“When I see Lil Nas X dancing into the depths of hell on a stripper pole, I see Jesus,” wrote Jordan DeSanto in a recent op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter. DeSanto, like many queer people from Christian backgrounds, found hope in the pop singer’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” music video—and even found theological meaning.
“Lil Nas X’s latest music video is set in ‘Montero’ — the sacred place where queer people do not have to hide their sexuality. In Montero, to hide is to sin. Montero, in Lil Nas X’s story of Black queer redemption, is paradise, the world as it ought to be. It is the paradise from which we sprang, and to which all humanity strives to be restored back to.
“This paradise, however, is quickly disrupted by the Serpent. This figure represents sin in Montero — hiding one’s queer self.”
The music video depicts Lil Nas X being seduced by the Serpent, but the singer eventually defeats forces of evil:
“Lil Nas X descends into hell out of his divine duty — not condemnation — to redeem all those closeted and under the power of homophobic policy and theology. When I see Lil Nas X strutting in high femme leather boots, with his red box braids, edges laid, I see the savior that Black queer youth need. When Lil Nas X snaps the devil’s neck and crowns himself with his horns, I see Jesus stepping on the head of the Serpent, putting an end to all the violence of homophobia once and for all.”
DeSanto connected “Montero”’s message of liberation to his own story:
“Since hearing the Gospel preached to me by a Black queer pastor, my life has not been the same. I now see myself and all my queerness in the body of Jesus. I see Jesus in myself. I no longer see myself as redeemed in spite of my queerness, I see myself redeemed in light of my queerness. I now know the Gospel truth — I am Black. I am queer. I am sacred.”
“Watching Lil Nas X, an openly queer and unapologetically Black artist, gives me hope. His music video is a reminder of the promise of the Gospel. It promises victory for those who are still oppressed by a world stricken with the evil of homophobia. So when Lil Nas X sings, ‘Call me by your name, I’ll be on the way,’ I see those words stained in red ink — as the very words of Jesus himself. That Jesus is, indeed, on his way to conquer the plague of homophobia in our culture and society. Promising victory for those still stricken with the plague of homophobia and championing those in positions of power to continue fighting the good fight of faith — towards collective liberation.”
With Olga Segura as opinion editor, NCR is doing good work to uplift faithful perspectives that do not usually appear in Catholic media, like DeSanto’s. His op-ed refuses to play the game of respectability politics, instead celebrating Lil Nas X’s portrayal of Black queer sexuality. That, too, is the Gospel.
—Mac Svolos, New Ways Ministry, June 3, 2021