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The Taylor Swift Phenomenon And Faith: One Christian’s View

by | Sun, Mar 3 2024

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The Taylor Swift phenomenon continues to generate millions of dollars from her global concert tour. It’s estimated she made $370 million in Australia alone. She’s a 34-year-old charismatic billionaire who is worshipped and idolised by fans of most demographics for her music and personality, almost like a religious figure. She was Time magazine’s 2023 Person Of The Year.

But not everyone is a diehard fan. Newcastle-based Presbyterian pastor, Christian columnist and blogger known as The Wee Flea, David Robertson, acknowledges that while Taylor Swift is incredibly talented, the idolisation of her poses questions about her influence especially when it comes to faith. He expounded on his views to Vision Radio:

“To hate Taylor Swift, that’s just a really stupid thing to do. She’s a celebrity. You don’t know her. How can you hate somebody? You may not like some of the things she stands for. You might not like her music. But to like her music; to enjoy her shows; to have fun with all of that? All of that is fine. I think my concern comes with the idolisation and the fanaticism and, dare I say it, the absolutely uncritical role of the media in this.”

“I won’t mention which breakfast TV show it was in Australia, but they were actually broadcasting live the arrival of Taylor Swift’s private plane with her boyfriend from Hawaii like it was the arrival of the Queen or the return of the King. I just thought: We’ve gone completely nuts. Taylor Swift is a very, very well manufactured product. I have no reason to believe she’s not a very genuine and lovely person, but boy is she marketed well and so many people fall for that.”

Wikipedia, that source of all true wisdom, tells us that Taylor Swift is a Christian. Now, maybe by Wikipedia standards, that’s true. She was brought up in a Christian home. She recalls the influence of her grandmother singing in church. There is one famous incident where she announced she was a Christian, but I think that was the way that people use ‘Christian’ in a society where she comes from, which is the southern US, as: Well, all good people are Christians. She’s certainly given no evidence whatsoever of faith in Christ.”

“Some of her values, I think, are anti-Christian, but some of her songs are not. There’s one Soon You’ll Get Better in which she writes: Desperate people find faith. So now I pray to Jesus, too. And that was written when her mother got cancer. One of the brilliant things about Taylor Swift is she manages to convey emotion. That’s why so many people love her. I think she does reflect the emotions that many, particularly young girls, feel, and not just them, their mothers as well. So in terms of Christianity, I don’t think it’s there. Maybe she’s seeking. I don’t know.”

David Robertson addressed the view held by some that the superstar is accepted as what’s referred to as a cultural Christian.

“If you are in a culture that’s been affected by Christianity, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But in the sense of the Biblical term of ‘Christian’, I don’t think people should claim to be Christians when they clearly don’t follow Christ. A huge part of my work in church is to convince an awful lot of people who come along to church that: Well, maybe you’re not actually Christians. And sometimes I don’t know. I’m not in a position to to sit in judgement upon that. All I know is that cultural Christianity really just doesn’t last. You end up going along with a culture more than with Christ. And I certainly think that Taylor has done that in terms of a lot of the values she espouses. Some of the values she espouses, I think, are very Christian. I love them. But others are very much against what Christ teaches.”

Taylor Swift has reportedly tried to distance herself from making faith a part of of her public life. One quote attributed to her website said: Just wanted to remind you guys that let’s try to avoid topics and conversations that lean towards political or religious topics. In the end, someone will inevitably get offended and this just isn’t the place for that. David Robertson believes that’s hypocritical:

“She’s very, very clearly come down on one political side. I find in the world in which we live, people have an opinion about something or someone, and it’s always two extremes. You always either love or you hate. And I find that with Taylor Swift there are people who say: Oh, she’s a horrendous person because she’s a tool of the Biden administration. She’s against Donald Trump, she supports Biden, she’s a Democrat. So you get people writing serious articles saying: Taylor Swift could influence the American election to such an extent that Biden gets re-elected which is ridiculous. There was an article in one of the Australian newspapers about Taylornomics: Taylor Swift can save the Australian economy. Taylor Swift can save the planet. That’s all great for marketing, but it’s just dreadful for reality. So I think what she said [about politics and religion] would have been great if she’d stuck to it, but she didn’t stick to it.”

“I have no problem at all with Taylor Swift having political opinions. In a sane world that wouldn’t really matter very much, but we don’t live in a sane world. If anyone says: I’m going to vote this way because my favourite singer votes this way, it’s almost like you don’t deserve the vote. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think preachers should tell people how to vote. I certainly don’t think celebrities and pop stars should tell people how to vote. The problem in our culture is everything gets politicised — music, everything. And that’s disastrous. Does anyone think that the ABC or the Sydney Morning Herald would be fawning over Taylor Swift if she was a Donald Trump supporter? I don’t think so.”

Pastor Robertson also explained to Vision Radio what he believes is wrong with the idolisation of celebrities like Taylor Swift:

“I don’t think that we really grasp this enough. You could argue that idols only refer to those who worship idols in temples. You could say Buddhists have idols or Hindus have idols, but actually everyone has idols. An idol is something that comes between us and God. So if anything replaces God at the centre of our lives, we can have self-idolisation or we can also set up other people. When I think about some of the Christians I know who can hardly get out of bed to go to church on a Sunday morning, but can cross the country to go to a Taylor Swift concert and wait online for hours and hours to try and get a ticket, that comes pretty close to Idolisation. I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to Taylor Swift concerts. I’m saying we’ve got to be careful.”

The Christian columnist also gave his views on Taylor Swift’s renowned generosity with her money:

“It’s not what you give. It’s what you’ve got left. Swift is worth $1.2 billion. Every concert she basically gets personally $13 million. Last year, she gave  $50 million for truckers, $30 million for food banks, $20 million for animals. That sounds great. But think about how much more she had left? I mean she was staying at the most exclusive presidential suite in Sydney’s Crown Hotel. That’s $36,000 a night. She’s not living in poverty. She has a private jet that she sends off to Hawaii to collect her boyfriend.”

“That’s where I find all this hypocrisy, because we’ve just had a television series [Prosper] which was, quite unashamedly really about Hillsong, critiquing the lifestyle of televangelists. I think it’s actually fair enough to criticise that. However, if any televangelists had the lifestyle of Taylor Swift, it would be condemned all over the place. But instead we exalt in it. I’m banging my head against the wall saying: Come on people, wake up. She’s a singer.”

David Robertson also expressed concern to Vision Radio about how Taylor Swift’s political views could influence young women especially, on issues like abortion.

“I find it disturbing that you can have 92,000 people at the MCG — the vast majority of them, young women and girls — and they’re chanting pro-abortion stuff. I think that’s where she does have an influence, and I think it’s an incredibly harmful influence, because she’s effectively saying: If you want to be a feminist you have to be pro-abortion. If you want to be a Christian, you have to be pro-abortion. That to me is really wicked. I don’t know personally what she really thinks. She’s very, very carefully managed because she gives all the right views to ensure she doesn’t get criticism at one level, and that anyone who does criticise her comes across as curmudgeonly or some kind of bigot.”

The Presbyterian minister concluded by describing himself a Taylor Swift pray-er.

“Paul tells us in Timothy that we are to pray for kings and those in authority. Taylor is not a queen, but she certainly has a degree of cultural authority. I can’t bring myself to dislike her whenever I see her interact with her fans. I just think she’s totally admirable in that regard. But I pray for her because I don’t know how much about her persona and everything else is manufactured. I don’t know who’s in control. Is she really the businesswoman? Is she herself the product that’s being marketed or all the strengths? I don’t know any of that, but I do pray for her, and a lot of the emotions and stuff she writes about are very real. And I just pray that she would come to a point where she would say, look, don’t seek your salvation in me. You need to seek it in Christ.”

To listen to the full interview with David Robertson click below:

Photo: Wikimedia Commons