Monday night, the Grammys got political. While the hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed “Same Love” (though it always seems to me that Ryan Lewis lurks around in the background more than he performs), Queen Latifah officiated a wedding for thirty-three couples, representative of multiple ages, sexual orientations, and racial backgrounds. Out of the entirety of the Grammy’s ceremony, this seven minute clip was the only part I watched, on the internet, long after the ceremony had closed. To me, this was the only segment of the Grammys that mattered.
I didn’t set out to be a Macklemore fan. In fact, given my taste of music, I am the last person who should like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I usually listen to electronic music that is far off the radar of the average listener. And yet, every morning I jog, it’s the strains of “Ten Thousand Hours,” “Same Love,” and “Thrift Shop.”
It was “Thrift Shop” I heard first. A friend of a friend shared it on Facebook, and I watched the video thinking it was from a parody troupe. It was a fun video, filled with people who looked like they enjoyed the shoot and didn’t take themselves too seriously. I immediately fell into a Macklemore rabbit hole, where I blew through every video Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had uploaded to Youtube. Then, I saw the “Same Love” video.
The video for “Same Love” chronicle’s a man’s life from birth to death. Within the span of minutes, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis tell of a visual story of a gay man grappling with society’s expectations, falling in love with the man he eventually marries, and navigating life in a way true to himself. Even as a cynical media consumer, I cried when I watched that video. And, when Macklemore’s lyrics criticized the religious argument that is used to deny marriage rights to all people, I agreed. I felt, as I watched this pop music video, a longing for a more accepting world, in which the right to love anyone, regardless of sexuality, race, culture, or religion, is cherished.
While Macklemore does have his critics, whether for the stereotypes he uses in his lyrics, the fact that his work eclipses those by a more diverse body of gay hip-hop artists, or the theology that is questioned by the Christian right, he continues to gain fans and accolades, as proven Monday by his Grammy win. For some, this popularity makes the beliefs he writes into his tracks even more dangerous.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge writes in The Layman that, in “Same Love,” Macklemore offers a false gospel, one in which the words of God are traded for the lie that the hearts of men, specifically those who oppose gay marriage and who don’t believe in gay love, need to change. Her argument is that the word of God does not change, and that Macklemore’s rejection of the words found “in a book written 3,500 years ago” is proof that he is leading his fans astray.
Though it may make Fowler LaBerge uncomfortable, there are many Jews and Christians who read scripture with the eyes of faith and yet, or perhaps because they do so, instead of reading words literally as though faith is not crucial to the reading of God’s word, question condemnation of homosexuality. In Rock and Theology, Jeffrey Keuss describes “Same Love” as theophany. He believes the message in the song encompasses a call to justice, to righteousness, and to “fully face” God. For Keuss, and for many millennials, “Same Love” becomes a call to action to reconcile faith with the need to accept the diversity of the human condition.
I was born in 1982. I’m not going to say that the world has perfected itself since then. Poverty, racism, sexism—Western society is still grappling with rampant social problems. However, I was raised to believe that all people are equal. Growing up in the public school system, we were taught the simple precepts that racism was bad and, to a lesser extent, that members of the GLBT community were people, just like everyone else. When I walk into a church, a synagogue, or even a social hall, and the faces looking back at me all look the same, whether they are the same age or the same skin tone, I automatically wonder what is wrong, why they lack diversity. If there is no triangle sticker or rainbow flag marking it as a safe space, I wonder why. When I walk into a room for the first time, I want to be assured that all of my friends will be not only accepted but, more importantly, welcomed.
At a time when people my age are dissatisfied with religious experiences and leaving faith institutions in droves, it may serve to remember that we are hungry, for conversations, for ideas, and yes, even for religion. But, members of my generation are less likely to join institutions we have watched alienate us and our loved ones, whether it be through cliquish behavior at basement potlucks, leadership that overlooks the contributions of the young, or the ecclesiastical trials of clergy who also believe it’s the same love.