Like her mentor
and sometime idol, Madonna, Britney Spears has risen to stardom on a not too subtle
appeal to two characteristics that some people think of as opposites: sexuality
and spirituality. Combining hip hugging pants and skirts with public professions
of faith, Spears has been eager to promote an image that is both hip (no pun intended),
as well as holy.
Does Hair Color Deepen One's Life
Not long ago, she exchanged her trade-mark blond
hair for brown, all the better to show forth her "spirituality." Britney's
hairstylist, Kevin Mancuso, is quoted by Britney.com as saying that he and the
music diva have been collaborating on a new look for some time: "We've been
talking about doing a big change. We decided together to go dark with it. ...
There are a million Britney lookalikes now -- that alone is the perfect opportunity
to move away from that and say, 'Let's start the new Britney.' Just like her music
evolves, I think she is evolving too -- it shows her spirituality and it's a way
to move on."
Then there's the sacrament of marriage.
there was her "marriage" to Kevin Federline, the second Spears
marriage within a year. It was soon rumored that the marriage was little more
than a publicity stunt, as no marriage license had been applied for, let alone
filed. Spears confessed, arguing that the lack of documentation was the result
of a last minute change of plans.
"I know we're not completely
legal until we file the license," Spears told People magazine, "but
in a real sense, in a spiritual sense, we're married ... I believe you also marry
in your heart and that means much more than a piece of paper."
Now that Kevin and Britney appear to be headed at full throttle toward the divorce court, we have yet another measure of exactly how enduring a "spiritual" marriage can be. To be sure, the marriage did last a bit longer than the change in hair color.
In the past, Spears has self-identified
as a Christian; a fact that distinguished her from her role model Madonna. For
while Madonna's lyrics and music videos made generous use of religious icons,
images and words like "prayer," she seemed to be satirizing the Catholic
faith. By contrast, Britney's spirituality seemed more conventional and straight
forward. (She was raised, after all, a Baptist.)
wonders to what degree either of these examples illustrates a truly authentic
synthesis of sexuality and spirituality. Her more "spiritual" brown
hair lasted only a little longer than her first marriage. In fact, the mere suggestion
that a change in hair color can reflect a change in the state of one's character
or soul should give one pause.
And Now a Jew?
too, the latest turn for Britney has been toward a form of Jewish mysticism, the
Kabbalah. In this, too, she is following Madonna. She was recently photographed
with a tattoo on the back of her neck ... three Hebrew letters, one of the 72
names of God that can be constructed by re-arranging the letters in verses 19,
20 and 21 of Exodus 14. This Mem-Hey-Shin (in the English alliteration) is associated
with "healing," either physical or spiritual.
to the depth of Britney's Jewish mysticism, one might wonder whether it, like
the tattoo, is only skin deep, as Judaism has traditionally forbidden tattoos
of any kind; the view being that the human body, as conceived by God is beautiful
enough, and does not require such adornments.
I'll have to
hand it to both Britney and Madonna, however. They're on to something in catching
the connection between sexuality and spirituality. I'm not sure, however, that
they understand that linking these two results in a sacrament, not a publicity
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.