Desires, Liturgies and the Kingdom: Part 3, Jesus is My Boyfriend

At the Streaming conference, as we talked about the work of James K. Smith, from time to time in our discussions criticisms were made of contemporary praise music.

A frequently leveled criticism concerned the overly romantic themes in contemporary Christian praise music. These sorts of songs are frequently dismissed as "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs.

I found that dismissal odd in light of our discussions about Smith's work about how liturgies should shape our loves and desires. Smith was arguing that our liturgies should engage our emotions, that worship should be more romantic than intellectual, but in the same breath we were dismissing "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs.

What's additionally strange here is that many of the people who are dismissive of the "boyfriend" songs are people immersed in the contemplative tradition. And yet, the contemplative tradition is the tradition most familiar with the erotic aspects of Christian worship and spirituality. If anyone felt that "Jesus is my boyfriend" it was the Christian mystics.

Finally, the patriarchy might also be at work in this criticism of "boyfriend" themes. Which is again strange given that many of the people who dismiss the "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs are liberals and progressives.

James Smith makes all these points in a fascinating footnote (p. 79) in Desiring the Kingdom:
I think a philosophical anthropology centered around affectivity, love, or desire might also be an occasion to somewhat reevaluate our criticisms of "mushy" worship choruses that seem to confuse God with our boyfriend. While we might be rightly critical of the self-centered grammar of such choruses, I don't think we should so quickly write off their "romantic" or even "erotic" elements (the Song of Songs comes to mind in this context)...The quasi-rationalism that sneers at such erotic elements in worship is concerned to keep worship "safe" from such threats is the same rationalism that has consistently marginalized the religious experience of women--and women mystics in particular.

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