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Katy Perry: 'I'm Still a Christian'

Revealing (ahem!) cover story in 'Rolling Stone' sheds more light on pop star's religious beliefs

Eight years ago, I interviewed Katy Hudson for a cover story for our sister publication Campus Life, our now defunct magazine for teenagers. The story, titled "The New Girls of Christian Music," also featured Stacie Orrico, Rachael Lampa, Paige Lewis, and Joy Williams, all of whom went on to enjoy more successful careers in Christian music than Hudson. But today, all four could well be featured in a story titled, "Where Are They Now?"

Not so for Katy Hudson, who has since gone on to change her name to Katy Perry, becoming one of the biggest female pop stars in the world. I could hardly imagine, talking to the then 17-year-old Hudson, that she'd someday be an international music idol, in a sense. But even back then, she seemed to be seeking craving attention in unique ways. After a concert at a local church, she met people at her merch table with the words "I'm Katy" written on her forehead with a black Sharpie. She had also put a black star around a big zit on her chin (today, ironically, she's a pitchwoman for Proactiv acne treatment), and she'd blackened out a tooth.

At the time (that's her one and only Christian CD cover, at left), I wrote, "Katy Hudson's motto might well be, 'What you see is what you get.' And with Katy, you never know what you'll see. Or get." I described her as "a regular teen, trying to figure out faith and life and everything in between." And she told me, "I just want to be real. I'll never wear a mask."

She's not wearing much of anything in the brand-new cover story of Rolling Stone, an article titled, "Sex, God & Katy Perry." (Caution: The cover photo and several inside photos are quite steamy.) And she's not holding much back as she tells her story of growing up in a Christian home, of her brief dalliance with Christian music, her longing to be a pop star, her relationship with fiance Russell Brand, and her present-day beliefs.

RS writes that "one would think her religious past is behind her, but [Perry] still considers herself a Christian." She tells the magazine, "God is very much still a part of my life. But the way the details are told in the Bible—that's very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I saw that. But that's the truth. . . . I still believe that Jesus is the son of God. But I also believe in extraterrestrials, and that there are people sent from God to be messengers, and all sorts of crazy stuff.

"I look up into the sky and I'm just mindf–-ed — all those stars and planets, the neverendingness of the universe. I just can't believe that we're the only polluting population. Every time I look up, I know that I'm nothing and there's something way beyond me. I don't think it's as simple as heaven and hell."

Fascinating but also confused observations from a young woman (she's now 25) who is still trying to figure things out, having come out of a childhood in a Christian home where both parents considered themselves pastors and where speaking in tongues was commonplace. "My mom and dad practice ‘tongues and interpretation' together—my dad speaks in tongues, and my mom interprets it," Perry told RS. "That's their gift." The three children, including Katy, spoke in tongues as well. "Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as ‘Pass the salt. A lot of religions use meditation or chanting as a subliminal prayer language, and speaking in tongues isn't that different—it's a secret, direct language to God. If I felt intuitively that I had to pray for some situation, but I didn't rationally understand it, I just let my spirit pray for it."

Perry said that after her Christian label shut down and that it was clear that "my gospel career was going nowhere," she started writing love songs and pursuing a pop career – not rejecting her faith in the process, but not exactly fully letting it define her, either. "Letting go was a process," she said. "Meeting gay people, or Jewish people, and realizing that they were fine was a big part of it. Once I stopped being chaperoned, and realized I had a choice in life, I was like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of choices.' I began to become a sponge for all that I had missed—the music, the movies. I was as curious as the cat. But I'm not dead yet."

January/February
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