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Jesus Is My Boyfriend Redux

17 Mar

Last year I wrote a post entitled, The Boyfriend, in which I discussed the phenomenon that critics both inside and outside of the church sometimes call Jesus Is My Boyfriend music. That post featured examples of Christian songs that refer to God and/or Jesus in rather intimate terms. In this post, I’m going to address the practice of co-opting secular love songs and addressing them to Jesus.

My first conscious, deliberate and willing engagement in this practice occurred when I was 17 years old. The summer I was 17 was one of three that I spent traveling with an evangelistic team (I’m embarrassed to admit that we had hugely inflated egos about our talent level). Our group’s leader suggested that our lead singer should sing Carole King’s gorgeous song, “You Light Up My Life” (from her Fantasy album). Since the song in its original key was pitched too low for our singer, I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. and wrote an arrangement suited to her range. Naturally, it featured a fun piano part for me to play. If you’re not familiar with the song, here are the lyrics:

You light up my life like sunrise in the morning;
You make me believe anything is possible.
I didn’t have a dream to my name,
Darkness was mine, it was such a shame,
But you came to light up my life,
You brought me faith and hope and love and light.

With your tender smile you brought me to the promise
Of life outside a world of 9-to-5 and Sunday.
I didn’t know how rich I could be
Until you gave your love to me.
Don’t you see, you light up my life,
You give me faith and hope and love and light.

You brought your sweet understanding
Like sun rays in my hazy skies.
If you hadn’t opened up my eyes
Love would have passed me by, right on by.

I never knew how good I could feel,
Loving you’s left me with nothing to conceal.
Yeah – you really light up my life,
You give me faith and hope and love and light.

If you’d like to hear Carole King sing it, sit back and listen:

Fast forward a few years. Since I’m part of a worship band at a weekend youth retreat, I spend much of Saturday jamming and rehearsing with the other band members. The leader, a big guy about 6’4″ who weighs at least 300 pounds, decides that the song before the sermon will be, “You Are So Beautiful,” his love song to Jesus. Instead of singing, though (which he does quite well), he’s going to play his trombone (which he does very well – he played trombone in a symphony orchestra before becoming a minister); his friend Marty is going to play the piano, and I’m going to provide a string bass line on my synthesizer. We don’t have an arrangement to work with; we just find a key to play in and follow the leader. Jump ahead to Sunday morning. Marty wakes up with a nauseating migraine and Bruce comes to me a few minutes before the service, saying, “Marty can’t make it today. I need you to play the piano for ‘You Are So Beautiful.’” So, I improvised an accompaniment while Bruce serenaded Jesus.

To complete the intended effect, picture Jesus sitting across from you in a candlelit room as you sing these words:

You are so beautiful to me.
You are so beautiful to me.
Can’t you see?
You’re everything I hoped for,
You’re everything I need.
You are so beautiful to me

Such joy and happiness you bring.
Such joy and happiness you bring.
Like a dream,
A guiding light that shines in the night,
Heaven’s gift to me.
You are so beautiful to me.

Now, watch and listen as Joe Cocker sings the song to you:

The final song that I’ll feature is not one that I’ve ever sung or played to Jesus, but it’s one that’s readily adapted to the Jesus Is My Boyfriend genre: “Have I Told You Lately,” by Rod Stewart. Can you see yourself singing this to Jesus? Some people can.

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one else above you?
You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.

For the morning sun and all its glory
Meets the day with hope and comfort too.
You fill my life with laughter, somehow you make it better,
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.

There’s a love that’s divine,
And it’s yours and it’s mine like the sun.
And at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the one, to the one.

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one else above you?
You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.

Now, let Rod woo you:

I think I’ve covered all the bases in the Jesus is My Boyfriend genre

a) songs written by Christians to, or about, Jesus, and
b) secular love songs co-opted by Christians and dedicated to their friend, savior, lord and lover.

If I’ve missed any possibilities, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll issue this warning: if you write a really nice love song, the odds are pretty high that some Christian will pick it up and sing it to Jesus.

– the chaplain

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49 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2010 in humor, music, rationalism, religion

 

49 responses to “Jesus Is My Boyfriend Redux

  1. nullifidian

    March 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    There’s the category of songs that they might attribute to their god singing at them with their own claims of love and righteousness.

    Let Me Be Your Armor [sic] (lyric) by Assemblage 23 always springs to mind for me, but I think the lyric goes a little further than many christians would ever admit to.

    As far as I’m aware, the lyric is actually from the point of view of anti-depressants to an over-dependent consumer, but the scenario seems awfully familiar.

     
  2. the chaplain

    March 17, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    nullifidian:
    Thanks for that category. I found the lyrics to that song. Some stanzas look innocuous, but some refer to extreme degrees of control and submission (can anyone say, “abuse?”) that should make normal people shudder.

    Let me take the fall,
    Let me take the blame;
    Let me carry you from hell
    To home again.

    Let me walk for you
    When your legs are weak;
    Let me find the words for you
    When you can’t speak.

    Let me be your armor,
    Let me be your shield;
    Let me take away the pain you feel (your armor).
    Let me be the light
    That guides your way through darkest night.
    Let me be your armor.

    Let me take the blows
    That were meant for you.
    Let me help you with the trials
    You’re going through.

    Let me keep you safe
    From the world outside;
    Let me wipe away the tears
    That fill your eyes.

    Let me be your armor,
    Let me be your shield;
    Let me take away the pain you feel (your armor).
    Let me be the light
    That guides your way through darkest night;
    Let me be your armor.

    Let me keep you from
    Experience you need.
    Let me bind you with my selfishness
    And greed.

    Let me stifle you,
    Let me have control;
    Let me smother
    Every aspect of your soul.

    Let me be your armor,
    Let me be your shield;
    Let me take away the pain you feel (your armor).
    Let me be the light
    That guides your way through darkest night
    Let me be your armor.

    ‘Nuff said.

     
    • nullifidian

      March 18, 2010 at 7:37 am

      To me the lyric represents a figure on the protective/authoritarian spectrum. At the softer end, its words are wise, offer aid and keep one from harm; and at the harder end those same words keep one dominated and imprisoned. I have no idea what this might be called, but “golden cage” syndrome seems apt.

      I don’t know if you’ve heard the track itself, but the music follows the lyric in the way you describe. It starts out with high fidelity, a little less in the second verse and degrades quite a bit after the middle eight, reflecting the increasingly controlling tone of the lyric throughout.

      The chorus pretty much remains the same musically, but then that’s the ‘controlling’ factor (whatever it is) asserting itself as a saviour (albeit in a pleading fashion). It can’t really let up in repeating its mantra if it’s to continue to have the influence it craves.

      P.S. I adore this song and the way it’s constructed, and had already spent hours thinking about it. This was a perfect outlet to express that. Thanks for the opportunity! :-)

       
  3. Larry Wallberg

    March 18, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I’ll bet they never sing “Michelle.” I don’t think you can find a French word that rhymes with our Americanized “JEEEEEEE-zus.”

     
    • Postman

      March 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      How about “bossus”, “dessus”, “tissus” or “lapsus”? “Uneven”, “above”, “cloth” (or material or something like that, if I recall), and “lapse”.

       
  4. Eddisbury

    March 18, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I wonder what they could do with this one:

    Maybe I’ll work on it for next Sunday.

     
  5. desertscope

    March 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Just the title of this one got me thinking about how Christians can be pretty creepy. When I found out about nuns wearing wedding bands, the first picture I got in my head was of a forlorn recluse keeping a dessicated corpse in the bedroom as a “spouse” (I must have seen one too many bad horror movies). This concept of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” song rubs me in the same way.

     
    • Postman

      March 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      Agreed. The thought of this gives me the willies.

       
    • mutzali

      March 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      When I was a child, nuns were often referred to as “brides of Christ”. Does having that many wives make Jesus a Mormon?

       
      • Larry Wallberg

        March 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

        Makes you wonder what those nuns do with the “body of Christ” that they keep getting.

         
        • Postman

          March 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm

          Eewww. My first thought, (and perhaps this says something very, very bad about me), was that they were saving up, piece by piece, to make a life-sized sex doll.

           
  6. Titfortat

    March 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Chappie

    After smiling about your post it got me thinking about you ex Christians and this song came to mind. Maybe this was written by one of ya! ;)

    Now that it’s all said and done,
    I can’t believe you were the one
    To build me up and tear me down,
    Like an old abandoned house.
    What you said when you left
    Just left me cold and out of breath.
    I fell too far, was in way too deep.
    Guess I let you get the best of me.

    Well, I never saw it coming.
    I should’ve started running
    A long, long time ago.
    And I never thought I’d doubt you,
    I’m better off without you
    More than you, more than you know.
    I’m slowly getting closure.
    I guess it’s really over.
    I’m finally getting better.
    And now I’m picking up the pieces.
    I’m spending all of these years
    Putting my heart back together.
    ‘Cause the day I thought I’d never get through,
    I got over you.

    You took a hammer to these walls,
    Dragged the memories down the hall,
    Packed your bags and walked away.
    There was nothing I could say.
    And when you slammed the front door shut,
    A lot of others opened up,
    So did my eyes so I could see
    That you never were the best for me.

    Well, I never saw it coming.
    I should’ve started running
    A long, long time ago.
    And I never thought I’d doubt you,
    I’m better off without you
    More than you, more than you know.
    I’m slowly getting closure.
    I guess it’s really over.
    I’m finally getting better.
    And now I’m picking up the pieces.
    I’m spending all of these years
    Putting my heart back together.
    ‘Cause the day I thought I’d never get through,
    I got over you.

    Well, I never saw it coming.
    I should’ve started running
    A long, long time ago.
    And I never thought I’d doubt you,
    I’m better off without you
    More than you, more than you know.

    Well, I never saw it coming.
    I should’ve started running
    A long, long time ago.
    And I never thought I’d doubt you,
    I’m better off without you
    More than you, more than you know.
    I’m slowly getting closure.
    I guess it’s really over.
    I’m finally getting better.
    And now I’m picking up the pieces.
    I’m spending all of these years
    Putting my heart back together.
    Well I’m putting my heart back together,
    ‘Cause I got over you.
    Well I got over you.
    I got over you.
    ‘Cause the day I thought I’d never get through,
    I got over you.

    Chris Daughtry

     
  7. Titfortat

    March 18, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Oh yeah, here’s the tune for you.

     
  8. the chaplain

    March 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Larry:
    Why would they need a French word? The ones who speak in tongues can make up whatever words they need to fit the rhyme scheme.

    Eddisburry:
    Cute song. They'd probably make a Sunday School chorus out of it. Adapt the words and sing something inane about Noah's Ark or something.

    desertscope & mutzali:
    I knew about the brides of Christ thing, but I didn’t know about the wedding bands. Jesus is obviously a polygamist, even if he’s not Mormon.

    Larry & Postie:
    It looks like your minds went right down into the gutter again.

    TitforTat:
    That song would make a great Ex-Christian Anthem.

     
  9. Spanish Inquisitor

    March 18, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Interesting.

    The second song by Joe Cocker was the song that my wife and I danced to at our wedding.

    The third song is actually a Van Morrison song. Rod Stewart rarely wrote his own songs. He is primarily an interpretive singer. That’s why he now does old standards and oldies.

     
    • the chaplain

      March 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

      You danced at your wedding? Oh, right – you weren’t a fundogelical. Needless to say, there was no booze or dancing at my wedding. The food was pretty good, though.

       
    • ildi

      March 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      My favorite Rod Stewart song:

      Every Picture Tells A Story

       
      • the chaplain

        March 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

        Hey, I haven’t heard that song in a long time. Thanks for the link.

         
  10. desertscope

    March 19, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Egads. Can I take back what I said? That thread was kinda icky. In the immortal words of Marlon Brando:
    …the horror … the horror.”

    1) I always found Carole King so depressing, despite her obvious talents.
    2) I always find Joe Cocker completely incomprehensible. He is incredible to hear, but whenever I see him, I doubt he understands the words emanating from his mouth.
    3) I never got Rod Stewart. I just don’t get what anyone finds even vaguely interesting about that guy. His voice grates (and not in a good way, like Satchmo), he’s not a good-looking man (granted, I am not a woman or a gay man, so perhaps tastes vary), and he doesn’t even write his own songs (unlike ugly, bad-voiced, yet talented lyricist Bob Dylan).

     
  11. the chaplain

    March 19, 2010 at 9:03 am

    SI:
    Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” so it wasn’t Joe Cocker’s song any more than “Have I Told You Lately” was Rod Stewart’s. If I were going to a concert and had to choose between one singer or the other, I’d probably choose Cocker. Besides, he may be going bald, but he still has better hair than Stewart. If I could add Carole King to the mix, I’d choose her hands down, even though, at age 68, her voice isn’t quite what it used to be.

    desertscope:
    I’ve never thought of King as depressing, but I can see how you might get that impression from songs like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “So Far Away,” and “Tapestry.” Unlike Cocker and Stewart, she writes her own material. Lots of other artists were making hits out of her songs before she finally got into recording in her own right. IMO, Stewart’s voice grates like nails on a chalkboard. How that guy makes money singing is beyond me. Maybe that bizarre circumstance is evidence that there is a god after all.

     
  12. PhillyChief

    March 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Ooh my little pretty one, pretty one.
    When you gonna give me some time, Messiah?
    Ooh you make my motor run, my motor run.
    Gun it comin’ off the line Messiah
    Never gonna stop, give it up.
    Such a wretch am I. Always get it up for the touch
    of the savior kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Messiah…

    Come a little closer huh, ah will ya huh.
    Close enough to look in my eyes, Messiah.
    Keeping it a mystery gets to me
    Running down the length of my thighs, Messiah
    Never gonna stop, give it up.
    Such a wretch am I. Always get it up for the touch
    of the savior kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Messiah…

    When you gonna give it to me, give it to me.
    It is just a matter of time Messiah
    Is it just destiny, destiny?
    Or is it just a game in my mind, Messiah?
    Never gonna stop, give it up.
    Such a wretch am I. Always get it up for the touch
    of the savior kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Messiah…

     
    • the chaplain

      March 19, 2010 at 9:08 am

      Philly:
      Since I’m at work now, I’ll listen to the song later. I have a feeling I’m in for a treat.

       
    • Postman

      March 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

      Ha! I did that “lol” thing.

       
    • desertscope

      March 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

      Ahh, we’re finally moving into my music timeframe, the 80s. I love that song, and I second Postman. Reading along was hilarious.

       
  13. PhillyChief

    March 19, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I had some fun with one Christian lady online once when I started feeding her these lines from one of my favorite songs. Can you guess the song? She couldn’t either, but thought it was beautiful, until learning who the one singing was supposed to be…

    Some people say my love cannot be true
    Please believe me, my love, and I’ll show you
    I will give you those things you thought unreal
    The sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal

    Oh yeah!

    Follow me now and you will not regret
    Leaving the life you led before we met
    You are the first to have this love of mine
    Forever with me till the end of time

    Your love for me has just got to be real
    Before you know the way Im going to feel
    I’m going to feel
    I’m going to feel

    Oh yeah!

    Now I have you with me, under my power
    Our love grows stronger now with every hour
    Look into my eyes, you will see who I am
    My name is __________, please take my hand

     
    • Postman

      March 19, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Ooh, ooh! I know! Is it, “My name is The Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells,”?

       
    • desertscope

      March 20, 2010 at 1:37 am

      Could it be … mmmm …. SATAN?!?!?

       
  14. Spanish Inquisitor

    March 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I love riddles!

    Please allow me to introduce myself
    I’m a man of wealth and taste
    I’ve been around for a long, long year
    Stole many a man’s soul and faith
    And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
    Had his moment of doubt and pain
    Made damn sure that Pilate
    Washed his hands and sealed his fate

    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game

     
    • Postman

      March 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      I’m not sure who you are, but I sympathize with you.

       
      • PhillyChief

        March 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

        See, that’s where that empathy thing gets in the way. Good thing Christianity frees you from it.

         
        • the chaplain

          March 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

          Freedom in Jesus liberates people from all sorts of earthly bonds: empathy, reality…

           
  15. Larry Wallberg

    March 19, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t know if this qualifies, because it’s not really a Jesus-Loves-Me song; it’s more of an I-Found-the-Virgin-Mary-in-a-Piece-of-Toast song. But, as you can see, its singer successfully converted a huge crowd of commie atheists!

     
  16. Lorena

    March 20, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    What about Debby Boone’s (sp?) You light up my life, Chappie?

    Was that one a Christian song made secular or vice-versa?

    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsVyflpQk2Q)

     
  17. Lorena

    March 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    And how about You needed me by Ann Murray? I have no clue who actually wrote those songs!

     
    • the chaplain

      March 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      I always hated Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life;” it’s such a drab, predictable little tune. “You Needed Me” is an interesting Jesus is My Boyfriend choice. I can picture lots of Christians singing it. The idea that Jesus needs us fits in with a certain type of Christian theology: God needs us to be his hands in the world, that sort of thing.

       
  18. Lorena

    March 22, 2010 at 2:36 am

    I read that Debby Boone said that the song wasn’t written for Jesus, but in her mind it was. So, yeah, it is a Jesus is My Boyfriend one.

    For someone with a half-decent voice, singing that song should be quite easy. She is lucky she was chosen to sing it. Not surprisingly, that’s her only big hit song ever.

     
  19. bk

    March 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    PhillyChief :I had some fun with one Christian lady online once when I started feeding her these lines from one of my favorite songs. Can you guess the song? She couldn’t either, but thought it was beautiful, until learning who the one singing was supposed to be…
    Some people say my love cannot be truePlease believe me, my love, and I’ll show youI will give you those things you thought unrealThe sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal
    Oh yeah!
    Follow me now and you will not regretLeaving the life you led before we metYou are the first to have this love of mineForever with me till the end of time
    Your love for me has just got to be realBefore you know the way Im going to feelI’m going to feelI’m going to feel
    Oh yeah!
    Now I have you with me, under my powerOur love grows stronger now with every hourLook into my eyes, you will see who I amMy name is __________, please take my hand

    I loved loved loved this album in High School (The original Black Sabbath s/t debut album). Amazingly enough, Ozzy looked like a ravaged by drugs 50 year old in 1970! I went through a brief religious phase and got rid of it, but the album is definitely on my iPod to this day!

     
  20. Larry Wallberg

    March 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    This song doesn’t specifically say “Boyfriend,” but you can draw your own conclusions.

     
  21. Larry Wallberg

    March 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    And here’s a version of that last tune especially for Philly.

     
  22. ildi

    March 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

     
  23. the chaplain

    March 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    bk:
    You and Philly are making me want to check out this album.

    Larry:
    If that song becomes an earworm, you’ll be getting the bills for my medical and psychiatric care. I hope you have deep pockets.

    ildi:
    I’m going to blame you if people elect Jesus for president because they’d like to have a beer with him.

     
    • ildi

      March 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      Well, that’s the kind of Jesus I could dig as a boyfriend… he could do one of his miracles and make five beers and two pizzas feed the bar crowd for the whole night… or sober everybody up at the end of the evening. (Out, out demon drink! Into the pigs!) We’d be invited to all the cool parties.

       
      • PhillyChief

        March 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

        or sober everybody up at the end of the evening.

        You don’t need Jesus for that. A rail or two will sober you right up, but then you’d probably want to start partying all over again.

         
  24. Thryn

    May 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    It isn’t just Christians who do this. I went to a Jewish Friday night service that almost entirely consisted of Beatles music last Friday. In the prayerbook they capitalized things that were supposed to refer to God in their version. It was kind of fun (I like the Beatles) but odd.

     
  25. the chaplain

    May 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Thryn:
    That Beatles service sounds interesting – and fun. I know some pastors who could pull off a service like that pretty well. The guy I mentioned in the post – Bruce, of You Are So Beautiful – wrote a pretty good arrangement of La Bamba (he called it La Alleluia) that was received pretty well when our monthly worship group performed it. We used it pretty often because it was so popular.

     

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