peace through forgiveness, but Jesus Christ who asked his Father to “Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

It is therefore entirely fitting, that of all the many possible symbols of human goodwill, it is the Christian Cross that makes an appearance at the moment of forgiveness. The cross is the ultimate sign and source of self-sacrificing love. Furthermore, by connecting the cross to her moment of forgiveness “Praying” conveys the high cost of forgiving our enemies and even how it lies beyond our own power. “Some things only God can forgive.” Kesha sings.

If to Christian ears it sounds a little obvious to say we should forgive our enemies, it is far from being so in our contemporary culture which seems to be growing increasingly fascinated with Karmic redress. Many people seek satisfaction by blaming someone or some odious group– fill in your own worst enemy – for the problems and suffering in the world. Zach Sang even expresses his own incredulity at the idea of forgiving one’s enemies. “Every time I disliked somebody or I feel like somebody’s done me wrong or hurt me, all I do is wish – I wish bad things upon them, but that’s not the move?”

Kesha’s spirituality is likely too pantheistic to be considered Christian, but what she has done is made a powerfully emotive piece of art with a keen Christian message. The gritty style of the video will not appeal to everyone and the many symbols used probably have several interpretations. But the simple truth is that if more people prayed for their enemies –strengthened by the cross – the world would be a more peace-filled place.