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"Bold, brash and beautiful is Lakita Garth. When she comes on our show, sparks always fly. And the only thing that prevents her from being my ideal woman is her high moral standards." That's how Bill Maher, the host of Politically Incorrect, introduced Lakita Garth to his television audience when she appeared on the show in 1997. But Lakita—a media personality, motivational speaker and former Miss Black California—recalls that this visit wasn't like the others…

How many times had you been on Bill Maher's program?
It was probably the fifth time I'd been on Politically Incorrect. They like to have me on because they know I'm not afraid to speak my mind, and I won't back down.

What made this appearance unique?
Well, before the show, I met with the other guests backstage, including goth rocker Marilyn Manson. Before long, I grew to understand why young people gravitate to his rebellious attitude and his music.

What did you discover?
One of Manson's assertions is that he's not a hypocrite. He is who he is all the time. He always wears his makeup. He's always in character. He'll point to his heroes, like Alice Cooper, and call them sellouts because they act one way on-stage and a totally different way off-stage.

Manson seems to enjoy pointing out hypocrisy—especially in the church.
I think teens are attracted to him for standing against society's frauds. But what he showed viewers on Politically Incorrect that night is that he's really not so different from the people he criticizes. Manson loves to have Christians yelling and screaming at him because he takes on the role of the poor, helpless victim under attack for no good reason. That's his stance in a public discussion. But then he goes on MTV, or goes out on stage, and gets in everybody's face. There's an inconsistency there. And his fans saw it during our debate.

In the days that followed that broadcast, you got some interesting phone calls, didn't you?
Some Manson fans had gotten my number off the Internet and, I was certain, wanted to harass me for challenging their idol on television. They started out, "Hello, is this the same Lakita Garth who was on TV with Marilyn Manson?" The thought flashed through my mind that soon there'd be hate mail, nasty messages on my answering machine and who knows what else. But to my surprise, these kids would get all excited and tell me how cool it was that I took a stand and had something to say! They'd share their disappointment with Manson and proceed to praise me.

Why do you think they reacted that way?
Because they were attracted to a person of conviction. I had Jared from Florida. I had Josh from Oakland. There was John from Phoenix. They'd almost always bring up Christianity, and we'd talk about how Manson's music shouts about the world's problems without offering any solutions, which only leaves people frustrated, and leads to anarchy. So I'd pick a problem and ask them for solutions. Once they'd taken a shot at it, I'd suggest a biblical answer, not telling them where it came from until after they had seen the wisdom in it. Then they'd say, "Wow, I never thought about that."

You got a window on their world. So what did you learn that could be helpful as we try to reach that subculture?
If we tell kids like these that such-and-such is true or right "because the Bible says so," the walls will go up. It helps to have practical answers to the questions they're asking before getting religious. Sure, point them to the source of Truth, but don't lose them before you get there. I'm always meeting people who have never been inside a church. They have never heard the Gospel. To them, gospel is just a type of music, like rap or country.

And what about their concept of God?
Nearly 85 percent of Generation Xers claim to believe in a sovereign god. They just don't know which god that is. No one is there to show them. And that unmet need is where guys like Marilyn Manson get their power. By living lives of integrity and conviction, we can attract young people and challenge them with biblical truth without being "preachy."

Published September 1997