Katy Perry - Photo by Samantha Sekula via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1hOFsTf)

Katy Perry – Photo by Samantha Sekula via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1hOFsTf)

It seems impossible for a magazine to interview Katy Perry without touching on her religious background. That’s fine by me, and the latest GQ interview is no exception. Perry, February’s cover girl, embodies the kind of good-girl-gone-bad that people love, or love to hate. (I wrote about  that phenomenon last month.)

Her best friend, Rihanna, was down the hall while the interview took place and the smell of weed wafted in:

“’Everyone is high!’ Perry declares, giggling. She means everyone else: ‘The weed—I’m not friends with it.’” She had been indulging in donuts instead, while her team got her geisha makeup just right.

(Her costume that night, at the American Music Awards, was criticized for being racist, a “combination of Japanese and Chinese traditional formal wear…but with plenty of room for cleavage.”)

The interview repeats some of the same old story: daughter of two Pentecostal ministers, raised in Santa Barbara, once recorded on a Christian label. But it also covers interesting ground when it talks about her song Spiritual, co-written with boyfriend and upstanding citizen John Mayer.

The song combines references to traditional Christianity–including, of course, speaking in tongues–mysticism, and Buddhism. That seems not to be too far from Perry’s own take on spirituality.

She believes in “’a cosmic energy that is bigger than me,’ although she has abandoned many of the teachings of her parents. (‘I do not believe God is an old guy sitting on a throne with a long beard…I don’t believe in heaven and hell as a destination.’)”

“‘I see everything through a spiritual lens,’ she says. ‘I believe in a lot of astrology. I believe in aliens…I look up into the stars and I imagine: How self-important are we to think that we are the only life-form?'”

Perry also reports having prayed to God for big breasts: “’I lay on my back one night and looked down at my feet, and I prayed to God. I said, “God, will you please let me have boobs so big that I can’t see my feet when I’m lying down?”‘ At age 11, ‘God answered my prayers,’ she says, glancing south. ‘I had no clue they would fall into my armpits eventually.’”

Perry’s shtick is weird, for sure, but it works quite well for her persona. Somehow in the world of a performer who wears candy-cane bras and seems to be one big wink, a God who answers prayers for big boobs doesn’t seem to be too far out of the realm of possibility. Aliens? Okay! If Katy did discover extraterrestrial life, they would surely be the cutest aliens you’ve ever seen–bug-eyed and purple, or pink, and she would eventually commandeer them to be her backup dancers.

Perry’s religion now seems to be mostly wrapped up in her her own persona. She talked with Marie Claire in January about the importance of being vulnerable–a trait she said set her apart from her peers–but “vulnerable” is the last word I think of when I see a performer like Perry, dressed as a peacock for one performance and a geisha for the next, cultivating a tightly controlled public image and playing into all the right stereotypes about what it means to be a woman in the entertainment industry.

Her belief in a “cosmic power” and rejection of the traditional Christianity of her girlhood lands her squarely in the middle of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” population, and a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll (you can decide for yourself how scientific it was) found that about half of Americans believed in extraterrestrial life. Maybe we’re all a little more like Katy Perry than we thought.

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Laura Turner

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.

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