Faith

Jesus Freaks in the Taylor Swift Era

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By now, everyone knows Taylor Swift is a government psyop,” wrote right-wing influencer Benny Johnson last week, summing up the buzzy new conspiracy theory that the pop star’s relationship with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce is a secret plot orchestrated by Democratic mega-donor George Soros to help President Joe Biden get re-elected.

The theory has been touted by figures including erstwhile presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Fox News host Jesse Watters, and it has occasioned a rash of commentary exploring the increasing weirdness of the Right. American conservatism, in the words ofNew York Times columnist Ross Douthat, has a self-sabotaging “inability to just be normal.”

The emerging consensus, even among some conservatives like Douthat, is that the Right generally, and the Christian Right specifically, harbors a cultish band of losers and freaks. And a movement that looks at a happy, traditional romance and starts hyperventilating about psyops is not attractive. It pushes educated, high-status moderates with generally conservative dispositions into the arms of the Left.

There’s some truth here. In electoral terms, Republicans have indeed bled support among the educated and affluent, and the idolization of politicians like former president Donald Trump is both morally wrong and politically imprudent. The Right’s culture of victimhood and baseless conspiracy theorizing have gone way too far. This is undeniably destructive and requires serious self-examination and reform.

But for Christians, acknowledging that kind of weirdness shouldn’t keep us from seeing that graver problems in our culture tend to come from elsewhere. We can reject bad, stupid weirdness while being defiantly “weird” for righteousness’ sake.

This weirdness discourse has largely glossed over a key point of context: Many on the secular Left believe absurdities and, far more than the Christian Right, will not hesitate to jam them down people’s throats. Most obvious right now is the claim that men can become women and vice versa, an idea that would have been heralded as farce for most of human history. But in the span of a decade, adherents of gender ideology have come to control many consequential, culture-shaping institutions and so can easily normalize what is not normal. In fact, they’re able to quickly cast any opposition as weirdness—or bigotry.

Issues like the reality of God-given sex have importance well beyond politics, of course, and other lies now widely accepted in our culture, like the morality of abortion, are more difficult to see through and more deeply engrained. It is vital for Christians to be strong and vigilant in resisting these lies—to be willing to be “weird” in defense of truth.

That will require listening to conscience, even when the world threatens to crush us, as it has done to many Christian pharmacists, bakers, and others. It also means we must not prioritize the approval of elites over our principles. Like Paul, we must seek the approval of God, not people (Gal. 1:10), for “no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24).

Besides, elite approval is unlikely without complete capitulation—just ask actor Chris Pratt, who came under scrutiny for his church’s views on sexuality. Pratt is in the difficult position of being a Christian in Hollywood, and he is clearly struggling with how to stay in the good graces of both God and the Screen Actors Guild.

However, we must also avoid a mindset that has become too common in some Christian circles: the habit of assuming that every critique is unfair or even “proof” that we are effective champions of truth. Jesus said that the world would oppose us no matter what (John 15:18–25), but we should avoid making ourselves easy targets for allegations of hypocrisy, gullibility, or worse. We must remember that no politician can restore the world; only Christ’s return can do that (Rev. 21:5). And not all opposition is part of an elaborate conspiracy—in fact, though our situation may be worse than at other points in American history, compared to Christians in the Roman Empire or many parts of the world today, we remain free and blessed.

We should also be aware of how we are perceived by the world, not to conform to its lies but to better spread the truth. Taylor Swift is not our ally, but neither is she even close to the biggest problem in our culture, and attacking her is unlikely to yield good fruit.

We can be more creative in crafting narratives too. Instead of going after Swift, for example, point out the conservative values that people of all stripes may find inspiring in her relationship with Kelce and his family. Instead of making ourselves victims of an imagined conspiracy, point out that Swift appears happy in a traditional relationship with a successful, masculine man.

These strategies will only do so much, and many in the world will cast us as outsiders and freaks, whether we pull away like John the Baptist or engage like Jesus (Matt. 11:18–19). As Christians, we know that this is inevitable and that our ways must be different. We know that we will face scorn and mockery as we challenge dangerous lies with “credible” institutional backers. But we also know that we have the truth, and that the truth does not change, regardless of what is in style with our culture’s elite.

Matthew Malec is a research assistant at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.



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