Ariana Grande Red Carpet

Pop singer Ariana Grande has formally left the Catholic faith of her childhood in favor of Kabbalah, citing the church’s rejection of her brother’s homosexuality.

During her late teens, the now 21-year-old rising star had a series of moments in which she began to question her faith. Her search for a more meaningful faith was eventually prompted when elder brother Frankie Grande was told by the church that “God doesn’t love him” because he is gay.

Frankie Grande, recently known for his appearance with Big Brother 16 on CBS, is also a Broadway actor, currently preparing for a role in Rock of Ages to start in November. Ariana looks up to him devotedly, and credits his musical theater interest with giving direction to her own pursuits.

Pursuit of a Spiritual Foundation

Through a stormy childhood and busy performing career from an early age, Ariana Grande has found stability in her spirituality. Yet some areas of frustration that led to her exit from Catholicism include her assertion of the church’s positions that Spongebob Squarepants is “gay and he’s a sinner and he should burn in hell”, that Harry Potter is sinful, and that working women are not generally approved. These messages felt like personal affronts to the young performer, so she and her brother went together to look for a new spiritual community. Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism, appealed to them both and has become a source of peace and inspiration for them. While the purest form of Kabbalah follows the religious tenets of Judaism, it also manages to steer clear of political controversy due to its self-defined nature as a life-blueprint rather than a religion.

According to this year’s hottest new diva, the life tools she has received from Kabbalah include considering how to take control of a situation without simply reacting to it. She describes this process as taking “a lot of self-control and practice, and, I guess, willpower.” At its heart, the practice teaches that humanity is born with the potential for greatness, and claims to provide guidance in navigating the spectrum of spiritual and physical humanity to “remove every form of chaos, pain and suffering.”

A Common Experience

The experience of this sister and brother echoes that of many other young people as they begin to grapple with larger issues of meaning and purpose, and attempt to synthesize their personal experience with a belief in a higher power that orders the universe. When traditional church teachings lag behind popular cultural mores and practices, a dissonance emerges that increasingly prompts either a shift in beliefs or an exit from faith entirely.

While it is not the only reason, gay equality is a key issue prompting youth to disengage from the church. Recognizing this trend, the Vatican is attempting to engage with popular culture by somewhat softening the church’s stance against gays. While maintaining that marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, Pope Francis notably remarked, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He also acknowledged in a recent interview that same-sex civil unions have a practical application as far as medical benefits and property rights are concerned.

The Church’s Challenge

Part of the inherent challenge of traditional religion lies in its need to interpret timeless church doctrine against the backdrop of an evolving historical context. Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, the three largest religions practiced in the world today, all frown on homosexuality as against the natural order. Yet all three emphasize the love of the Source for humanity, and advocate human love for their fellow humankind. Christians follow the mantra “Love God, love your neighbor.” Muslims have a name for God (Allah) called al-Wadud, He who loves. And Hindus believe “all life is sacred, to be loved and revered.” Contrasting this love message with the anti-gay sentiment so often verbalized by religious institutions and their followers does create a sense of bewilderment among those religious persons trying to synthesize a meaningful and harmonious world view.

Breaking from the trend shown by today’s emerging generation, the Grande siblings can be commended for the choice to shift their religious energies from Catholicism to Kabbalah rather than completely give up on faith.

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