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Miniblog #155: Something Is Terribly Wrong with the “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” Genre

by Carson T. Clark on December 5, 2012

I’m fond of the criticism that too many worship songs today fit the “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre. It’s no longer a matter of narcissitic, trite lyrics chalked full of superficial reflections with questionable theological implications. As Southpark rightly lampooned, many of our worship songs are now almost completely indistinguishable from any other love song, both in content and tone. They seriously make it sound as if we want to cuddle with Jesus, kiss Jesus, and make love to Jesus. In more gentle terms, N.T. Wright has called them “teenage love songs” about “falling in love with Jesus.” Either way, has proven the point by seamlessly using these songs in their commercials. I find this implicit, widespread conflation of spiritual and sexual in our worship songs to be incredibly creepy. To be clear, I’m not saying that this is wholly without precedent–biblical or otherwise. Look no further than Hosea and his unfortunately-named, promiscuous wife for a vivid illustration of this. Moreover, I agree with Rob Bell that we need to explore the infinitely complex relationship between spirituality and sexuality. I’m not pulling a Sheldon Cooper here. What I’m saying is that our songs need a greater degree of complexity, reflecting the fact that we’re using human relationships as a metaphor. Being in love with God should ultimately be unlike being in love with anyone else. Whatever intimacy with Christ means, however many helpful comparisons might exist between a young couple falling in love or a long-term marital relationship, I don’t think our worship songs should ever have physical let alone orgasmic overtones. Whatever a “personal relationship with God” might involve, I’m quite sure we shouldn’t understand it that way.

  • Bob MacDonald

    Yes – it can be trivialized. it can be – yes. No amount of cuddle talk will escape the cross and the need for our circumcision – death (Colossians 2:11) . The same message is clear in the Song – the beloved coming up from the desert. The gift is costly and it is not puerile. Nor is it superficial – nor is it to be ‘understood’ as if that were all there is to it.

    Understanding is a chimera, a false motive. Engagement is costly – a betrothal in blood as Zippora said of her husband Moses.

    Without real work – social and liturgical – in a responsible way, responsible to others, caring, costly obedience, the gifts cannot be assimilated. With such faithful work, no person will be disappointed.

  • Daniel Adkins

    There’s a song that is sung in our church fairly often that has the line, “Heaven comes down like a sloppy wet kiss.” This pulls me out of any sort of worshipful attitude completely. And… it’s just icky sounding. Bleh.

    • Morgan Guyton

      That’s horrifying.

    • Leo Staley

      David Crowder covered that song and replaced it with “unforeseen kiss”

      But I found the original wording to be remarkably powerful. The language of that song is not strictly romantic love, but affection, like a parent’s. The idea of God laying a big sloppy wet kiss on me like my dad struck me as the most affectionate imagery i had ever associated with him, and brought me into a more acute awareness that God’s love for me is not detached and hypothetical, but exactly as real as a sloppy wet kiss.

      is it appropriate for a public worship setting, or more appropriate for a private worship setting? well, the idea of private worship music is astonishingly recent, and psalms has some lyrics that could be seen as pretty embarrassing for their inappropriate display of emotion- they would be more appropriate for the private setting. But that’s not what the compilers of the publicly sung psalms thought.

  • Evelyn

    I was at a training course at College and paired up with a vicar (male) who confessed that as a man he had no desire to go to church and sing love songs to ‘some bloke in heaven’. As a woman I have little desire to do that either.
    Stuart Townend has a thoughtful piece on a related theme:

    We are in an era of over-production – and with increased quantity we appear to be losing a lot of quality… Worship leaders could do with more theological training, I reckon.

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