K-Pop and Dignity

In the song “Butter,” members of the boy band BTS flaunt their charm and allure, claiming that they are as enticing as soft, delicious, warm butter melted on a fluffy pancake. The Korean boy band the Bangtan Sonyeondan, more commonly known as BTS, released their song “Butter” in May of 2021. The tune is catchy, and the colorful and trendy modern charm of the video easily captures people’s attention, rallying the affections of their mega fans (who call themselves the BTS ARMY). “Butter” is full of lyrical easter eggs referencing popular artists like Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, and Usher. Mesmerized by anything that the band does, the BTS ARMY gives their full and unconditional support to them. The appeal of this song to the members of the BTS ARMY seems to accomplish BTS’s goal—to make their listeners fall in love with them.

 

According to Cosmopolitan, “Butter” is “literally about the boys being so charming, they make people fall in love with them.”1 The members of BTS want their listeners to adore them, and they give some good reasons as to why they think everyone else should, too. Careful listeners will notice that the band appeals to their wealth, personality, physical appearance, intellect, social status, style, and supportive fan base to convince others to adore everything that they do.

Ice on my wrist, I’m the nice guy
Got the right body and the right mind
Rollin’ up to party, got the right vibe
Smooth like (Butter), hate us (Love us)
Fresh boy pull up and we lay low
All the playas get movin’ when the bass low
Got ARMY right behind us when we say so
Let’s go

Loving Looks
Many of us can feel enticed by the things described in this song. BTS wants listeners to adore them for their overall appearance, as expressed in this verse. The band believes and perpetuates a narrative that places personal value and worth in surface-level things. Their claims about value and love—although sincere—lack a sense of dignity. Dignity is a noble attitude expressed through conduct, appearance, and speech which demonstrates a condition of being worthy of respect; it recognizes inherent worth. 2 Dignity is a result of knowing who you are and knowing that your inherent worth comes from being created in the image of God. Dignity, respect, and love do not come from social status, personality, or physical appearance.

We are all prone to place our self-worth in the wrong place. We put our love for and opinions of others in the wrong place, too. Listen to your thoughts the moment you walk into any restaurant, classroom, office, or store. Immediately, our minds gravitate towards comparison and judgment. She should not be wearing those pants. He should go to the gym more—like I do. Those shoes are knock-offs, they must not be able to afford real ones. We judge others’ spirituality, intellect, physical appearance, or degree of social acceptance compared to our own. If you tend to make quick critical assessments, then you are not alone—it is a common attitude. Appraising others for the wrong reasons is what BTS’s song “Butter” encourages you to do—to love because of appearances. Comparison and value judgment point to a deeper problem that permeates our entire culture—a lack of understanding of
personal value.

Self-Worth
Personal value according to a biblical worldview is rooted in how we were created—in the Imago Dei. Imago Dei is a Latin phrase that means “ image of God.” When God created humanity, he gave us skills and capabilities that are similar to (but less powerful than) his own. He also gave us the responsibility to use those skills and capabilities well. Being created in the image of God is holistic; it impacts more than just how we look. We are valuable because God is valuable, not because of our appearance or social status. The song “Butter” is an excellent representation of artists who place their worth and significance in desirability and charisma. BTS asks listeners to love them because they are “so charming, they make people fall in love with them.”3 If many of us were honest, we also want people to love us for the same reasons.

In our deepest hearts, we believe ourselves to be kind, brave, honest, and spirited. We wish that we were rich, stylish, and accepted. Although we may possess some of these characteristics, we are not loveable because of them. We are more than our observable characteristics. When all the glitz and glamor is gone and the adoration of those around us dissipates, who are we? We are often critical, judgmental, and self-centered because we do not know the roots of our value. When we have a correct view of where our value comes from, we can begin to develop a sense of dignity.

Dignity
Dr. Rosalie de Rosse makes several comments regarding dignity in her book Unseduced and Unshaken. She explains that dignity comes from a renewed mindset founded in the recognition of God’s overt impact on our lives as our Creator. A sense of dignity rejects the temptation to passively accept false ideas about our value. It is restraint and control over our longings because they belong to God first. To have dignity we must know who we are before God; we must deal thoughtfully with our personhood and make purposeful decisions about who we will be. It is a strong and deliberate way of life that is the result of our choices and worldview. A person of dignity puts a high value on themselves because God does also. 4

We are valuable and can have a sense of dignity because we are created in the image of God. “Dignity, it is clear, is not the same thing as poise; it is not the same thing as beauty, and it is certainly not the same thing as style though, of course, a dignified person may have any one or all of those qualities.” 5 To have Christian dignity is a challenge and a call to live with a sense of value and love because God values and loves us. To have Christian dignity is to make thoughtful and deliberate choices about who we are and how we love others. The song “Butter” is an appeal to adore passively and for surface reasons. Christian dignity is something much more: it is a challenge and choice to know who we are and to be a person who makes brave, dependable, honest, and spirited choices—no matter what. It is to live truthfully and do the right thing, even when it is costly.

Dignity is a difficult character trait to cultivate, but it is extremely freeing. We have been given the grace to view ourselves with dignity and to love others unreservedly because God loves us and created us with the ability to love. The members of BTS are not loveable because of their wealth, physical appearance, or the support and opinion of their fans. BTS is worthy of respect and love because they are created in the Imago Dei. You are loved unreservedly by a creator who intentionally made you with care—and that is a reason to live with dignity.

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