Display on Rio’s Statue of Christ Seen as Attempt To Raise Taylor Swift Into a Godlike Figure, Drawing Accusations of ‘Blasphemy’

Haters think the star is committing pop idolatry, but fans liken her to ‘the divine.’

AP/Bruna Prado
Fans look up at the Christ the Redeemer statue at Rio de Janiero that is illuminated with a welcome message to Taylor Swift. AP/Bruna Prado

Taylor Swift is entering her “Blasphemy Era.” So say online haters after the world’s most famous shrine of Jesus turned into a shrine for the pop star upon her arrival to Rio de Janeiro for the latest leg of her Eras tour. 

Accusations of pop idolatry are being hurled at the singer after the 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue was illuminated with a projected image of a Swift-inspired T-shirt on Thursday. The city’s heavenly welcome for Ms. Swift is sparking uproar from some devout Christians, who decry the singer’s ascendance into an all-too-literal godlike status. 

“A crushing reminder that the West does not take Christianity or Christians seriously,” a political commentator, Candace Owens, wrote in a post on X responding to the statue’s transformation. “And it’s largely our own fault for allowing repeated, public displays of disrespect to our faith.” She added that “this is not a critique of Taylor Swift herself as she did not ask for this,” but that the singer should, if possible, “refuse this ‘honor.’”

Perched atop Mount Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer now bears the words “Welcome To Brazil” in between its outstretched arms while appearing to wear a T-shirt from Ms. Swift’s “You Belong with Me” music video. 

Users commenting on Ms. Owens’s post criticized the Swift spin on this global symbol of Christianity as “blasphemous,” “sacrilegious,” and “open season on Christians.” “I knew people worshiped Taylor Swift but this is too far,” one user exclaimed. Another wrote, “What’s next, are they going to canonize her as a living saint?”

The fury follows the death of one of Ms. Swift’s fans at her Friday night show at Rio, during which concertgoers complained they were not allowed to take water into the stadium despite the dangerous weather. Ms. Swift postponed her show at Rio on Saturday due to what she called “extreme temperatures” that imperiled “the safety and well being of my fans, fellow performers, and crew.” 

The remake of Christ the Redeemer was done in part to help a Christian mission. “Swifties,” as they are known, took to social media to ask the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, for the projection in anticipation of Ms. Swift’s arrival in the city last week. The Christ the Redeemer Archdiocesan Sanctuary, which manages the statue, agreed to this plea on the condition that fans donated food and drinks for the Catholic church’s upcoming World Day of the Poor.

That fundraising goal was met quickly — or swiftly. A small team from the sanctuary and a few fans started distributing supplies to those in need by Thursday evening. “We did it, Swifties,” an Instagram account dedicated to the statue said. “You were able to show all the love to Taylor and everyone else!” Mr. Paes said in an Instagram video that “we will properly honor Taylor Swift and her arrival to Carioca territory tonight.”

To some, though, the supreme show of hospitality indicates a cultural crisis in which the public takes greater inspiration from a pop star than the son of God. “Christians cannot afford to be soft anymore,” one X user, who calls himself a “Fervent Believer in the Christian God,” said of the statue. That concern has been voiced loudly by a social media influencer, Andrew Tate, who converted to Islam after saying he found that Christianity was “too weak” and ill-defended by its adherents. 

Ms. Swift’s music is bereft of references to religion, a departure from the tradition of country music, the genre in which she began her career. Raised as a Christian in the Bible Belt state of Tennessee, the star has within her vast repertoire only a few elusive mentions of faith. 

“If you’d never touched me, I would’ve gone along with the righteous,” Ms. Swift sings in her October 2022 song, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” In that song, which is largely believed to be about her troubled relationship with singer John Mayer, she chants, “You’re a crisis of my faith.” Another track from the same album, “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” explores the experience of grief as it asks: “Did some force take you because I didn’t pray?”

This music, Swifties argue, fills the void of meaning in a society that is increasingly disillusioned with religion. “She flawlessly straddles the line between the accessible and the divine,” the Free Press writes. As younger generations crave common experiences, Ms. Swift might be thought of as providing much-needed social glue — even in countries with different native tongues, like Brazil.

Besides, Ms. Swift is not the first star to be welcomed by Christ the Redeemer. In 2019, a soccer jersey was projected onto the monument to celebrate a win by local team Clube de Regatas do Flamengo. The statue, inaugurated nearly 100 years ago and considered one of the seven Wonders of the World, was decorated with an image of a face mask during the Covid pandemic and of a countdown clock on the climate crisis this past summer. 

Ms. Swift is set to perform four more times in Brazil this week before heading to Japan, as she continues the tour that helped make her a billionaire. A hater might say this is her “Blasphemy Era,” but one thing that fans can also agree on is that this is, indeed, her era.

The New York Sun

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