German Rock Under Fire for God Song | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 08.03.2006
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German Rock Under Fire for God Song

Europe's Mohammed cartoon controversy has claimed a German rock band as its latest victim. Germany's top music awards show cancelled a performance of the church-critical song "God is a Popstar," by the band Oomph!.

Oomph! takes aim at the church in God is a Popstar

Oomph! takes aim at the church in "God is a Popstar"

The song by the trio of gothic-rock musicians begins harmlessly enough. But when the chanting of the "Lord's Prayer" fades out, the tone sharpens and the band Oomph! takes aim at Christianity.

"I give you love, I give you hope," they sing. "But only to deceive, because you all want to be lied to."

Since its release, "God is a Popstar" has given several German radio stations pause. The video, which depicts the transformation of a homeless man bearing a likeness to Jesus into a media star and back again, has also raised the hackles of music television execs. This week, the band received the push that ensured a media spectacle. German broadcaster RTL cancelled a planned Oomph! performance on March 12 at the Echo Awards, Germany's top music awards show.

"Even Christians need protection"

An RTL statement said that "in the context of the current, international religious discussion" a performance of the song wouldn't be appropriate.

European media have been on edge since published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed sparked a worldwide controversy and lead to deaths during riots in the Middle East. Now it seems the controversy has spread to other artistic mediums, and religions.

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"Nowadays it appears that even Christians need to be protected," wrote Carmen Böker, of the Berliner Zeitung.

Editorialists, following Böker's sarcastic reaction, have slammed the decision. Kai Müller at the Tagesspiegel compared RTL's decision to the decision of the Bishopric of Brno in the Czech Republic. Following a papal order, the Bishopric banned performances of Gustav Mahler's music in a church because it wasn't eulogistic enough.

Demanding tolerance, but providing none

"The scenario has nothing to do with the denigration of Christianity," Müller wrote of the Oomph! lyrics. "It's more about not getting caught up in visions of redemption."

The band itself said it was surprised by the reaction. As they wrote the song, they mulled the many forms of deification in society today, they said in a statement on their Web site. They claimed they wanted to criticize the church as well as take aim at the pop stars celebrated by the media and fans as "new Gods."

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Singer Dero said that the decision to ban the performance was a curious one by a society so ready to demand tolerance from other religions.

"On the one hand, we in the West demand from those of other faiths that they be more accepting of critical perspectives of their religion," he wrote. "On the other hand, we counter an attitude in our country that completely contradicts this."

Mohammed controversy, it isn't

Despite the back and forth, the issue isn't likely to prompt the intellectual and high-octane debate sparked by the Mohammed cartoons, at least according to some commentators.

"This," wrote the left-wing taz newspaper, "is about a below average band, with a less than original song, the banning of which a substandard broadcaster hopes will spark a little interest in a bleak event."

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