"Jesus is my boyfriend" praise & worship song lyrics
  • MarkB
    Posts: 670
    So, this is a new thread continuing a conversation started in a different thread where the conversation strayed to praise & worship music lyrics, particularly the "Jesus is my boyfriend" variety.

    Here's a clear example of a song with "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics: "Communion" by Maverick City Music. Lyrics below and a link to the song being used at the start of Communion at Mass in a Catholic parish that employs praise & worship music exclusively at Mass.
    https://youtu.be/uim3UDc1H08?t=2700

    Lyrics (cropped to cut out repetitiveness):
    "Communion" lyrics
    Maverick City Music Lyrics
    "Communion"
    (feat. Steffany Gretzinger & Brandon Lake)

    We are returning
    To the place we've always belonged
    Righted here with You

    Take me back to the garden
    Lead me be back to moment I heard Your voice
    Take me back to communion
    Lead me back to the moment I saw Your face

    And it was all so simple
    It was easy to love
    No space between us
    It was easy to trust

    'Cause You are closer, closer than my skin
    And You are in the air I'm breathing in (Yes, You are)
    And here's where the dead things come back to living
    I feel my heart beating again
    Feels so good to know You are my friend

    And this is the garden
    Here in the place I find You close
    This is communion
    Here in the place I'm fully known

    And it was all so simple
    You're so easy to love
    And no space between us
    You're so easy to trust

    This is where I'm meant to be (Right here)
    Me in You and You in me
    And I don't have to prove a thing
    You've already approved of me

    There's nothing like Your friendship
    There's nothing like this friendship with You, with You, with You
    We are returning
    We are returning
    To the desire of Your heart

    (Here's where the dead things) 'Cause here's where the dead things come back to living
    I feel my heart beating again
    (Here's where the dead things) Here's where the dead things come back to living
    I feel my heart beating again
    Here's where the dead things come back to living
    I feel my heart beating again
    It feels so good to know You are my friend

    Mm-mm
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    I didn't know I could have a friend like You
    Mm-mm, I didn't know I could have a friend like You
    So good, You're so good
    I didn't know I could have a friend like You
    Closer than a brother, closer than a brother
    I didn't know that I could have a friend like You
    I didn't think that I deserved it
    I didn't know I could have a friend like You
    You keep blowing me away
    I didn't know I could have a friend like You
    Just the voices, one more time
    I didn't know that I could have a friend like You

    [and it goes on and on similarly]

    Writer(s): Steffany Gretzinger, Tony Brown, Dante Bowe, Michael Brandon Lake, Jonathan Jay
    AZLyrics M Maverick City Music Lyrics
    album: "Maverick City, Vol. 2" (2019)


    Those are "Jesus is my boyfriend lyrics", if ever there were any such thing. The musical genre is definitely in the style of a soft-rock love ballad.

    And, yes, some Catholic parishes use it at Mass, as the link proves.

    I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about singing that song at Mass and hearing it sung at Mass. I can't imagine any man would want to hear or sing that, especially at Mass, especially at Communion. The target audience most certainly seems to be adolescent girls.

    The spirituality expressed by the song might have some cheap resemblance to the poetry and mystical spirituality of St. John of the Cross, but it's still creepy for public devotion and public worship. St. John of the Cross's poetry is for individual prayer and devotion, not communal, and he attained heights of mystical union with God that few will ever reach this side of the beatific vision. Seems affected and manipulative and false to sing this song in communal worship when very, very few people will have the spiritual experience akin to St. John of the Cross's mystical union. All these "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs might have a place in private devotion for some people, but a community should not be assaulted with such songs in communal worship, most especially not at Mass.

    Such songs seem more emotionally manipulative than authentic to me.

    Thanked by 2KARU27 ServiamScores
  • Mark,

    For the sake of clarity, "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics are those which are matched to music which, in intent, sounds like any other secular love song?

    If I've got that right, may I advance the cause by pointing out that even if the lyrics are directly cribbed from Holy Writ, the style of music is wholly inappropriate for the worship of God at Mass -- it may be wholly inappropriate for the worship of God in any other setting, too, I guess. Is it also true that the superficiality of the resemblance of the lyrics to St. John of the Cross, not the resemblance itself?
  • MarkB
    Posts: 670
    No, "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics are those that are sung to Jesus as if he was the singer's human lover. Note that in the lyrics provided above for the song "Communion", I don't think Jesus or God is mentioned even once. It's implied that the song is sung to Jesus, but they could just as well be lyrics about someone's human love interest. When a song is directed to Jesus with smoochy, sugary, lovey-dovey language and terms of endearment that could easily be construed as a love song to or about a human being, that's a song with "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics.

    The musical style is a separate consideration, although "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics are often paired with soft-rock love ballad melodies and accompaniment.
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  • tandrews
    Posts: 103
    Two songs immediately came to mind:

    Jesus Is My Friend by Sonseed, and
    Sow the Word by Zavelli/Janco (Green Gather Comp #516), where verse 3 starts:
    "We are God's lovers. Give it all away."
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,791
    Oy! If I ever need to go on a diet, I'll come here for the appetite suppressant.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • davido
    Posts: 503
    The target audience most certainly seems to be adolescent girls.


    There is something anti-patriarchal in this.
    Especially when one hears stories of heads of families chanting the antiphons and psalms at parochial Sunday vespers in village churches of yesteryear.
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  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 508
    This is one reason why 50 percent of Catholics don't believe in the real presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,357
    Hm. The idea of a romance between the soul and Jesus has a very long pedigree in the Tradition. Jesus is called the Bridegroom in Scripture; that's an important aspect of how the Church reads the Song of Songs, for example.

    How would one distinguish between good and poor uses of the metaphor?
  • Jesus Is My Friend by Sonseed


    DARN YOU Tom... now it's stuck in my head for days.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 922
    yep.
    Thanked by 1tandrews
  • Felicia
    Posts: 67
    Here's a catchy tune that could be mistaken for a top-40 number from years ago, if one didn't know that the intended context is Jesus at His Ascension.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySe0xK2MLsI

  • davido
    Posts: 503
    Over a hundred years later and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ preface to the English hymnal of 1906 still seems the most appropriate comments on this topic.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • For those who don't have RVW's preface in front of them....
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 241
    When discussing the mystical espousals of Jesus one doesn’t use terms like “boyfriend” or even “husband”. The term “spouse” is strictly used. Jesus is the Spouse of souls. Consecrated Virgins are espoused to Christ by the Bishop.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,159
    Interesting, that when I went from this thread over to Fr. Z's blog, I was hit with an example, posted today, of how that love is supposed to sound: not at all sexualized.

    Snatched up into Invisible Love

    Deus, qui diligentibus te bona invisibilia praeparasti, infunde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum; ut te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes, promissiones tuas, quae omne desiderium superant, consequamur.

    O God, who prepares unseen goods for those loving You, pour into our hearts the disposition of Your love, so that we, loving You in all things and above all things, may attain Your promises, which surpass every desire.


    "...think of the Preface for the Mass for Christmas, the day Pope Benedict signed Deus caritas est, the celebration of Love Incarnate:"

    For through the mystery of the incarnate Word, the new light of Your glory dazzled the eyes of our mind, so that while we know God visibly, through Him we may be snatched up into invisible love… (in invisibilem amorem rapiamur).
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 185
    So, I disagree with the premise of this thread, and think that we're closer to being in opposition to tradition than standing up for it with this line of thinking.

    As far as I can tell the criteria posted above would identify "Set Me As A Seal" by Matt Maher (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMUehTuoTCs) (live version with no studio effects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy_TGOeESrw) as a "Jesus Is My Boyfriend" song:


    Chorus
    Set me as a seal on your heart
    Set me as a seal on your soul
    For strong as death is love
    Unyielding as the grave
    Nothing will quench its flame
    Nothing will quench its flame

    Verse 1
    Kiss me my love
    That your name be on my lips
    You intoxicate my being
    With the fragrance
    Of your presence
    How beautiful you are my darling
    Show me your face
    Let me hear your voice
    Sweet as the dew in the early morn
    Like a lily among the thorns

    Verse 2
    I looked for you
    The one my heart loves
    I looked for you but did not find You
    Searched through the night
    Until I rested in your sight
    Now I will never let you go
    'Cause you have stolen my heart
    With one glance of your eyes
    You lips so sweet adorned with honey
    My hands they drip with myrrh

    © 2003 spiritandsong.com


    So, proof that Matt Maher writes completely inappropriate lyrics? Some criteria listed above would certainly label this inappropriate as God is never directly mentioned by name and it could be accurately sung as a song between human lovers.

    Well, I did some research on this song, and as far as I can tell basically every word of this song is directly out of the Song of Songs. Specifically, it's Song of Songs 1:1-3, 2:2, 2:14, 3:1-4, 4:9-11, 5:5, 8:6-7.

    Hence, I don't think it accurately reflects Scripture or Tradition to set up such a criteria for music, nor to set up criteria such as:
    I was hit with an example, posted today, of how that love is supposed to sound: not at all sexualized.


    My understanding of Scripture and Tradition is that God uses the love between a man and a woman as a metaphor for the love that God has for us. That being said, there are good and bad ways of utilizing this metaphor. The rub is that discerning what is a good and bad use of this metaphor is a more difficult task than making a blanket rule against using the metaphor.

    In my view, "Communion" by Maveric City Music is being criticized for the wrong reasons. "Set Me As A Seal" and "Communion" cover vaguely similar subject matter, but I expect that at least nearly everyone here will agree that "Set Me As A Seal" is a better song. "Set Me As A Seal" is a song that I play with my choir. "Communion" has some deficiencies that would make me thing twice before programming it, although I like the song on the whole.

    "Communion" is lyrically disorganized and sloppy. Looking at the lyrics leaves me with the feeling that not that much effort was put into constructing them. [Sidebar - Stephanie Gretzinger may be doing this intentionally to go to for a style that sounds simple and spontaneous, which may be fine for private devotion but makes for poor corporate worship - a lot of her songs are written this way].

    "Communion" also plays fast and loose with the line about making emotional statements on behalf of the audience that not everyone might genuinely be feeling. Some specific examples of this:

    Lead me back to the moment I saw Your face

    And it was oh so simple
    It was easy to love
    And no space between us
    It was easy to trust

    It seems to me that these lyrics attempt to recall the memory of a spiritual experience that not necessarily everyone has had. Another example would be:
    It feels so good to know You are my friend

    I furthermore find the above lyric to be overly colloquial.

    On the other hand, there's a bit of an art to being prophetic in worship lyrics and leading people into a place where the lyrics can be genuinely expressed by everyone. "Set Me As A Seal" has the lyric
    You intoxicate my being
    With the fragrance
    Of your presence

    and, this is from Song of Songs 1:1-3.

    In fact, How Great Thou Art does something similar.
    Verse 1
    O Lord my God
    When I in awesome wonder
    Consider all the worlds
    Thy hands have made
    I see the stars
    I hear the rolling thunder
    Thy pow'r thru'out
    The universe displayed

    Chorus
    Then sings my soul
    My Savior God to Thee
    How great Thou art
    How great Thou art
    Then sings my soul
    My Savior God to Thee
    How great Thou art
    How great Thou art

    Verse 2
    When through the woods
    And forest glades I wander
    And hear the birds
    Sing sweetly in the trees
    When I look down
    From lofty mountain grandeur
    And hear the brook
    And feel the gentle breeze

    Verse 3
    And when I think
    That God His Son not sparing
    Sent Him to die
    I scarce can take it in
    That on the cross
    My burden gladly bearing
    He bled and died
    To take away my sin

    Verse 4
    When Christ shall come
    With shout of acclamation
    And take me home
    What joy shall fill my heart
    Then I shall bow
    In humble adoration
    And there proclaim
    My God how great Thou art

    Stuart Wesley Keene Hine
    © Copyright 1949 and 1953 Stuart Hine Trust CIO Stuart K. Hine Trust (Administration: USA All rights by Capitol CMG Publishing, except print rights for USA, North, Central and South America administered by Hope Publishing. All other non USA Americas rights by the Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of World – Integritymusic.com.)


    I'd be curious if anyone for intellectual consistency would propose banning "How Great Thou Art" for making emotional statements on behalf of the audience. My guess is no, and I think that the reality is that there is an art to doing this tastefully, subtly, and respectfully. "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" is successful in this endeavor and thus no one objects to it. "Communion" by Maverick City Music is less successful in doing this and thus more likely to produce objections.

    I think that it's important that emotion in worship flow from a place of guenuine conviction of the truths of our faith. "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" and "Set Me As A Seal" start with truths about God and then connect them to our emotions. A further problem that "Communion" has is that parts of it seem to be raw emotion disconnected from the narrative of the song. For example, I find the lyric "Feels so good to know You are my friend" to be a lyrical non-sequitor.

    While the lyrics of "Communion" do not meet the highest possible standards for composition, I give the authors significant credit for drawing a nice painting of God drawing us back into the Garden of Eden and restoring us to the level of communion that God had with Adam and Eve. There's also a possible further interpretation of Jesus as the Gardener seen by Mary Magdelene at His ressurection.

    In fact, the extended metaphor about the Garden of Eden in this song makes it only possible to interpret this song as being about God. Hence, I do not understand the "Jesus is my boyfriend" criticism as directed at this song.

  • jclangfo
    Posts: 185
    When discussing the mystical espousals of Jesus one doesn’t use terms like “boyfriend” or even “husband”. The term “spouse” is strictly used. Jesus is the Spouse of souls. Consecrated Virgins are espoused to Christ by the Bishop.


    Yes, the image of a boyfriend is not an appropriate metaphor for God's love. I think it's possible to accidently drift into using imagry evocative of the relationship between a boyfriend and a girlfriend rather than imagry related to spousal love. That to me seems to be the criteria for a "Jesus is my Boyfriend" song. I think there are few such songs and that "Communion" is not an examplar of such songs. I can think of exactly one common worship song that is in some grey area in this category, and that would be "Draw Me Close" by Kelly Carpenter.

    Another way to qualify as a "Jesus is my Boyfriend" song would be to drift into claiming that spousal, sexual love IS the way that God relates to us rather than being a metaphor or analogy for how God relates to us. I think that it is possible to drift into this error, I simply think that it is less facile to identify when songs have made this error than some of the criteria posted above suggest. It seems to me that the Song of Songs runs afoul of the criteria posted above, hence it seems to me that we need better criteria. Similarly to the above paragraph, I think that there are few songs that run afoul of this and that "Communion" is again not an examplar of such songs. Off the top of my head I can not think of any songs that are plausibly in violation of this criteria.
  • davido
    Posts: 503
    I wouldn’t put How Great Thou Art on a list of Catholic liturgical hymns.

    It’s good to note that the sexualized imagery of Song of Songs has historically made many Christians uncomfortable. Not every word of scripture was used as a liturgical text (propriety?).

    I think the overall informality of the P&W genre is what garners the term “Jesus is my boyfriend.” The musical and textual style encourage us to relate to God ONLY on an emotional and intimate level, not corporately not covenent-ally not philosophically. And this is not a comment of specific lyrics of specific songs, but on the effect of the style of the genre.
    Chant fosters a detached contemplation. Imitative or contrapuntal movement fosters rational analysis. But it seems to me that P&W music is only meant to arouse passionate emotional feelings.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,791
    The hymn you quote is not "Holy God, we praise thy name", but "How great thou art", a hymn of Swedish-American Evangelical origin. And yes, I have banned it.

    Further, the lyrics of the song "Set me as a seal", apart from the refrain, which is based on the Canticle of Canticles, doesn't even qualify as "religious": If the refrain is removed it is completely indistinguishable from a pop song; and this without even touching upon the musical style, which itself is eminently unsuitable for the sacred liturgy.

    Madrigals by Morely or Lassus are more appropriate.m
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • MarkB
    Posts: 670
    This is really interesting, and I thank jclangfo for his constructive comments about how we decide whether a song is appropriate or not.

    For those who only sing the antiphons from the Graduale or the Roman Missal, it's moot.

    For those who only sing out of a hymnal from a Catholic publisher, it's still relevant because the publisher is supposed to have excluded songs that are inappropriate for Mass but we all know that's not the case.

    For those who regularly cull songs from a mix of varied sources, including non-Catholic music, it becomes a very large consideration.

    What are the standards for choosing music for Catholic liturgical worship? Yes, yes, there are the musical, liturgical and pastoral judgments. But there's no algorithm for evaluating music's appropriateness; the decision is more a practical art than a deduction.

    The USCCB's doctrine committee's statement last year about doctrinal integrity in hymns was a start, but the question of appropriate public, liturgical expressions in songs goes beyond mere doctrinal integrity.

    It is noteworthy that the Song of Songs is not proclaimed at Mass in the Novus Ordo except on the weekday of December 21 (optional, at that) and as an option for a first reading in a wedding liturgy.

    Thanked by 1jclangfo
  • Doctrinal integrity is not adequate, but it is absolutely necessary. The least damaged version of I am the bread of life by Suzanne Toolan is inappropriate for Mass.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 185
    The hymn you quote is not "Holy God, we praise thy name", but "How great thou art"

    Typo corrected.

    Further, the lyrics of the song "Set me as a seal", apart from the refrain, which is based on the Canticle of Canticles, doesn't even qualify as "religious":


    The entirety of the lyrics to this song, including both verses, are taken from the Song of Songs. Here are the relevant passages:
    Song of Songs 1:2-3A
    Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
    for your love is more delightful than wine.
    Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
    your name is like perfume poured out.

    Song of Songs 2:2
    Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women

    Song of Songs 2:14
    My dove in the clefts of the rock,
    in the hiding places on the mountainside,
    show me your face,
    let me hear your voice;
    for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is lovely.

    Song of Songs 3:1-4
    My dove in the clefts of the rock,
    in the hiding places on the mountainside,
    show me your face,
    let me hear your voice;
    for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is lovely.

    Song of Songs 4:9-11
    You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have stolen my heart
    with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace.
    How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
    and the fragrance of your perfume
    more than any spice!
    Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.
    The fragrance of your garments
    is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

    Song of Songs 5:5
    You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have stolen my heart
    with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace.
    How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
    and the fragrance of your perfume
    more than any spice!
    Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.
    The fragrance of your garments
    is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

    Song of Songs 8:6-7
    Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
    for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
    It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
    Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
    If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,357
    When St. John of the Cross lay dying, he asked that they read to him the Song of Songs. He said, "What pearls!"
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,540
    For those who only sing out of a hymnal from a Catholic publisher, it's still relevant because the publisher is supposed to have excluded songs that are inappropriate for Mass but we all know that's not the case.
    Bhahahahaha

    I would wager that MUCH of the music is inappropriate... not just some 'getaways'.
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  • jcr
    Posts: 96
    I believe that it was Robert Shaw who, in describing requirements for music to be used in the church mentioned craftsmanship, "originality that has origins," historical perspective, and
    finally, that the work in question be the work of an artist. The artist is characterized not only by the ability to order an experience, but also by the ability to have an experience worth ordering. I paraphrase and offer this from memory so detail may be lacking, but the substance is accurate. This may bear upon this topic, but how someone evaluates the experience of a poet or of how one who attempts to set the resulting poetry to music relate to that person's experience may be a treacherous path to wander down.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,690
    I have been told that mainstream Judaism is also cautious about the Song of Songs, and that in Orthodox Judaism quotations or extracts may not be read, only the complete text.
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