What Religion Does Taylor Swift Practice?

What Religion Does Taylor Swift Practice? May 9, 2023

I’m out of the closet as a Taylor Swift fan, even though I fully recognize that significant parts of her work and political beliefs are contrary to the Catholic faith. I won’t say I am comfortable holding onto the true, good, and beautiful in a mixed-package that has some serious concerns as well? But also at times Swift expresses Catholic things, and ordinary human emotions and experiences, with spot-on artistry and magnificence. So I work with it.

The question I volunteered to answer today is what religion Taylor Swift actually practices. Since she doesn’t make many explicit statements about her religious beliefs, we have to piece together some clues.

Taylor in sequined "business suit" costume with feet propped up
If you really want to know where I was April 29th . . . Here’s T. Swift performing “If I Were The Man” live in concert at the Eras tour. Snapshot off the halo board at the Mercedez Benz stadium taken by A. Fitz, used with permission.

Did Taylor Swift start out Christian?

It’s fairly clear that Taylor Swift grew up in a culturally-Christian environment. She attended Alvernia Montessori School, a preschool and kindergarten run by the Bernardine sisters and which had been a ministry of Alvernia University until it closed in 2014.  Her parents ran a Christmas tree farm. There are other references in her biography to Christian practice and in her early music to belief in God.

Her 2008 song “Christmas Must Be Something More” is about how commercialism crowds out the spiritual heart of Christmas. It includes the lyrics:

It seems the last thing on your mind

It’s that the day holds something special

Something holy and not superficial

So here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives

However, even from this early date, it’s a fairly vague theology. Her references to God and faith could be the tip of the iceberg on an abiding literal belief that Jesus really is God who became man, who suffered and died on the cross, and who really did literally rise from the dead on the third day.

Or, alternately, she may not have held such beliefs, but instead identified with the Christian story more as a metaphor. That would be consistent with earnestly wanting Christmas be something deeper and more meaningful than just gifts and parties, but without necessarily fully buying into the historic claims of Christianity. Here’s my own story about starting out in a very similar place.

Is Taylor Swift still a Christian?

In her early-2020 documentary Miss Americana, Swift explicitly identified as a Christian. However, that statement came in the context of her decision to endorse a political candidate, so she wasn’t laying out her theology generally.

In terms of hot-topic moral issues, Taylor is more aligned with denominations like the Episcopalians, which more-conservative Christians would increasingly describe as Christian-origin faiths but which do not adhere to the historic understanding of Christianity.

At stake is whether the Bible as inerrant and authoritative . . . or not so much?

While much attention has been given to the moral issues surrounding human sexuality, the theme of revenge in Taylor Swift’s work is one of the most direct conflicts with the Gospel:

  • Matthew 5:11-12  “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
  • Luke 6:35-36But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
  • Romans 12:19-20Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”

Admittedly this is one of the most difficult tenets of Christianity to keep. Nonetheless, some explanation is owed when the repertoire includes “Better Than Revenge,” the vengeance-murder ballad “No Body No Crime” and most recently “Vigilante.” This in conjunction with her condoning of abortion and sex outside of marriage are both consistent with a utilitarian rather than a Christian moral theology.

Is Taylor Swift “Spiritual But Not Religious”?

I think this is the emerging category in which Swift’s religious beliefs and practices seem to fall, though I don’t think pegging people with labels is very helpful.

There is undeniably a spiritual thread throughout Taylor’s entire repertoire. She is frank about moments of doubt and of tentative attempts to reach out to God in times of difficulty. She clearly seeks something deeper in life than mere self-gratification.

I think we need to let it rest at this.

Taylor Swift is a real human person who deserves a private life in which to connect and reconnect with God. So while we fans are understandably curious about whether Taylor has a specific set of religious beliefs and practices, I don’t think it is helpful or healthy to put the most intimate questions of the life of her soul under public scrutiny.

Is Taylor Swift a witch?

Finally I’d like to address a newer concern that religious believers have been raising.

Simply using the  term “witch” in her song lyrics or conversation is not itself a spiritual claim — the word has multiple meanings. For example there is nothing in “mad womanto indicate the reference to “hunting witches” is about the narrator actually practicing witchcraft. A “witch hunt” in contemporary usage just means you’ve decided to sniff out scapegoats, assign blame, and force someone to take the fall.

However, the “willow” music video, and the corresponding live performances, have generated accusations of the occult. You can view the video here:

Much of it reads more like a dream sequence with fantasy elements (evoking perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia for Christian readers), but questions have been raised specifically about the segment where cloaked figures gather around a bonfire of glowing orbs and do . . . not a whole lot?

Are they just dancing? Worshipping? Casting spells? Admiring the special effects? I don’t have an authoritative answer to that (not for lack of searching), but I will update here if I receive one.

–>Meanwhile, the wikipedia article about “willow” is comprehensive and includes a basic explainer for the imagery in the song.

I do suspect the part where Taylor herself refers to “witch” versions of the remixes suggest she is comfortable with identifying with witchcraft at some level. Whether she takes that seriously or considers it more of a metaphorical spirituality is a question that deserves her attention.

Both those who actually practice witchcraft and those of us who warn of its dangers do not take it as a mere stylism.

What if I just take her at her word?

Taylor began her career in the country music world, where Christian religious belief is acceptable and saleable. The slightest mention of God or prayer in that subculture is often interpreted as Bible-Belt Christianity; similarly, there can be a tremendous pressure to identify as “Christian” even if you harbor doubts or disbelief about key tenets of the faith.

It is not necessary, though, to second guess the religious statements Taylor has made in the past. The crucial question for us all is always: What do I believe and practice now?

I don’t think the evidence supports, at all, the idea that Taylor Swift currently practices historic Christianity as recognized by Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians.

As for her spiritual future? It’s Taylor Swift. You never know what she’s gonna do next.

About Jennifer Fitz
Jennifer Fitz is an ultra-conservative right wing religious freak who appreciates good artistry wherever it rears its beautiful head. So yeah, be careful about your Caravaggio viewing or you might end up like me. Home base is JenniferFitz.com, on Twitter @JenFitz_Reads, and doing less-controversial Jesus-talk over at the 'stack. Wrote some books, too, if you go in for that sort of thing. You can read more about the author here.
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