Thursday, August 30, 2012

Like, Seriously, They Aren't Getting Back Together

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
by Ben Howard

Apparently, Taylor Swift and a rather unscrupulous neer-do-well are never ever ever ever getting baaack together. The only way she could be more serious about this would be if she said they were never getting back together times infinity. Multiplication is super serious.

So what are we to make of young Ms. Swift's petulant pop platitudes? Well, quite a lot actually.

I've never been a fan of exaggeration. I mean, I exaggerate a lot (everything is the best thing ever!), but I'm not exactly a fan of myself at those times. For instance, I've always found it curious when MTV or some other hype machine bills some unknown up-and-comer as a “superstar”. It always felt like they were trying to convince themselves to be excited. If my parents don't have a vague notion of who they are, they probably aren't a “superstar” yet.

As per Taylor Swift, Shakespeare said it best, “The lady dost protest too much, methinks.”

Everybody does it. In moments of vulnerability it's only natural to paper over the cracks with a thick layer of confidence no matter how shaky that confidence may be.

In our most vulnerable moments we say the stupidest things and make the most naïve promises.

“Everything will be okay.”

“I'll never do that again.”

“We are never ever ever ever getting back together.”

Ultimately, I have to confess that it's a sign of immaturity, but it's an immaturity that papers over our deep dark fear that we have doubts. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our friends, we doubt our beliefs.

And we think, if we just yell loud enough, if we just tell ourselves what we so badly want to believe one more time, then maybe we won't doubt anymore.

This is the part of our program where we realize that I'm taking a pop song way too seriously, and while I thank Taylor and her catchy hit for getting us to this point, it's time to jettison the booster rocket. Godspeed Ms. Swift.

Back to the actual point.

Our culture is incredibly uncomfortable with doubt and the resulting ambiguity that comes along with it. It clouds our economy, our politics, our faith, everything.

When I see people post incredibly ardent, sincere political or religious status updates or tweets, or even when they just make statements when I'm talking to them, I'm beginning to wonder if they're trying to convince me that they're right, or if they're trying to convince themselves.

It takes a lot to embrace your doubts; to admit that you really aren't confident in your own abilities, and that you just might not trust yourself to make the right decision.

It takes a lot to say that neither Romney or Obama has the cure for the country. It takes a lot to say that your religious tradition just might be wrong. It takes a lot to say that all of those beliefs and ideologies and everything you've intricately woven into your life might be a little more fluid than you've previously let on.

Somewhere between the knowing and the not-knowing, between the cocky, self-assured confidence and the arrogant, outright denial, that's where we find faith. True, honest, humble faith.

There we find a faith that freely admits that it cannot prove the things that it believes even though it really wishes that it could. We find a faith that admits that it does not answer every question and does not make every problem go away; a faith that has hopes and dreams that are not shattered by the brokenness and failure that we see around us.

It's a faith that knows you can never ever ever ever have it all together.

When he isn't taking catchy pop songs waaaay too seriously, Ben spends his time scouring old episodes of Sesame Street in hopes of finding the meaning of life. You can follow his delusions of philosophical grandeur on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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