On Being Embarrassed When Worship Songs Seem Sexual

[CAUTION: This post is satirical. Calm down.]

Over-sexualized.

Worship songs? No. Everything.

I’ve been both a victim and a participant in the American cultural norm…Scope out opportunities to rejoin comments with, “That’s what she said.”

(To be sure, the phrase was around long before the TV show “The Office”, but a certain Michael Scott character seemed to usher the phrase into a broad and sweeping cultural vernacular. Am I right?)

So now, it seems thousands of words and phrases are hijacked, and church gatherings are not immune to it either. Or, maybe it’s just me. It can be hilarious, dreadful, or just plain embarrassing. Recently, a few worship songs have sort of had their way with me on this, so to speak.

“Bride of Christ” by Marion Coltman (I thought it was entitled: “Jesus, keep your hands where we can see ’em”) …and it’s all just a bit too much for me.

I didn’t want to think it at the time, but the Casting Crowns song “Your Love is Extravagant” sounded just a little too much like a “friends with benefits” song. Golly, all you have to do is take the “t” off Christ, and you have a fine mess (in my head):

Your Love is Extravagant

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known; You considered me a friend

Capture my heart again
Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate

Don’t get me wrong, Casting Crowns does so many great worship songs I really enjoy. This may be one your favorites, which is fine. I hope it creates a worshipful experience for you, and for everyone, but I get derailed.

Basically, if a worship song talks about touching, my mind wanders. Such as Kari Jobe song:

I wanna sit at your feet.

Drink from the cup in your hand.

Lay back against you and breathe, here your heart beat

This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.

I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.

 

The fact is love is risky. God is risky…Obviously risky and risqué has sort of been a fine line in songwriting. But, to be honest, I realize that love can often feel awkward as it gets emotionally deeper. When it starts to change and effect us–and affect us. The awkwardness is part of the path to greater spiritual maturity. (In this case, I’ll let you know for sure when I get there.)

Admittedly, the psalms that King David wrote got quite amatory, and for some it feels embarrassing. I can handle David getting up close and personal with God. I’m fine with Song of Solomon’s sexy talk, and David’s passionate poem songs, but maybe in singing those things corporately, we confront those issues of intimacy differently than we do in our times of personal devotions, songs, or prayers. What do you think about it?

I think the challenge, for me, is a renewing of my mind a bit more, and praying for better ears to hear. Thank you for your patience with me, Lord.

Lastly, for all you songwriters out there, if you’re writing something sweet to sing for Jesus, please–for me–don’t put the words “intimate,” “secret place,” and “rhythm” too close together. (It can be a “worship hijack” for some of us, okay, for me.)

When was the last time you felt embarrassed/awkward at the worst time?

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24 comments / Add your comment below

  1. “Your love is deep.
    Your love is high.
    Your love is long.
    Your love is wide.”
    ’nuff said.

  2. I love how you suggest the need to think of corporate and personal worship and how the psalms figure into all of that. Hmph…. I should probably refrain from commenting on contemporary worship songs. If they work for folks, then that’s cool. I have really appreciated the stuff by John Mark McMillan because his songs have elements of truth and emotion, whereas I think some things basically depend on emotion to carry the day. 

  3. I’ve always felt awkward about “Your Love Is Extravagant” too. If I remember correctly, it’s the only song on that Casting Crowns album not written by Mark Hall. To me it just didn’t fit with the other songs. I found it very hard to draw a strictly spiritual slant from it – almost like whoever wrote it was giving a *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* to their secret love interest while playing it. Kinda creepy…

  4. Oh.my.goodness. This is hilarious and SO true. Thanks for reading my mind and giving me a “spit your coffee out” laugh!

  5. You want to get totally skeeved out? Look up modalists Phiilips, Craig & Dean’s porny “Pour My Love on You.”

  6. “Come to me, Lord
    Here is my heart Can’t live on my own
    Can’t live without you

    I want more, more of you, Lord
    I want more, more of you, Lord
    I want to hold you, love you, not let you go
    Renew this fire that’s within my soul
    I want more, more of you, Lord
    More, more of you, Lord”…my favorite moment with this song is when my friend, with whom Idiscussed the aversion to worship songs that sound like bad 80’s love songs,stood one row in front of me one Sunday morning and began miming twopeople making out when the worship band started playing the course to thissong.

  7. There are MANY songs used in churches today that work fine as a solo or group *performance* but are not best used as corporate worship material. I hadn’t eally thought of the above, but it is food for thought.
    Okay…now I’m hungry.

  8. I tried not to comment on this but I fear I must. I think all of you, bluntly put, are out of your minds. If we have become so sexually jaded that we’re now getting turned on by worship to God…I don’t know what to say. Clearly sex in the entertainment world (and the world at large) has gone WAY too far, where we can’t say anything or even WORSHIP God without thinking about it. The comment by “stefanirossi73” was…there are no words. All of you dishonor the words of love and praise these songwriters have poured into these songs by limiting them to something trashy and profane. Perhaps you should check your definition of love when all you can compare it to is sex. Sex is a spiritual experience, meant to be shared by two individuals with the blessing of God. This world has turned it into something…well much like you describe. If you’re thinking about sex during worship you are either sexually repressed or have failed to understand its meaning. Get a grip, for God’s sake.

  9. Draw me close to YouNever let me goI lay it all down againTo hear You say that I’m Your friendYou are my desireNo one else will do’Cause nothing else could take Your placeTo feel the warmth of Your embraceHelp me find the wayBring me back to YouYou’re all I wantYou’re all I’ve ever neededYou’re all I wantHelp me know You are near

    Without knowing the context of this song, it could be a love song on pop radio.

  10. Lisa- I really appreciate your thoughts. We talk about “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs/books/theology around my community quite a bit. I realize it follows mystics like Teresa of Avila, etc. but personally speaking, I think it creates a very sketchy theology in Bible belt America.  I am certainly all for people having a personal dynamic to their relationship with Christ. I’m unsure of why this needs to be put in romantic terms…really ever. 

  11. @Atlantea – The point, I believe, is that these songs, without the context of being praise and worship songs, could easily be a secular love song.  It is one thing if these words spring from our heart during personal worship time.  But in corporate worship, these songs can mean different things to different people.  Someone who is a new Christian or a not-quite-yet Christian might not understand the awesome holiness of God from these songs and their love for him may remain shallow and unexamined.

  12. Grand contribution. Whatever you wrote here about worship songs seems to me outstanding. Really i like your allocation. Keep it up with good work. 

  13. I understand how you feel and I was with you until the casting crowns song, I never got that impression… Jesus is the lover of our soul… and that is well intimate, God is good at pursing us and he is a gentle teacher, it is great when we can recognize our feelings and allow God to work on them. I think some of how you feel is accurate and I agree with you, and I think some of it stems from something deeper perhaps? I enjoyed reading your thoughts, thanks for sharing.

  14. Yeah…it really is something deeper. I have Masters level training in Theology. Hundreds of hours into the stuff. When I hear songs that reflect emotionality primarily, I think it triggers something in me that wants something more substantial. Its leaves a sour taste when worship music is hinged on experiential, feel-good, warm fuzzies. Deep and potent relationship with God and boyfriendish-ness aren’t analogous to me. Maybe they are to you. That’s fine, if you need that right now. Thanks for your input.

  15. The “extravagant” song reminds me of Song of Solomon… who knows, some people take it as an allegory of Christ and His people… maybe the guys from Casting Crowns modeled their song after it… I agree, a bit weird.

  16. Context is everything, really. If you are new to church and walking in and the opening act is performing to this and everyone is just sort of frothing with excitement, it can be a very jarring experience. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve been in prayer and God seems to have shown of in a special way and thing tune seems meaningful and spot on. (When I originally wrote this post I think I was in a more cynical place, nevertheless, sometimes I just reach a limit with the love-dovie style. It’s like I’m been eating pudding for a week and I need something crunchier.)

    Carey, thanks for leaving a a response. xo ;)

  17. I’m so tempted to ask you to imagine me as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally and type “yes” numerous times. There are, indeed, a couple of songs that I cannot sing. One has a line that has something like “you inside of me” and I forget the other one, but I cannot take them seriously. I thought this distraction was my fault for reading too many romance novels. Thank you for providing me with company :-)

  18. Why do you think Christian women love these songs so much? Not to over simplify but they want the D. These songs subliminally allow them to express their suppressed sexual nature, they view Jesus as their lover, its why church populations are dominated by women, its why women are always so much more devoted than men, for them its not just a religion or a friendship its an amorous relationship. And its super unhealthy, if it were about any other fictional character besides Jesus it would be considered a psychological disorder.

  19. The key point really is that men are authoring the songs…but I doubt it is to get women bonded to the church like that.

    I’m not sure I agree with the implications of your reply that seem disparaging of women and greatly generalized (as you mention)…
    but I agree that it can be slippery ground to put a lot of value in overly emotional forms of worship, as a main rule of practice.

  20. Ephesians 3, dude.

    “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

  21. funny you mention JMM’s songs commenting on this post, what with the “sloppy wet kiss” lyric and all! :)

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