Taylor Swift and Christianity

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Taylor Swift is on the Australian leg of her Eras tour so we are constantly being bombarded with news of her. The arrival of her private plane in Sydney was breathlessly covered by the news stations. And that's not surprising – she sold out the 92,000-seat MCG in Melbourne three times and has done the same four times for the 82,000-seat Accor stadium in Sydney. It's an extraordinary achievement for a tour that in Australia alone will raise $370 million.

But the key question is apparently whether you are a Swiftie or a 'Tay Tay hater'? It is a characteristic that in our supposedly non-binary, diverse society, everything seems to be reduced to a binary option. Apparently if you like Taylor Swift it is a sign that you are a progressive Biden supporting liberal ... and if you don't like her, you are a Trump-supporting far-right Fascist!

As Christians, is it possible to have a more nuanced approach in considering the Taylor Swift phenomenon? I am reluctant given the almost Messianic/Demonic status given to her, but let's have a go in the hope that I will survive both the blasphemy and the heresy charges!

Firstly, this is not about whether you like her music or not. Although it would be churlish not to acknowledge her song-writing talent, entertainment value, publicity awareness and business genius. For those who don't know Swift – who is only 34 years old – she is the most significant musical figure and cultural influence in the world at the moment.

She is extraordinarily talented as a songwriter, finding a way to connect with the feelings of her fans in both her earlier Country style (e.g. Love Story), or later pop (like last year's Cruel Summer). Personally, I don't think she is as good as the person she was named after, James Taylor – although I was delighted to discover that she is of German/Scottish ancestry!

She was Time magazine's 2023 Person of the Year and among her many achievements has 14 Grammy and numerous other awards.

She is currently in the midst of her Eras Tour - a massive undertaking which by the time it ends will have involved 150 shows on five continents.

With regards Christianity, although Wikipedia claims she is a Christian, there is little evidence of that in her life. She was brought up in a churchgoing home and remembers how her grandmother's singing in church inspired her – but she seems to have moved from the more cultural Christianity you would expect from someone brought up in the Bible Belt, to at best, a searching, questioning faith.

But that should not stop us appreciating her talent or her music – if that is your taste. She writes positive things about friendship and is way better than some of the hypersexualised cultural stars today. Her personality and demeanor also come across as caring and pleasant.

Sadly, she has become part of the American culture wars (and thus because of the wave effect, culture wars all over the world) because of her political views, which are certainly anti-Trump and pro-Democrat. But that does not mean, as some critics have suggested, that she is a pawn of the Biden Administration. And equally it does not mean, as some on the other side have suggested, that she could sway the coming election for Biden. Surely we have had enough celebrity endorsements to last a lifetime?!

Her political position means that she is treated with kid gloves by the mainstream media. If she were a Trump supporter there would be numerous questions about her private life, business interests etc. But because she is on 'the right side' she is protected. On the other hand, that means that some on the other side will vilify her. Neither one is a just or sensible reaction for a Christian.

But this hype around her politics illustrates another problem: in the rejection of God, a culture tends to lose its mind and look for other saviours. If you doubt that, then just consider that in the past week, I have read about Taylor saving the Australian economy through Taylornomics, women in China and the planet – as well as getting Biden re-elected!

The trouble with the idolisation is not so much at the cultural, macro level (which just shows the juvenile silliness that has taken over so many of our institutions), but rather at the individual micro level in that there are millions of mainly teenage girls who so idolise her that they could be called worshippers.

Watching them sing at the concerts, word perfect for every song, tears streaming down faces, screaming and chanting "F*** the patriarchy", was a somewhat depressing sight. Inevitably they will be let down. A 'personal' relationship with Taylor will not provide real meaning in life.

I have read some Christian publications which tell us that though not overtly Christian, Taylor is 'spreading the light of Christ'. Former evangelical Christian, the American commentator Chris Kratzer said: "I'm beginning to think that all the hatred Evangelicals have towards Taylor Swift is because everyone can see she is far more like Jesus than they are." 

Taylor Swift has millions because she is a brilliant businesswoman (or she employs some brilliant businesspeople!). Consider the following. She is worth $1.2 billion because she gets royalties even though she doesn't own the old songs. And she has recorded 'Taylor's version' of those same songs, from which she gets streaming royalties and ownership. That's a lot of money given that for example, a quarter of the Spotify top 50 in Australia are her songs.

For each stop in her tour she gets $13 million. She documented the tours and created a film that netted $130 million. Her album sales are tens of millions per year. The merchandise from her Eras tour has already netted some $200 million. Then there are brand endorsements and partnership, and brand equity with some social channels. On top of that, she has $150 million in real estate, including a Beverly Hills mansion and a New York Penthouse. Her cat alone is supposedly worth $97 million. Would Jesus have a multi-millionaire cat?!

Little wonder that she can afford to stay at a $36,000 per night executive suite while here in Sydney and flies everywhere in a large private jet (for which of course she pays carbon credits so she can still travel in luxury and tick the 'I'm saving the planet' box).

We would rightly be horrified if a televangelist had such wealth, or even a politician. But Taylor Swift gets a free pass on all this capitalism. None of it indicates a lifestyle based on faith in Christ! Nor does her support for abortion and Stonewall. Taylor represents and espouses the great idols of our age - sex, consumerism, and materialism - and in that, she is a child of our age, not a child of Christ.

And for that reason I cannot identify either as a 'Tay Tay hater', nor a Swiftie. I am a 'Taylor Prayer'. I pray that the Lord will reveal himself to her and that she in turn will point her many followers away from herself, and towards Christ. In her song "Soon You'll Get Better", written after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she wrote: "Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too." May the Lord make her desperate enough to seek Him, and may he answer her prayer.

David Robertson is the minister of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church in Newcastle, New South Wales. He blogs at The Wee Flea.