First up, big thanks to the awesome hosts – including Andrew, Jenny, and Nicola – as well as the excellent guests at my talk at Questival yesterday. It was a great bunch of people, and I highly recommend 1) considering attending next year, and 2) checking out the talents of Jonny Berliner, who, along with a superb first name, has a top line in comedy/ science/ singer-songwriter musical goodness.
And now, today’s post…
There’s a common idea among Christians that not just sex, but all physical contact outside of marriage, is a Bad Thing. This kind of repression is simply a denial of basic facts about human sexuality. When you try to suppress human nature, it generally has a way of escaping. And, for some evangelical women, it escapes in quite hair-raising ways.
Welcome to “Jesus is My Boyfriend” – an entire genre of Christian music and literature for women who literally want a romance with God.
“Although God certainly loves us even with unshaven legs, no makeup, and a bed-head hairdo, he also deserves to occasionally have his princess sit at his feet while she is looking and feeling her best… You are running away with your Lover, not confining yourself to a convent.”
The Christian singer Kathy Troccoli released a book called Falling In Love With Jesus: Abandoning Yourself to the Greatest Romance of Your Life. In it, we read,
“Learning to approach Jesus as your bridegroom may sound foreign to you, but it is a language that you, as a woman, were designed to understand.”
Falling in Love with Jesus sold so astonishingly well that it produced a host of spin-offs including two sequels, called Living in Love with Jesus: Clothed in the Colors of His Love, and the book with perhaps the most eye-widening subtitle of all time, Forever In Love with Jesus: Becoming One with the Love of Your Life. Readers are told, breathlessly:
“Who of us did not groan when Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone with the Wind, ran past knock-your-socks-off Rhett Butler, who truly loved her, for anemic and married Ashley Wilkes, who never would? We will learn parallel truths from these and other stories about falling deeply in love with Jesus.”
It transpires that this is just the tip of the Mills & Boon iceberg. We also have The Wild Romancer: Uncovering the Romance Jesus Longs to Lavish on You by Brenda Cobb Murphy, and When a Woman Meets Jesus: Finding the Love Every Woman Longs For by Dorothy Valcarcel.
There’s an avalanche of books like this, including Sheri Rose Shepherds apparently unironically titled His Princess Bride series. Titles include My Prince Will Come (yeah he will) and Love Letters From Your Prince. There’s even the His Princess diet plan – Fit For My King – because even Jesus isn’t into fat chicks.The blurbs make astonishing reading. Love Letters from Your Prince reads:
“When a royal princess is rescued by a brave prince, every girl’s heart pitter-patters at the thought. But women of all ages can easily miss the glorious truth that Jesus is the Prince who has already chosen her and is waiting at her door.”
Over at the evangelical e-magazine Crosswalk.com, Julie Ferwerda writes:
“I’ll go to a river, a park, a garden or up in the mountains with my Bible and worship music and hang out with him for an hour or two in beautiful seclusion. At this point, he usually starts showing off, captivating me with his majesty, pointing out amazing things he formed with his bare hands … for me. Taking in sunsets, sunrises, star gazing or walks after rainstorms also make inspiring dates where I’ve communed with him at incredibly deep levels. His presence feels as near as my very breath. No human could touch the holy romance of the intimate moments we share during these times.”
And the music. Oh Jesus, the music. I spent half of my youth in church services listening to “Jesus is my Boyfriend” material like “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” by Hillsong. In between songs, impassioned Pentecostal worshippers would gasp, “Ah! Touch me Jesus!”
Given the bodice-ripping nature of some of the content, is it possible that some women are taking these ideas even further? Are they upgrading Jesus from lover of their souls to lover of their bodies? Are evangelical wives lying back and thinking, not of England, but of… Jesus?
That was true for one young Christian girl, at least. This is from Julia Sweeney’s superb monologue, Letting Go of God:
“For a while, I really did think it could be me and Jesus together forever. I had this picture of Jesus in my bedroom. And he had this shag haircut and these big, beseeching, totally understanding eyes and a sexy beard. I will confess to you that that Jesus helped me discover the pleasures of my own body.”
So there you go. Proof, I think, that denial is a terrible thing.
A version of this post first appeared in a slightly different form on Episode 140 of The Pod Delusion.