John Stackhouse nails this one.
One of the blights upon the hymnological landscape today is the continued presence of what we can fairly call the “love song to Jesus” genre. It’s been around as long as there has been Christian pop music–and even earlier, depending on what you make of sentimental gospel songs in the nineteenth century, eighteenth-century revivalist hymns, and especially a lot of the mystical poetry-cum-lyrics of certain medieval saints.
Today our congregation was asked to sing, “Jesus, I’m in love with you”–a line that shows up, in one permutation or another, in several songs that occur frequently in our worship leaders’ rotation.
Well, I didn’t sing it. It’s wrong, and I try not to sing wrong lyrics.
First, I’m not in love with Jesus. The locution “in love with” is one I reserve for one person only: my wife. I love my sons, I love my siblings and parents, I love my friends, I love my country, I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I love God. But I’m not “in love” with any of them. And I daresay most of the rest of us use this phrase in exactly the same, highly-restrictive way.
Second, it gives me the homoerotic creeps to declare that I am “in love with” another man. And I don’t apologize for saying so. A gender lens is interesting here, for a lot of men feel as I do (many have told me so), while many (not all) women seem to love telling Jesus that they are in love with him. I saw them, swaying with closed eyes and waving hands in the air this morning, singing exactly that. Maybe, indeed, they are in love with Jesus. But they shouldn’t be. (Read the rest of it here.)
One of the reasons I stopped attending the morning worship services at a particular church was the propensity of the “worship leader” to sing Jesus-I’m-So-In-Love-With-You songs – with choruses that went on for an eternity. (Yes, I believe in hell. I’ve had a foretaste of it much too often in “worship”.)
The good professor expresses my opinion more eloquently than I ever could. However, now that I think of it, I did write about this in a post from a year ago, The Power of Music in Church from which I’ll requote Stanley Hauerwas (originally via Gideon Strauss):
“One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.”
Fortunately, my best friend lives in Pittsburgh. He’s safe for now.