For the better part of five months, America has been talking about the budding romance between pop icon Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end and nine-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce—or as some have dubbed them, “Tayvis.”
On the face of it, it’s a fun story. She’s one of the most popular pop artists of her generation, and he is considered by some to be one of the greatest tight ends of all time. They’re a good-looking couple with fun public personas, and Travis’ brother and fellow NFL star Jason has put on quite the show from the stands of each of the last two Chiefs’ playoffs games. There’s a lot to love about this.
Not everyone likes it, though. In fact, some have gone as far as to say that Taylor Swift is “ruining football” with her visible presence at Chiefs games—despite the fact that she appears on screen for an average of 25 seconds of the nearly four-hour broadcast.
Despite the staggering revenue spikes and broad cultural engagement that have resulted from Swift’s presence at Chiefs games, some football fans are annoyed that she is apparently attracting people who are less than “true fans.”
Still others have taken their disdain for Tayvis to an entirely new level, setting forth a grand conspiracy theory that Swift is a deep state government plant meant to sway red-blooded American football fans to vote for Joe Biden.
In this theory, Swift was asked by entities unknown to feign a relationship with “Mr. Pfizer,” who has served as a celebrity spokesperson for vaccinations. This obviously means that the NFL playoffs have been rigged, and if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, that was rigged too. And all of this points to the climactic moment when Kelce and Swift will jointly endorse Biden and move forward the far-left’s plan to destroy America. (Seriously, Fox News pundits have nodded to this conspiracy theory.)
When we take a moment to step back, it’s safe to say that we, as a people, are not doing terribly well. Even something as innocuous and heartwarming as a romance between celebrities is cause for widespread negativity, outrage, and government conspiracy theories. Friends, we have become deeply cynical.
Not that we don’t have any reason to be cynical. We actually have plenty. In 2020, we were talking about Trump and Biden. In 2024, we are talking about Trump and Biden. In 2020, we were worried about coming back from an economic setback. In 2024, wages still haven’t caught back up to the price of groceries. In 2020, we were watching the San Francisco 49ers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. In 2024, it’s more of the same—and now we have that annoying Tayvis thing on top of it!
What’s more is that many of the arguments we were having in our churches in 2020 are still playing on an infinite loop. After a certain number of years, we’re just tired of it.
Horrid stories of clergy sex abuse continually and constantly come to light only to be met by a collective evangelical yawn. Racism is alive and well and yet many in our midst still pretend it isn’t. Almost every week, we’re canceling somebody new for being too nice to gay people. (This month’s victim was Alistair Begg.)
And why on God’s green earth are so many pastors still talking about yoga pants and “my smoking hot wife”?
You might be able to identify with the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
And this is the heart of cynicism: “We’ve been here before, and we’ll be here again. I didn’t like it last time, and I’m not looking forward to any part of it this go-round.”
Everything, it seems, is what Ecclesiastes refers to as hevel. Hevel is a Hebrew word that literally means vapor or mist but is often translated as “vanity.” What it conveys in Ecclesiastes is the ephemeral nature of life, of happiness, of success, of contentment and joy.
Even apart from our broader political and cultural squabbles, we can grow cynical of our daily existence. The routines of life can begin to feel burdensome. After all, no matter how many times you clean the dishes or do the laundry, there will always be more dishes and laundry tomorrow. No matter how many times you mow the yard, it will always need to be mowed next week. We constantly get into the same fights and disagreements with our family members and neighbors. And whatever flu bug your kids had last week will certainly be back within a fortnight.
Yet the world spins on. We seem to do the same things over and over again, and we wonder if we’re ever really getting anywhere.
Luckily, we have enough sources of entertainment to numb our existential dread. In the words of the character Michael on the show “The Good Place,”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Birth is a curse and existence is a prison. But don’t think about that. Don’t be sad, you guys. Focus on something great like Drakkar Noir [cologne], which I am wearing a lot of tonight. Or the Sharper Image catalog. What can’t those guys ionize?
Nevertheless, like Michael, our flight from existential dread is often quite precarious. For some, something as simple as a pop star appearing on their television screen for 30 seconds during a nationally televised football game is enough to send them into a genuine outrage, or worse, a conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
But perhaps some of us are so prone to outrage because we just want to feel something. Maybe some of us are attracted to conspiracy theories because we just want to find meaning in a world that so often doesn’t make sense. It is possible that so many of us rely escapism because we just don’t have an abiding sense of meaning or purpose.
All of this, in the words of Ecclesiastes, is “chasing after the wind.”
How do we find our way out? Unfortunately, there isn’t really one. But there is a way through. As Solomon writes,
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
All of life is meaningless apart from the God who brought life into existence. Our cynicism and dread are only the result of our separation from him.
God always intended for us to enjoy perfect contentment in our food and drink, toil and work, family and friends. But because the world is broken, fallen, and marred by sin, these things become onerous, purposeless, or even just downright boring.
But the hope offered to Christians is that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the presence of his Spirit, we can not only begin to find joy in the world as it currently exists, we can also find meaning and purpose in working toward reshaping the world into what God always intended. We begin to become the kind of people God always intended.
That work will never be complete. Injustice, poverty, chaos, and even laundry will always be a part of humanity’s story until Jesus returns to make all things new. Your struggles will always be your struggles. And it’s even possible that your life’s work will be undone by the next generation.
But that doesn’t mean for one second that it was meaningless. As Paul writes,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Everything you do in the path of pursuing life in Christ is eternally meaningful. It is not vanity.
So don’t judge your life by the apparent impact you have or have not made. Don’t judge your small acts of obedience by how “effective” they seem to be. Instead, learn to enjoy the process. Eat your food with gladness. Approach your work with purpose. Engage your relationships with your family and friends with intention. These are ends unto themselves, given to you by God that your life might be full of joy.
While the creep of cynicism tempts us to dwell on the thought that “nothing is new under the sun” and maybe there never will be, may we fight for contentment in the knowledge that the mercies of God are in fact new every single day.