5 Things Christians Can Learn from Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down”

I’ve been a big fan of Taylor Swift’s music, but today, I had mixed feelings.

In honor of Pride month, Taylor Swift went all out in her new music video called, “You Need to Calm Down.” The colorful production includes appearances from a host of LGBTQ+ advocates and stars like Ellen Degeneres, RuPaul, Todrick Hall, Hannah Hart, and cast members from Queer Eye. The lyrics tell off haters of the LGBTQ+ community, shouts out to the Equality Act and GLAAD, and tell anyone who disagrees with them to just “calm down.”

The song is catchy and the video is well done, but mostly, I was left with a lot to ponder about how segments of Christianitiy and the LGBTQ+ community are making actual conversation very hard.

1. Maybe we do need to calm down.

In some sectors of Christianity, we need to take the hint. Protests, signs, and aggressive tweets are not the answer anymore. Then again, were they ever a good, productive, or helpful option?

It’s not just Taylor Swift. We’ve been receiving this message loud and clear from mainstream populations for as long as I can remember. Our passion and conviction – both good and necessary things – so easily twist and become amplified into something resembling hate. Extreme and dramatic behavior shuts down communication between groups like the gay community and traditional believers. The term “Christian” so easily becomes synonymous with the crazy, ignorant protestors depicted in Taylor’s video.

“In our national surveys we found the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity (by young people outside the faith) are antihomosexual (…91%), judgmental (87%), and hypocritical (85%)…When they think of the Christian faith, these are the images that come to mind.”  David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons, Unchristian

I wish this wasn’t the case. It’s obvious to me that a lot of Christians aren’t like that. We receive lots of direction from Jesus about loving those who hate us and being known as His followers by our love.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Cor. 13:1 & 4-7 NLT)

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT)

2. Don’t let the need to “calm down” stop you from speaking up.

All that to say, sometimes, no matter how we communicate and no matter what we do or don’t do, people who disagree with us will still feel hurt and write us off as hateful. This is nothing new.

Watching this music video stressed me out a little bit because even though I don’t feel any hatred or anger, I do feel alienated, silenced, and put in a box. I’m not sure how to engage with this conversation because, while I can appreciate the art, I’m not comfortable waving the rainbow flag and smacking down anyone who does otherwise. The message of the video is clear: “If you can’t join in wholeheartedly, you’re not welcome.”

How’s that for putting people in a box?

I think some arenas of progressive Christianity or mainstream thinkers believe that loving someone means never making them angry and celebrating everything they do. This isn’t true in normal family or co-worker relationships, so why would it be true for the relationship between a traditional Christian and someone who doesn’t agree?

There will be times when I’m going to disagree, say so, and as a result, somebody I love isn’t going to like it. I can control how I state my case. I can control how I continue to treat them after that disagreement. But they have a responsibility in this, too. I cannot control how they react and perceive me moving forward.

Don’t let the need to “calm down” make you believe you can’t ever state your beliefs or disagree with someone you love. It’s going to happen. In fact, I hope it happens because it means you’re speaking into people’s lives and participating in real conversations and relationships.

3. We need to celebrate God’s design for marriage.

I’m 3 points into an article about a music video celebrating Pride month and I haven’t even mentioned the morality of same-sex marriage and gay culture. A lot of Christians are squirming. Honestly, I am, too, because this is a really scary topic to talk about right now. The last thing I want to do is alienate someone on either side, but when we talk about it, we always run that risk.

I don’t want us to be afraid. I do believe God designed us for exclusively heterosexual marriage. I believe marriage and family is important and ordained by God to not only make us better, stronger, and holier, but also to show the world what unconditional love looks like. As a follower of Jesus and someone who believes this, of course I’m going to champion and celebrate Godly marriages. Do not compromise on what God says is true.

That means a lot more than just saying I don’t agree that acting on homosexual feelings is ok or healthy for someone’s soul. This isn’t just about who I vote for or what petition I sign.

This means investing in my own marriage and making it a priority. This means picking up, starting again, and choosing to love when my husband and I have messed up or hurt one another. This means talking with my friends about what marriage really means. This means encouraging and being there for my married friends when their relationship is breaking. This means having open and honest conversations with younger women in my life about sexuality, dating, and grace. This means teaching young believers that their purpose does not lie in their relationship status or sexuality so they can be confident in whatever God calls them to do.

I think back to people who talked about these things and modeled them for me and I’m forever grateful. It had a lasting effect on me personally, so I’m going to try to improve upon it and pass it on.

“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image.

   In the image of God he created them;

   male and female he created them.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-68)

4. Let’s talk about how to talk about this.

Church, sexuality can’t be taboo anymore.

It’s on everyone’s minds. It’s not evil. God created it. Let’s talk about how we deal with it in all phases of life. Let’s talk about what same-sex attracted people are experiencing. Let’s talk about how to better encourage them.

If we want to move forward, we have to have open conversation about it in person with honesty in all areas, including where we agree and disagree.

5. We all need to figure out how to disagree.

I’m still figuring this out. I’m not sure how to disagree about this issue with someone who identifies as gay without them feeling judged. I don’t have the magic words and phrasing that makes this disagreement more palatable to either side.

All I know is that if we don’t try, no one will listen, we will never have real connection, and lives will never be changed. I will never even get the chance to speak the truth and love.

So, Taylor, yikes! That music video was both incredibly well done and made me squirm at the same time because, well, you’re being really loud. You’re entitled to your opinion and how you create and use your art! And so am I. Let’s agree that we can be thankful for that.

I wish we could sit down and learn from each other about what we could all do better. I wish we could agree to disagree a lot better.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15 NLT)

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