Unsurprisingly, “Jesus is my Boyfriend” garnered some strong reactions. Very few of them written—there is a comment section, but don’t tell anyone—most of them verbal. It’s been called borderline blasphemous (if not completely), I’ve been asked to repent, gotten several laughs, and people commenting on how “explicit Christian music has been recently” (yes, their words, unprompted, not mine). Naturally, we decided to do it again.
I want to do a quick FAQ before we continue.
Jesus is my boyfriend? Isn’t that a little irreverent of you? And why do you care?
Jesus is my boyfriend isn’t my term, actually. I wish it was. It’s been around since I was born, and Google shows 1,310,000 hits using the Jesus is my boyfriend search term (only 47,000 with quotes around the phrase; this doesn’t include the modifiers “lyrics,” “songs,” and “music” which also are popular to add on at the end). Is it irreverent? Yes, but I never claimed not to be (and am okay with being labeled such, just like I’m okay with “heretic” and “apostate”). My issue with these songs are simple: they leave us at a shallow theological/relational/religious place. They don’t carry you beyond having a crush on Jesus. And I mean crush. These songs are about (or come across as) naive, butterfly-in-your-stomach, unending love. Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that it is a lot more complicated than that. People disagree, go different directions, fight, throw things, and yell. They also surprise each other, make sacrifices for their partner, kiss, sit down and talk it out, throw things, and cry. “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs, however, don’t acknowledge that reality, and don’t let a person grow beyond that. Worship music can be used for a lot more than to set the mood, they can teach us about the Bible, doctrines (who hasn’t used Amazing Grace to teach about God’s Grace, and if you haven’t, why not?), and actions. The “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs have a place in worship sets (the good ones at least) but they shouldn’t dominate them, as is often the case in churches.
This song takes some of lyrics from the Bible! How can you ridicule it?
Just because it’s Biblical doesn’t mean it is inspired without context. I strongly believe the Bible only gains meaning and has inspiration because it is a collection of arguments from people struggling to understand how God works. Their story is our story. We’re all trying to figure this thing out—life, God, Jesus, religion, and nacho cheese dip. We can take a verse from the Bible all we want, but one verse doesn’t transcend an argument into the divine, and one verse doesn’t make a song good. For more on this, read somebody smarter than me: N.T. Wright, “How Can The Bible Be Authorative?”
How can do this and not feel blasphemous?
These are songs written by regular people. I’m not denying the Trinity, the Cross, the Resurrection, or anything else (including a direct action by the Holy Spirit). I’m critiquing these songs as art.
But these people wrote these song about their feelings towards God, and you’re belittling their relationship with God.
These are songs written by regular people. I have no issue or judgments about any of the song-writers relationship to God. But they wrote songs to be sung by people, and therefore have subjected themselves to the field of art criticism. We pass criticism on personal art all the time—film and TV, secular music, books, photography, drawings, paintings, radio dramas, and shadow puppets. Evoking God doesn’t give you a free pass, and neither does playing the emotions card. All art is created to get across a message, to convey a feeling, and it is subject to criticism on how well the artist succeeded (both in technical and thematic elements). Criticism isn’t a bad word, in its purest form criticism analyzes what works, what didn’t, how was it interpreted, what needs to be improved on. Once these songs were put out to the public, they became fair game for criticism. Both on technical and thematic aspects.
Okay, but how do people outside of our faith view this? Aren’t you worried how they’re gonna take it?
Actually, the non-Christians (agnostics/atheists/other faiths) have responded positively to this, and haven’t viewed this as an attack on the Christian religion or its beliefs. Just on what I’ve decided to call the “Christian Industrial Complex”, the stuff created by Christians for other Christians. It has opened up a lot of great avenues of discussion to explore our beliefs. The stronger reaction—unsurprisingly—has come from Christian circles.
Are you going to repent?
With that out of the way, here is the follow-up to the critically mixed “Jesus is my boyfriend”!
Honestly, this is the most uninspiring song, with the most uninspired title, to hit the worship circle in a while. Apparently, according to gig-performing Jordan, this is capturing the hearts and minds of evangelical worship sessions everywhere. It makes sense—the world gets Justin Bieber, and us enclave Christians get this song.
(Original: Revelation Song, if you can get through the original without deconverting to Atheism, you win a Heaven. Also two high schoolers covered Bieber’s “Baby” but changed it to “Jesus”. The result? A worship song. Outstanding gentlemen!)
Trading My Sorrows
Let me make this perfectly clear: if you were offended by our adaptation of “Madly”, or offended in general, do not listen to this song. If you like “When Harry Met Sally”, listen to this song. If you’re unsure use these steps to help: (1) Think of this songs chorus; (2) Think about what we’re doing; (3) Lightbulb.
(Original: Trading My Sorrows)
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, this post didn’t go up as soon as planned. But it was always planned that we would have songs we think should be sung more often at worship services. Some aren’t your typical worship songs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value as teachable elements in Church. This was one the main points of protest with the last post—overly critical with no suggestion as to change. I’ll take the fall for that one, splitting into two posts seemed great at the time, but the lag time between this post and the last one may have killed the momentum. Without further ado, here’s what you should be singing.
Stare at the Sun
Why wouldn’t you sing Thrice?
(Original: Stare at the Sun)
The only traditional worship song in this list, and something that comes from the Bible which I think holds the same impact it does when you read it in context. Of note, this song eventually got nixed from my Church’s set list because it was deemed “not congregationally friendly.” Some of the songs deemed “congregationally friendly” are the altered songs in the last two posts.
(Original: Micah 6:8)
Again: Why wouldn’t you sing Thrice? Just sing their whole catalog and you’ll be much happier.
This is what happens when we mess around, and no, this has no bearing whatsoever on worship.
(Original: The Kill (30 Seconds to Mars) | Audrey and Kelsey’s song, All I Have—yay bonus track!)
Christian worship music has done a great service for many people, and not in the way you think. It’s helped thousands of people express their love for the object of their desire–a girl and/or boy. If you’re confused, you obviously never actually followed the worship leader’s instructions to “not just sing–but think of what the words really mean!” If you did you’d realize these are the perfect songs to sing to a crush. The sappy, head-over-heels, I have eyes for nobody but you, babe lyrics and incredibly simplistic music makes them perfect for anyone in a jam come Valentine’s Day and anniversary’s. Because nothing screams love more than vague lyrics about a more-or-less undefinable feeling.
What? Don’t believe me? Take a listen.
My brother Jordan, Honorary brother Stu, and I got together to showcase some of the best examples of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre. We had a one simple rule: only change words that referred to God, or a God Event specifically (Jesus, Lord, God, Creation, etc.). Some words were changed to match the rhyming scheme that had changed due to taking God out of song, but we kept it close to the original meaning as possible. On a couple of songs we didn’t have to change a damn thing.
Three observations that came out of this project:
- These songs are amazingly dirty when they are about a girl.
- These songs are amazingly bad when they are about a girl.
- How the hell are these songs popular?
So, for the romantically challenged coming up on an important relationship date, fear not, we got the out for you. Here are 7 “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs.
Better Is One Day
(There is a Song of Solomon inspired version [NSFW for you non-Christianese speaking people] of this that will remain unrecorded, but it’s bad.)
(Original: Better Is One Day)
(We had a little bit more fun with this one–it’s now about either (1) a cheating boyfriend, (2) a stalker girlfriend, or, (3) both.
(Original: No idea.)
I Want To Know You
(We changed only a few words in this–possibly less than 5?)
(Original: I Want To Know You)
Let My Words Be Few
(Another we changed less than 5 words on)
(Original: Let My Words Be Few)
(Uh, yeah, we didn’t have to change anything on this but they got a little carried away at the end. In a hilarious way.)
No One Like You
(Another one where we didn’t have to change much. Also notice the chord progression on this song.)
(Original: No One Like You)
So, grab a bouquet of flowers, your guitar, and go woo a girl in the sappiest way possible. Also possible to woo with these songs: your perception of Jesus.
A few weeks back, the people over at Sabbath Manifesto used the beauty of social media to promote a rethought Sabbath, avoid your computer, TV, radio, and cell phone for a day (and I become the one millionth writer to fall for the hackneyed joke—damn the easy way). In the CNN and NY Times article about the idea several people were quoted freaking out. Swearing up and down they could not live without their cell phones for the day. (My favorite reason: “How will I make plans with my friends?” Some people just don’t grasp planning ahead do they?) I, naturally, scoffed at those who said they couldn’t go without their cell phones for the day. No way could it be that hard. Who gets that big of a rush on the idea of being in touch with everything at any given moment? I’m addicted to a lot of things (hi Dr. Pepper, you look nice today) but I could give it up for a day.
It soon dawned on me I should try it instead of just boldly proclaiming it. On my day off I attempted my own Sabbath, no computer (meaning no Twitter, Facebook, audio editing, or e-mail), no cell phone, no car radio, and no TV (luckily it was Tuesday and Chuck had aired the night before). And in what some would consider a modern, high-tech miracle, I came out alive. And it was—and this is even more shocking—painless. But I did notice a few unexpected side effects, and discovered a few things about myself.
(1) I need a watch. I do not own a watch; my primary timepiece is my cell phone. Out of all the functions my cellphone offers—text messaging, phone calls, the internet—the one I missed the most was the time. I just want to make this clear: I suffered withdraw from not knowing the time, not the communication. I had nothing to do that day (except for an informational meeting in the evening) but not knowing if it was 1 or 1:45 really messed with my head. Granted, the world ran this way for a long ass time, not everyone could find out the time at any given moment. I adjusted, but honestly, I really need watch.
(2) Volunteering isn’t a 24-year olds game. I attend a training/informational seminar for Detroit Reading Corp, and I swear I was the only person under 35 there. This is usually the case in political campaigning as well (the staffers? Usually fresh college grads. The volunteers? Usually mid-30’s and beyond). So, is volunteering uncool? You can tell me, I can take it. I’m used to being a nerd.
(3) Holy crap did I miss Chuck. I’ve been re-watching the first two seasons of Chuck, that show is awesome. And with all the stuff on my computer—my podcasts to edit, my podcasts to listen too, the amazingly just discovered music of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, Twitter, and Facebook—the thing I missed the most was THE TOTALLY LEGAL COPIES of Chuck’s second season (now on DVD and Blu-ray! IT IS TOTALLY LEGAL), I really wanted to watch an episode. That show is like crack.
(4) Only two exceptions for the entire day. I know it seems kind of cheap. But two exceptions came up when I deemed it necessary to break the Sabbath. The first, in the morning, I heard my phone go off three-times in a row. I assumed—especially since I did not use Twitter or Facebook to announce my intentions for the day—that someone really, really needed to reach me. It was brother Sean, and he was having computer difficulties and needed my help submitting a paper for a class. So, do I be a dick and hold fast to my self-imposed technology exile, or help Sean not fail a class? Considering that one of the tenants from Sabbath Manifesto is “Give back,” and I wasn’t using my computer or phone as a boredom killer, I figured I could help Sean out and not feel bad. The second exception? I granted immunity for the cell phone rule to my friend, Danelle, in Georgia. My rationalization? Another tenant is “connect with loved ones” and the only way I can do any sort of fellowship with Danelle is (a) drop a couple hundred bucks on a plane ticket, or (b) answer the cellphone. Guess which one is cheaper. I didn’t carry my cellphone with me, but if I was around when she called, I’d pick up (she did, and I was, so I did).
I have to say, I felt a lot better at the end of the day. I read, went for a walk, pseudo-volunteered (is training really volunteering?), and found silence. The Sabbath Manifesto folks (a Jewish organization called “Reboot”—like the TV show—is behind the concept) had the right idea, and my technological Sabbath is gonna become a regular part of my week. It’s amazing how much easier it is to find God with all the shit turned off.
So, I’ve taken the last few weeks of The Project. Went to church once (except the makeshift house church deal we got going on), written a half-post about my second venture to Base, and overall haven’t felt the need to do anything. Churches are blending together, music sounds the same, sermons are just as engaging (or not engaging) and teaching the same message just different words.
This is the downside of Church-hopping, well honestly, church attendance. After awhile everything gets dull. It’s the nature of life, and relationships, you hit a rough spot, a boring spot, you start drift, look at another Church the wrong way, and before you know it, you’re Church-cheating.
Instead of randomly selecting Churches to attend in February, I decided it was time for a theme month. Themes make everything more interesting; imbue meaning where there is none, and give a nice narrative to write around. Themes are fun for everyone, and make life a little easier. So February is Schism Month, the month when I will visit two churches, Base and SoulQuest, that formed because of a schism at my life-long church: Shepherd Fellowship (now Grace Waterford). I should note, for the sake of full disclosure, that I hold nothing against the people for leaving and starting their own church. Also, Base’s service started at 10am, and they were still going when I left at 11:30. I had already agreed to meet some friends for our house-like church at 11:30, so I couldn’t stay the whole time. Next week I’ll plan accordingly, and in my defense, how many American churches go past an hour and a half service? And more importantly, how many can do that and keep you entertained?
As many of you know by now, my Grandma passed away last week. She had severe Alzheimer’s, so it was an odd relief. I didn’t attend St. Andrew’s, but instead decided to expand on the story I told about Grandma at the service. I’ll be in warm weather for the next two Sundays, so no updates here (but there will be for The Film Rumble Podcast). Instead, donate to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Or text ‘HAITI’ to 990999 to make a $10 dollar donation to the Red Cross efforts (your carrier doesn’t take a cut, everything goes to the relief effort, however, Sprint is charging normal SMS rates). Remember, donate money not materials, it’s a million times more helpful and useful.
Before Grandma was put into a nursing home, we each had to take turns watching her. She had Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t be left alone. Not that she would’ve intentionally burned the house down, but leaving the oven on, the hair curler plugged in, or messing with the breaker box and forgetting about it 10-seconds later wasn’t out of the question. So, we’d go and sit with her. Read a book, watch some TV—but nothing more complicated than the news or sketch comedy if you could help it, she’d get angry if she couldn’t remember what was going on—or do homework. Sometimes you’d talk to Grandma, but it was really Grandma talking to herself. Conversations with Grandma reset every few minutes, and you’d have to start from scratch. They’d always trail off, or abruptly switch topics.
One day, Grandma had found some old photographs. These ranged from pictures of my Dad and his siblings in elementary school to pictures of Grandma and her siblings growing up in Kentucky. These stack of old photographs laid on the table in front of us, and Grandma picked them up, and started to tell me the stories of each photograph. And not just, “this is your Dad in school” or “this is me growing up in Kentucky” but detailed stories of the day it was taken, the weather in Kentucky, the attitude of the subjects, the difficulties in getting people to sit still, and what they had for dinner. For a woman who was convinced that I had a brother named Chris, the stories were impressive. The attention to details, the funny anecdotes, and the slight laugh as she told the stories of how difficult my Dad and Uncle Timmy where in getting ready for school, all the detail built a wonderful family history.
“Any announcements for today?”
You can tell the size of the church based on the format of the announcements. If they are strictly regimented, read off a piece of paper, with no extemporaneous audience comments allowed, you’re at a big church; over a hundred where inviting in the peanut gallery would bring mayhem.
If they ask for announcements, and the congregation rambles on about their own stuff, you’re at a small church. An extremely small church.
“I just wanted to say I hoped everyone had a great and safe New Year, and wanted to welcome any visitors we have with us today,” the woman said, staring right at me when she said the last bit.
At extremely small churches they also know who the new guy is.