Theology and Taylor Swift…Kind Of

We are all susceptible to the subtle messages that are portrayed in music, film and literature. However, I believe that our teenagers are perhaps even more susceptible because of how impressionable they are. Now, while it is true that theology isn’t everything, we must see that all things are theological in some way. That is why I would like to share a few ways that we can help students think theologically about music. I am going to use Taylor Swift’s song, Shake It Off, as an example. Now, I am going to use a variation of some of the same questions that I put forth in my last blog about movies and we are going to ask them of T Swift’s hit single and see what we come up with.

What conflicts or problems are presented in the song?

There are people in life that are just going to bring you down and break your heart. There are players, haters, heartbreakers, liars and cheaters in the world and we will encounter them in life.

What is the proposed solution to these conflicts and problems?

The wisdom of T Swift is to simply shake it off and move on. We are encouraged not to grieve over the brokenness in the world, but instead to just have fun and shake it off.

Just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world,

You could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.

Was there anything in the song that reminded you of your faith, the bible, the gospel, God, etc?

As I was thinking about the solution to simply shake off our problems, I was reminded of 1 Peter 5:7 where we are encouraged to not simply shake off our burdens, but cast them upon Christ for He cares for us.

What is the overall message of the song?

You are going to experience troubles in life, but you just have to forget about them, move on and have fun.

What did you agree with?

I appreciate that there is a recognition of brokenness in our world, that we are going to experience it and that we should not let it form us and define us.

What did you disagree with?

I would say that the flippant approach to dealing with such problems by simply suggesting that we shake them off will not ultimately bring peace, healing and reconciliation. In fact, it can make us calloused, cold and bitter.

What can you thank God for in this song?

I can thank God for the creative melodies and beats in the song. I can thank God for the fact that this song is not filled with crude references and sexual imagery, as is found in many pop songs. I can thank God for the fact that there is a recognition of brokenness in the world and that life isn’t sugarcoated.

Now I realize that I may be going deeper into these simple pop lyrics than what was intended to be communicated. The point here is that we should be making an intentional effort to help our students think critically and theologically about the messages embedded in the music they listen to.

How would you try to incorporate this kind of exercise into your youth ministry?

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