Madonna’s 1989 video featured the singer dancing in front of burning crosses, experiencing stigmata (the appearance of wounds in locations corresponding to the crucifixion of Jesus) and kissing a statue of a Black Jesus who comes to life in a church.
The video was banned by the Vatican, with Italian Roman Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei saying at the time: “The video is a blasphemy and insult because it shows immorals inside a church.”
Pope John Paul II also encouraged fans to boycott Madonna in Italy and not attend her Blond Ambition tour.
Reflecting on the video, Lambert told The Hollywood Reporter: “I wanted to explore the correlation between sexual ecstasy and religious ecstasy.”
She added that the Black Jesus character “came from Madonna telling me she wanted to ‘f*** a Black guy on the altar’”.
To which Lambert recalls replying: “Well, why not have it be a Black Jesus? Let’s just go all the way.”
Lambert said the burning crosses evoked “the idea of appropriation, that the Ku Klux Klan could take a cross, which is a holy symbol to a lot of people, and appropriate it in a way to instill fear and horror and promote race hatred”. She added: “I wanted to turn that on its head.”
Despite the controversy, “Like a Prayer” went on to be nominated for MTV Video Music Awards’ Video of the Year and has since been viewed over 163 million times on YouTube.