Faith Matters: What Taylor Swift and NFL draft tell us about self-assertion, self-sacrifice

The NFL decided its rotating draft location should make its 2019 stop in Nashville, Tenn., though not everyone appeared excited about this move.

Several news sources shared a video of two women in town for a bachelorette party expressing their displeasure at the nearly 500,000 visitors descending upon their home turf.

Nashville has been called the “Bachelorette capital of the world.” I can’t say that I blame the bachelorettes entirely for their reluctant welcome of the surprise visitors, as we in Bradenton know a thing or two about that.

I’m obviously quite the stranger to the bachelorette scene, but I can speak unfavorably to this venue selection because it left the front door wide open to a country/pop music invasion. Instead of football highlights, we witnessed an incredibly long video featuring Taylor Swift driving down memory lane, followed by a live interview announcing her new hit single, appropriately titled “ME!”

Now I don’t care for music released after 1999, so I’ll refrain from comment or critical review. But a much younger and hipper lad who appreciates some of her catalog described Swift via Twitter as a “prophetess of expressive individualism.” And with her latest track entitled “ME!,” one might find it hard to disagree with his assessment.

In a Gospel Coalition article, Trevin Wax shared several common slogans birthed from expressive individualist presuppositions: “You be you, be true to yourself, follow your heart, find yourself.” He later shares a helpful definition from writer Yuval Levin: That term suggests not only a desire to pursue one’s own path but also a yearning for fulfillment through the definition and articulation of one’s own identity. It is a drive both to be more like whatever you already are and also to live in society by fully asserting who you are.

Could the NFL highlight a more inappropriate spokesperson than Swift during the draft? The ultimate team game interrupted by the ultimate individualist.

Of course, Swift didn’t start the fire — at best, she fans the flame. But I do believe we’d do well to consider the fact that slogans such as “Be true to yourself” would never have taken off during the World War II era.

Fast forward to today, and we find expressive individualism is our primary cultural default position. It is the air we breathe.

Can we take a step back and at least question the validity of this supposedly fresh air? Might self-assertion, as opposed to self-sacrifice, eventually lead to harm for parents, children, spouses, co-workers, offices and churches — not to mention individuals?

Can you be a good friend, spouse, co-worker by simply being “true to yourself?” Don’t you want friends, spouses, co-workers, neighbors who will sacrifice for you? Or do we think that telling others that they need to sacrifice for us (self assertion) is the bedrock upon which friendships, marriages, societies are built?

The answer is not to fall back into duty as a foundational principle, exchanging a western mindset for an eastern one. To live freely and to flourish involves exchanging both self-righteous duty and selfish ambition to the One who gave Himself up for His people.

Under the reigning grace of Jesus, we are able to listen to counsel, instead of simply listening to our hearts. And we are free to break from counsel, when it goes against our consciences.

In Christ, we avoid both pitfalls, and can experience real freedom and real flourishing.

Contact Pastor Geoff Henderson at or follow him on Twitter @theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.