Just as Christians start to move past one controversy, another arises, demanding our attention and triggering outrage, albeit over matters comparatively minor to what truly matters. Over the last few years, controversy has surrounded situations like Sam Smith’s “Unholy” costume, where he dances around the stage in a red devil suit, as well as Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance in the music video for his hit song, “Montero.” Now, we are finding that many Christian leaders have expressed dismay over the latest Taylor Swift album released recently, citing explicit “anti-Christian” language in some of the lyrics.

[Romans 14:22] highlights the admonition against imposing personal convictions on others, particularly regarding matters open to disagreement within Christian discourse.

Primarily, these concerns stem from Christian parents worried about Swift’s influence on their children and the messages conveyed by her new album. While I empathize with parents striving to guide their children responsibly, I find the rigid stance taken by many—often culminating in calls to boycott Swift’s music—problematic. While I respect individuals’ rights to adhere to their convictions and raise their children accordingly, I believe this issue warrants a more nuanced dialogue, reflecting the liberty and freedom inherent in the Christian faith.

Romans 14:22 underscores the importance of respecting differing convictions, especially on non-essential theological matters subject to interpretation: “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”

This verse highlights the admonition against imposing personal convictions on others, particularly regarding matters open to disagreement within Christian discourse.

Furthermore, I advocate engaging with Swift’s latest album from a different perspective. I firmly reject the notion of a “sacred/secular” divide, as it undermines the omnipresence of God’s sovereignty and suggests that elements outside sacred realms fail to reveal aspects of God. Every individual, irrespective of religious affiliation, reflects the image of the divine Creator, often expressing this essence uniquely, including through artistic endeavors.

A familiarity with the Bible reveals the crucial distinction between descriptive and prescriptive passages.

In conversations with those in my social circle, I often encounter concerns about exposing myself to potentially harmful influences and the need to safeguard my heart. After all, it is the source of life (Proverbs 4:23). While I appreciate their care for my well-being, I’m not concerned by such exposure for two reasons: firstly, because I believe in God’s indwelling presence in me, and secondly, because I engage with these materials without adopting a prescriptive mindset. 

A familiarity with the Bible reveals the crucial distinction between descriptive and prescriptive passages. Descriptive verses offer insights into narrative or contextual realities without necessarily prescribing specific actions. On the other hand, prescriptive passages provide universal principles or commands. For example, I wouldn’t advocate reading the book of Job prescriptively, given its portrayal of flawed theological perspectives expressed by Job’s friends.

Likewise, I wouldn’t suggest approaching David’s Psalms of Lament as exact mindsets we should bear, since some of these often express a desire for the death of other people and in some cases, even of their children (Psalm 109). While they illustrate the breadth of emotions permissible in our communication with God, I don’t advocate interpreting every word as a direct prescription for action. Similarly, passages depicting polygamy, slavery, and rape within families do not serve as prescriptions but rather illustrate the depths of human sinfulness.

This approach extends to what contemporary Christian culture labels as “secular.” While it may be tempting to adopt a defensive stance against media or entertainment that conflicts with Christian values, I believe such an attitude contradicts the way Christ desires us to engage with the world around us. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus extending grace and compassion to sinners rather than condemnation. Paradoxically, these Pharisees often displayed more indignation towards sinners than Jesus did, even when the sin personally was against Him. However, instead of condemnation, Jesus offers acceptance and transformation to those outside religious norms, inviting them to find fulfillment in Him rather than in the ways of the world.

The Apostle Paul also addresses the notion of isolating ourselves from the broader world: “When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, NLT).

It’s a sobering realization that we share the same human frailties as those we might condemn. We stand equally guilty of sin, equally reliant on God’s grace.

Instead of retaliating, what if we humbly listened to those who harbor genuine grievances, pain, and fears regarding Christianity?

Paul continues shortly afterward saying: “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning” (1 Corinthians 5:12, NLT).

Similarly, he advises the Church of Thessalonica: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT).

Notice the similar language in here that is also found earlier in Romans 14:22? The quiet life that Paul prescribes doesn’t mean that we don’t advocate for change in our world, but it does mean living in tranquility and avoiding unnecessary disturbances and conflicts. It means to focus on our affairs and to work diligently, rather than meddling in the affairs of others. By doing so, we can earn the respect of those outside the Christian community and avoid being a burden on others.

Regardless of whether Taylor Swift’s album was intentionally provocative towards people of faith, it presents an opportunity to embody the teachings of Jesus by choosing not to take offense. The early church distinguished itself by radical acts of generosity and a refusal to harbor enmity towards anyone. Instead of retaliating, what if we humbly listened to those who harbor genuine grievances, pain, and fears regarding Christianity? While we might wish to dismiss their feelings, their experiences are often painfully real.

If we approach artists as fellow bearers of the divine image, recognizing that their work can offer insights into God’s nature, we might engage the world with humility, seeking to understand and empathize rather than attack and defend. In doing so, we may discover that God often resides in the very places we’ve previously disregarded.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *