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On Suffering in Two Music Videos

—from the online article Considering nullity and Francis in a Katy Perry World by Edward Mulholland

This Sunday I will give the opening talk at an academic camp for high schoolers, called “Cathedral,” at Benedictine College. My opening talk presents two videos made around the same year in California: “Firework” by Katy Perry and “Light up the Sky” by a Christian band named The Afters. Both videos use firework imagery, and a series of vignettes about people in difficult situations (illness, family issues, self-esteem issues, employment problems). Some of the situations are almost identical. The main point I want to get across to these high school students is that, though both of these songs and videos are the fruit of the same time, place and industry, they are not the fruit of the same culture. They answer the “big questions” in a diametrically opposed way.

Katy Perry’s solution is to tap into the inner power of the individual, and, by some mysterious power, all problems will be solved by self-assertion (where one’s bustier apparently bursts into flames). The other video, where the sufferers must obey a mysterious message that proceeds from outside themselves, shows that your problems do not go away by personal volition alone (you’re still terminally ill, you’re still fired) but your perspective changes completely when you are consoled by the presence of God who is close to you in your suffering.

My point to the young people is that they are called, in a Katy Perry world, to carry on the culture of the builders of the great cathedrals. And my challenge to them is this: How will your living of the Faith make a mark on this world?



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