In my very first article, I explained that I wanted to explore what a gracious lifestyle looked like. When I wrote that article, I planned on avoiding subjects like pop culture and politics because I felt like they might distract from learning to live a faithful life. After just a few weeks, I now understand that it’s nearly impossible to talk about grace or God without also including other aspects of the human life and experience. Theology in the abstract is beautiful, but discipleship in the concrete is difficult. It would be fantastic if faith existed in a vacuum, and many Christians behave as if it does. We put faith in one box and “real life” in another and we try not to let the two mix very often. They don’t seem to get along very well. But the whole point of walking with grace and living as disciples of Christ is that our faith is not just what we believe, but how we live. This means that pop culture, politics, and current events all affect our walk with grace, and we cannot ignore them.
Enter: You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift and the ensuing outrage surrounding the music video. My original plan was to lay low and avoid the subject all together. I didn’t want to start a fight about my favorite singer, and I knew what I would hear anyway: “It’s a gay pride anthem, and her disdain and disrespect for opposing views is unacceptable.” Perhaps. But I created this blog to encourage and challenge the Christian world, and in so doing I can’t just let this slide.
I have spent a lot of time thinking it over, and I think there are few key issues that we are missing in our anger and indignance over the video. There are three things we need to consider about this video and our reaction to it, and maybe, just maybe, we can look beyond the pride flags and celebrities to find the real lesson we should take from this.
First of all, despite the offense of being depicted as hicks and haters, if we take a step back we should understand that this video is evidence that Christians have done something right. Consider the words of our Lord, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22, ESV) We have indeed been reviled, spurned, excluded, and mocked. But instead of reacting in outrage and shock, we should remember that Jesus prophesied this kind of treatment of the Church. Jesus also comforts us saying, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 ESV) If the Church has been able to stick to its moral guns long enough to cause a societal stir, we must have done something right. I pray we can continue to hold fast, despite the troubling political climate.
Secondly, we do need to consider what we have done wrong, that the only belief the world can associate with the Church is our disapproval of homosexuality. The Church used to be known for its service, charity, churches, and monasteries. Now we seem only to be known by the protest signs we hold. It’s tragic, because as the Body of Christ we should be known by what we stand for, not against. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV) Clearly, as evidenced by almost the entirety of the social media world, that’s not the case right now. If we are known by our protest more than we are by our love, charity, or saving Gospel, then we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about our witness. There is so, so much more to the Christian faith than disapproval. If we have not let the world see that, we have clearly let them down.
Finally, it’s time to consider the possibility that Taylor Swift has a point. What if we all really do need to calm down? The outrage, hateful tweets, frustrated Facebook posts, and angry articles are all a disturbing, albeit ironic, reaction to this kind of persecution. Anger and slander are terrible sins that ought to be taken very seriously. We have no right, no matter how terrible the offense, as children of God to react so angrily on social media. If we respond this way, we are no better than the people we disapprove of and disagree with. Christ commanded us, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8, ESV) What good does it do us anyway? Telling Taylor Swift or her supporters to “stuff it,” (as one post said) doesn’t further the Gospel, it doesn’t logically defend our beliefs, and it doesn’t honor God in any way shape or form.
Anger doesn’t bring people to Christ. Outrage doesn’t reflect well on the Church. As children of God, we have been given a higher calling. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20, ESV) Read that one more time. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. We cannot take this warning too seriously. No matter how severe the persecution, (and trust me it could be much worse than a silly music video) and no matter how frustrating the accusation, responding in anger will never produce righteousness. Interestingly enough this concept confirms Taylor’s claim that “shade never made anybody less gay.” No matter what spiritual battle we fight on the political front, be it hot button issues like abortion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or the more insidious issues like parental rights, educational ethics and personal freedom, we cannot resort to anger as a means of making our point.
If we calm down, take a step back, and remember the words of our Lord, we should not be discouraged by this video. We should be encouraged and spurred to action. We should reason, not react. We should pray, not protest. We should take a minute to consider the battle we’re fighting, and we need to remember that the enemy is not a multi-millionaire pop star. The enemy is much worse. But we receive both a command and a comforting promise from God in the Psalms: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:8-9, ESV) The promise is made, the battle is won, and we are now called to serve our neighbor in love.
If we’re being persecuted, than we must be doing something right. But if anti-gay is the only description of the church the world can offer, we must be doing something wrong. But whether we are right or wrong, we must respond to the world in love. The persecution will get worse, and we need to decide now how we plan to respond. We can choose to tell the world to “stuff it” or we can choose to say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I think we know which answer is part of the path of grace, and I pray we choose it next time.