On June 14, 2019, Taylor Swift released her single You Need to Calm Down from her seventh and (then) soon-to-be-released studio album, Lover. In many of the interviews Swift did for her album, she said that love was a theme that ran through the 18-track album—romantic love, love for her mother whose cancer had returned, and love for all—no matter your gender, identity, or orientation. Some Christians chose to quickly decry Taylor’s celebration of this kind of love because she was championing people from the LQBTQ+ community throughout the music video for the single and, in turn, criticizing the way that some religious people have protested against these people’s rights. Some Christians were offended, some claimed that this was the last straw and that they wouldn’t be listening to or supporting Swift anymore, and some just didn’t want to calm down.
What Can We Affirm and Learn from Taylor?
You are somebody that we don't know But you're comin' at my friends like a missile Why are you mad? When you could be GLAAD? (You could be GLAAD) Sunshine on the street at the parade But you would rather be in the dark ages Just makin' that sign must've taken all night
You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate 'Cause shade never made anybody less gay
In the second verse of YNTCD, Swift speaks honestly about how messages by protestors might be received. Look at how she describes these types of people: mad, hate, shade, scream, lack of control, lack of peace, like a missile. She first names that these are people we don’t know. We can infer that there is no established relationship, her friends are being yelled at by people they don’t know. This would certainly upset anyone on the receiving end. I definitely wouldn’t want to listen to someone whose first approach was harsh, abrasive, and angry.
What is most convicting to me as a hearer is the second to last line—control your urges to scream about all the people you hate—this is how I, as a Christian, might be viewed. When I look at the way that some Christians have treated those in the LQBTQ+ community, there is much to grieve—and I can do this right along with Taylor. She is right; shade, hate, or screaming never made anybody less gay.
How can we calm down without sacrificing the truth of the gospel?
Thankfully, the gospel is so much broader than simply correcting the way we or others live. First and foremost, we can seek to be in relationship with people in the LQBTQ+ community. These are people who rightfully have skepticism, fear, doubts, and hurts about people in the church. Just as with any person, we should be seeking to show the love of Jesus in relationship—not for the sake of changing the things we don’t like or think are especially sinful about this person, but to simply befriend. We can affirm the ways in which people seek relational closeness and comfort, how God made them for relationship and community. We can confess the ways in which we or those in our community have not responded lovingly to the LQBTQ+ community. In this, we proclaim the truth of the gospel in how we seek relationships with others in the way of Jesus.
With Gentleness, Love, and Calmness
We can begin to think about how we can respond to this type of criticism with gentleness and calmness. We have the opportunity to be the Christian who responds in ways that are different than expected. Instead of screaming or charging at someone with our beliefs like a missile, we can approach people with gentleness. We acknowledge that when we first came to Jesus, we didn’t (and still don’t) have it all figured out and there were truths that we had to wrestle through. Thankfully, we, much like Jesus, can approach others’ unbelief with a calm and gentle love. In this, we proclaim the truth of the gospel in how we communicate with others in the way of Jesus.