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Taylor Swift’s image and lyrics in her latest album do not shame Christianity or religion (Op-Ed)

Taylor Swift has always been a controversial public figure and musician for multiple reasons, whether it be her validity as a musician, her fashion choices and body type, her public friendships, her attitude on her romantic attachments, and more. However, there’s been a new subset of controversy that has picked up quite a bit of steam with the release of “The Tortured Poets Department” (2024), her 11th studio album. 

There has been an influx of negative press and individual commentary from accounts mostly found on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook concerning Swift’s lyricism, messaging, and public relations/imaging choices she has made in production and promotion of this album. The most common sentiment is that a select amount of her songs, as well as the tone and aesthetic of her music videos and promotional material on social media are anti-religion, anti-Christianity, and/or morally harmful for her younger fan base demographics. 

As a long-time fan and consumer of her music through multiple genre shifts and life stages, I have to say that I do not see the need for concern for her musical direction. 

Although there are tracks such as “But Daddy I Love Him”, “Guilty as Sin?”, and “Clara Bow” that make religious references in one way or another, those who are finding issues with this messaging are falling victim to the infamous echo chamber of online chat forums, taking information out of context and feeding into their preconceived notions and confirmation biases that there is an issue when there’s not, or the actual meaning of something has been washed by focusing on the agenda at hand. 

The following lyrics seem to be ruffling the most feathers.

“I just learned these people only raise you to cage you / Sarahs and Hannas in their Sunday best / Clutching their pearls, sighing ‘what a mess’ / I just learned these people try and save you / … cause they hate you.” (But Daddy I Love Him).

“Without ever touching his skin / How can I be guilty as sin?” (Guilty as Sin?).

“What if I roll the stone away? / They’re gonna crucify anyway / What if the way you hold me / Is actually what’s holy?” (Guilty as Sin?).

“You’re the new god we’re worshiping.” (Clara Bow).

“It’s hell on earth to be heavenly.” (Clara Bow).

From a surface-level or out of context perspective, one could very easily say that these lyrics wrongfully or disrespectfully judge Christians for their attitudes towards certain individuals’ romantic relationships, fantasies, intimate thoughts and feelings, or self-image/public image. 

It could be argued that Swift is utilizing faith and religion as a scapegoat or fallback, but in reality, every lyric listed has a specific, metaphorical, deeper contextual meaning when included with the entire track’s message. 

Rather than take defense and fully dismiss Swift, a fully-grown adult woman with her own religious perspectives and lived experiences, those taking these lyrics personally should reflect on the way the industry and her inspirations for songwriting have influenced her perspectives that are then expressed in her lyrics.

Feeling abandoned or judged by religious individuals or institutions, feeling put on a pedestal by a demanding and over-involved public audience or finding more faith in personal connections than religious connections are not attacks- they are reflections of the ways these institutions have failed or disappointed this individual, expressed in messaging that is, at its core, a mirror into her life, and no one else’s. 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and preferences when it comes to music taste and artists, however, those online should be sure to listen to the whole story before they preach.

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