As Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film smashes box office records, Sam Brown writes on what Christians can learn from the devotion of the Swifties
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film release has grossed an astonishing $164.8 million worldwide, claiming a stunning box office victory against acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s farewell release Killers of the Flower Moon.
That cultural moment alone demands we pay at least some attention to Taylor Swift, whether or not we would count ourselves among her diehard band of followers, the ubiquitous Swifties. And, as Christians, that means being wise with how we interact with Taylor and her immense discography, stunning live performances and now burgeoning silver screen domination.
As with all cultural phenomena, we should engage with the Pennsylvania popstar’s popularity with discernment. It is right to lovingly critique what is not godly or good. And part of that certainly means not making an idol of her.
Can we learn the lessons of the Swifties and let our love of Jesus infect our whole lives?
Engaging well as a Christian in the world also means listening to scripture to see what it says – and listening to the culture we’re in. This ‘double listening’ (a term coined by John Stott) means recognising that the Bible is the ultimate authority on truth, goodness and purpose, but also acknowledging that the stories our culture tells are worth hearing.
Why? Because when we understand the culture we’re in, we can better understand the people God has put us beside – what they love, hope for, fear and value. When we’re rooted in scripture and attuned to our culture, we can relate the one to the other and help people see how the gospel truly meets their felt needs.
So what can the Christian in 2023 learn from Taylor and her Swifties?
A greater love
In respect to the Swifties, we see a devotion that is awe-inspiring. Think, for a moment, of a young Taylor Swift fan – you may even know one yourself. Their love of their favourite musician shapes how they choose to spend their (often-limited) resources. Rather than scoffing at the besottedness of her fans, we should observe this cultural devotion and think about how it could inspire us.
I want to love Jesus like Swift fans love Taylor.
When we see people devoting themselves to a figurehead they clearly adore, we can try and understand why. People adore Swift for her strength, creativity, aesthetic and story-telling skills. Knowing Jesus, we are then able to emphasise those specific elements of his character to communicate the good news in a culturally coherent way.
Because, if in Jesus we have a love that is so much greater than the discography of Queen T-Swizzle herself, we’re called to be all-in for Jesus. Our devotion to him should permeate every aspect of our lives – when we’re spending time with our friends, when we’re on our way to work with our earphones in, and how we steward the money we have.
Whole life love
When Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment, he replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
This might be a notion we are familiar with on a Sunday. When we meet with our brothers and sisters and worship together, rejoicing, weeping, learning, we can have at least some notion of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.
I think the Swifties do. They can’t spend their whole lives at a Taylor Swift gig, however much they might want to. But their daily routines are still often set against the context of their beloved singer, shaping their conversations, their choices and their quiet moments.
When we understand the culture we’re in, we can better understand the people God has put us beside
Likewise, the Christian can’t spend their whole lives in a church service, however much they might want to. Among all we do during our daily routine, can we learn the lessons of the Swifties and let our love of Jesus infect our whole lives?
A reason for hope
If we can, those tasks that may still be difficult, boring or frustrating can change. We do them for a reason external to ourselves. For the Swifty, this may be to create more resources and time to enjoy obsessing over their favourite pop sensation. For the one who follows Jesus, it is to know that whatever they do and wherever they do it, they are working to create order, dignity, wholeness and a place where individuals can flourish. A life lived in full appreciation that Jesus has invited them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind, all the time.
As we demonstrate this, we reflect back to those who love Taylor Swift that while we may indeed enjoy her music and live performances, it’s not the reason we get out of bed in the morning.
Ultimately, Taylor Swift cannot offer salvation beyond this life (shocker!) nor true, deep fulfilment. But if we show the love of one who is even stronger, more resolute, more creative and more relatable than Taylor, we stand a chance of communicating the story of Christ in a way that Swifties can understand