“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” That’s from the book of Matthew, chapter seven, verse fifteen, in the King James Version of the Christian Bible. It’s a line familiar even to the secular, Talmudic-style interpreters over at lyric site RapGenius, who correctly noted a connection in the lyrics of David Bowie’s title song from new album The Next Day. Not familiar, on the evidence, is Bill Donohue, head of nonprofit advocacy group the Catholic League, who is outraged — outraged, we tell you! — by Bowie’s new “The Next Day” video, which visualizes the song’s blasphemous lyrical themes.
Just in time for SPIN’s Bigger Than Jesus: 25 Rock Deities, Rap Messiahs, and Would-Be Golden Gods, Donohue has used his organization’s tax-exempt status to assail Bowie with flamboyant — one might almost say “campy” — levels of antediluvian bigotry. As Rolling Stone points out, Donohue blasts Bowie on the Catholic League’s website, ridiculously and redundantly dubbing the Thin White Duke a “switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London.” The horror!
But that’s not all, God. Donohue is an arts critic: “In short, the video reflects the artist — it is a mess,” he writes. Donohue is also a man of Christian generosity: “There is hope for him yet,” he concludes sarcastically of Bowie, after noting that while the singer has expressed leanings toward atheism, “it’s a sure bet he can’t stop thinking about the Cadillac of all religions, namely Roman Catholicism.” As they say in the South, bless Donohue’s heart.
Again: We’re not quite sure what the video, directed by Floria Sigismondi and starring Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard, is about, and it’s not quite as entertaining as Donohue’s latest epistle, but we know it’s strange and compelling. And of course there’s nothing wrong with defending one’s beliefs and church against perceived attacks. But why is Donohue surprised that a video for a song about people who “can work with Satan while they dress like the saints” would show people behaving devilishly while dressed in religious garments? (Could it be because he misquotes the lyric as “while they dress with the saints”? Could that perhaps be a Freudian slip?)
And what difference does it make whether Bowie bats left-handed or right-handed? We didn’t even know he played baseball! Oh, Donohue is cleverly mocking Bowie for a choice in sexual partners that may include both men and women? We get it! It’s funny because, well, it’s not funny. It’s just ugly and small.
The last time Donohue was heard from round these parts, it was when Nicki Minaj used exorcism imagery at the 2012 Grammy Awards. We wrote that we hoped her music “makes Bill Donohue’s head spin while spewing green vomit.” It took more than a year, but now Donohue has puked up some Bowie bile. If only his organization had serious problems to worry about. For some reason Donohue’s report asking people to take the Catholic child sex abuse scandal “in social context” has been pulled from the Catholic League’s website. Bowie continues to pick the right, ravening enemies.
Which brings us to another oft-forgotten Jesus greatest hit: Judge not lest ye be judged. Not sure what kind of music Donohue listens to, but it’s a sure bet he can’t stop thinking about the Cadillac of all pop stars, namely David Bowie. There is hope for him yet.