How Ani Difranco Enhanced My Catholic Faith

Robbe Lyn Sebesta - Which Side Are You On


I used to think I was a Christian before I converted to Catholicism. I was baptized in the Methodist Church when I was a month old, and grew up going to Sunday School and Church, until I reached the age of 13, when my parents divorced. After that, my mom quit going and consequently, so did I.

However, I always believed what I came to know as the truth. When I attended Texas A&M University, I went to the Methodist Church in College Station on important days like Easter and Christmas. Other than that, I did nothing to enrich my faith because I did not know I had to do so. I knew nothing about any sort of “relationship” one must have with Christ that continues to grow, or it, like any other relationship, will come to a halt right where one leaves it.

I married my husband in the Methodist Church right after college graduation, and we attended sporadically. But I still did not know what it meant to be a Christian until I entered the Catholic Church 11 years ago. Indeed, it was as if a veil was lifted little by little as I attended RCIA, and then was completely removed at my confirmation. I was, as Christian Artist Sara Groves sings, “On the Other Side of Something.” Until this point, I was a music enthusiast. But I found that soon after my conversion, my musical tastes had changed immensely.

I had been an avid fan of what I called, the feminist-grunge movement that took off in the Nineties along with Kurt Cobain, and seemed to die out almost as quickly as his unfortunate demise. I identified, as many women in their twenties did, with the angst-ridden, forlorn, love-ridden (in the words of Fiona Apple), women who had been mistreated and lived to tell their tales. These types of artists gave me a sense of strength and hope because of the agony of which they sang, and I identified fully.

But one singer-songwriter who really stood out to me was Ani Difranco. DiFranco is one of the most iconoclastic figures in secular music. She’s been called “fiercely independent” (Rolling Stone), “inspirational” (All Music Guide), and “the ultimate do-it-yourself songwriter” (The New York Times). She was one of the original “indie” rockers, which means she derived from being \”independent,\” and created her own label, Righteous Babe, as opposed to being dependent on corporate record labels like Sony or EMI.

The term “indie” describes the small and relatively low-budget labels on which it is released and the do-it-yourself attitude of the bands and artists involved. As a DIY indie artist, she has released seventeen albums since 1990 on her own label. ¿Which Side Are You On?, released in 2012, was DiFranco’s first album in 4 years, and she returned to the mixture of socio-political and funky horn-backed folk guitar that has made her famous.

I was drawn to Difranco’s music because her lyrics portrayed her as a survivor, and they were unapologetic and so catchy that I became a big fan. However, once I converted to Catholicism, I no longer heard a powerful, independent woman. Instead, I heard the lies and contradictions that a life without God brings. It has been interesting to me to see how this happened.

To someone who has never had a relationship with music, it probably seems silly to think of giving up a particular artist as some sort of “break-up” with a boyfriend, but that is precisely how it felt for me. While I was still drawn to Ani’s chutzpah, what had held me most mesmerized now repelled me, namely, her lyrics to the song “Amendment.”

Ani had always made it known that she was “pro-choice,” or rather, “pro-abortion,” and before my conversion, I didn’t have a problem with it because I didn’t know what I was, or how I felt about anything really, much less abortion. Now that I knew the truth, that abortion is the taking of the most innocent of all life no matter the situation, I could no longer listen to this person sing about the most heinous of all crimes. Indeed, now her lyrics seemed almost a celebration of the killing of a child in the womb, in the name of “women’s rights.”

The full lyrics can be found here.

Being a mother herself, I had thought she might alter her view of abortion, as many have. But since she gave birth to her daughter in 2007, she seemed to be even more passionate about her abortion stance. These lines of the song are especially disturbing (at 2:02, and then 2:24-3:00 in the video): And if you don\’t like abortion, don\’t have an abortion/ And teach your children how they can avoid them/ But don\’t treat all women like they are your children/ Compassion has many faces, many names/ And if men can kill and be decorated, instead of blamed/ Then a woman called upon to mother can choose to refrain.

What? A soldier of war who receives a medal of honor is the same as a woman who chooses to kill her own child, who the most innocent of us all? This staggering comparison left me feeling quite perplexed and offended. And then it goes from disturbing to contradictory (3:22): Life is sacred, life is also profane/ A woman\’s life, it must be hers to name/ Let out an amendment/ Put this brutal game to rest/ Trust, women will still take you to their breast.

After reading these lyrics I realized how powerful the human mind can be when consciousness is all one has. I realized Ani, and many like her, who do not have any moral compass, became their own god and thus became as loyal to their “selves” as I am now to the Judeo-Christian God.

Seeing this in such blatant terms swept away any sort of “gray area” that I had mistakenly given her, in hopes of being able to still appreciate her music. ‘Which Side Are You On?’ is an anti-apathy anthem, but it places feminism at the heart of the struggle for a better world, as Difranco sings about stolen elections, faceless corporations, and rampant corruption.

Unfortunately, she fails to see abortion as the most corrupt and evil imposition placed upon women of them all. Indeed, without this basic human right, no other rights matter. And this is simply because to her, there is no God, and therefore, there is no evil. We as Catholic-Christians know better. Isaiah 5:20 states: \”Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.\”

Ani is right about one thing; there are two sides of this war we all face every single day whether we are aware of it or not. Which side are you on? I was on the dark and hopeless side, full of lies and confusion at one time. But thanks be to God I am now on the other side. And we know which side wins. I don’t claim to have found the truth, but I know it has found me.

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4 thoughts on “How Ani Difranco Enhanced My Catholic Faith”

  1. Pingback: The Extraordinary Deeds of an Ordinary Catholic -

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