A strange phenomenon that plagues Western Christianity is a genre of songs that some have tagged as “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. The oldest song of this type that I know of is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, who lived in the 12th century:
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
Sweetness filling my breast at the mere thought of my beloved strikes me as pretty erotic imagery (is it me, or is it getting warm in here?). The remainder of this stanza is not so overtly erotic, but it doesn’t need to be – the tone has already been set, very effectively, by the first two lines.
Moving on to the 18th century, if you thought Charles Wesley was a stodgy old Methodist, you may change your mind when you realize that he penned the words,
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly.
If you ask me, those lines don’t leave an awful lot to the imagination. In fact, they’re so suggestive that I was never able to sing them without squirming in discomfort. I don’t know if I was more disturbed by the thought of someone other than my husband making love to (my soul or any other part of) me, or because I wondered what Jesus’ bosom would be like. Hairy or clean-shaven? Solid pecs or flabby?
The 19th century brought us Fanny Crosby. Among the many insipid gospel songs she wrote was this one:
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershadowed,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
My goodness! Jesus has a hard time keeping his breast to himself. I ask you, how can straight men possibly sing these words without blushing? I can barely manage to do it.
C. Austin Miles may have outdone Ms. Crosby, though, with his evocative 19th century gem:
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and he talks with me,
And he tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
How romantic! A garden, evening dew, walking and talking together, enjoying an exclusive relationship – and a prefiguring of Burt Bacharach:
Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you!
The Jesus is My Boyfriend genre of worship music is still thriving. The folks at Hillsong (this one’s for you, Sean and Oz) are pretty adept at it:
Closer than my thoughts
Closer than a kiss
How could it be
More intimate than this?
I’m sure some of you can think of suggestive creative answers to that question.
Since you’re probably getting saccharine overload, I’ll forestall potential lawsuits and finish by citing the post that stimulated this whole line of thought. This little bit comes from a song about Jesus, which is entitled – I kid you not – My Romance:
Look at the way the flowers bloom for You
They want to show You their beauty
Running waters dance
You and I romance.
If you check out this lady’s sidebar, you’ll find the following note:
ABOUT ME: I’m hopelessly in love with Jesus (He’s drop-dead gorgeous). He’s hopelessly in love with me (He thinks I’m ‘to die for’). What more is there to say?
What more is there to say? Plenty. This lady imagines that some dead guy whom she’s never seen (and whom some will argue never lived in the first place) is drop-dead gorgeous. She imagines that this dead guy loves – present tense, not past – her enough to have died for her and come back to life so that he could spend eternity with her. Does she love him
a) because he’s hot,
b) because he’s God (and/or God’s Son, however that works), or
c) because he loved/loves her enough to die for her and – she hopes – come back and take her to heaven with him?
What do you think? Is she repressed or just living out a weird Cinderella-style Some Day My Prince Will Come fantasy?
Whatever the answer to that question is, the only sense I can make of this sort of religious faith is that it’s juvenile, pathetic and degrading.
– the chaplain