Jesus Ain't Your Boyfriend

Listen up, Christian ladies. You know why you're still single? It's because you've fallen so madly in love with Jesus that you've left no room in your heart for the godly-but-still-tainted-by-sin real dudes who are desperate to marry you.

In an article on the Christianity Today website this week, Courtney Reissig warns that there's a growing problem of young women who "equate contentment (in Jesus) with a romantic relationship with him." With marriage rates rapidly falling, even among evangelical Christians, Reissig suggests that part of the reason is that too many faithful young women see Jesus as "a sweet boyfriend who takes us out on dates, rather than the God-man who paid for our sin on the cross."

If you Google the phrase "Jesus is my boyfriend," you'll find dozens of posts and articles on Christian blogs, all sharing Reissig's complaint that contemporary evangelical culture romanticizes and distorts the "personal relationship with Christ" that is supposed to be at the heart of the believer's faith. Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) often gets the lion's share of the blame, with the 1995 Jars of Clay hit "Love Song for a Savior" often cited as the archetypal offender. Sample verse:

He's more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on our lips
Someday we'll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He'll call us and we will come running
and fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and we'll pray,
"I want to fall in love with You"

The idea of Jesus as lover is a good deal older than Jars of Clay, of course; just ask Teresa of Avila. And as Reissig should know, Catholic nuns have been "married" to Jesus for centuries. There's nothing new about choosing an intense relationship with Christ over marriage to a human man. It's just that the kind of women who are falling in love with Jesus today aren't nuns, but young Protestant women who haven't taken any special vows of lifelong poverty, chastity, and obedience.

There's an anti-feminist agenda behind Reissig's plea to young women to break it off with Jesus. In addition to blogging for the flagship site of American evangelicalism, she writes for the ultra-conservative Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an organization that fights against the dangers of "feminist egalitarianism" and insists on distinct, rigidly complementary roles for each sex. Just like men's rights activists, organizations like the CBMW complain that feminism has made women too picky, too demanding, too unappreciative of ordinary dudes. To a staunch theological conservative like Reissig, women make the mistake of falling in love with Jesus because feminism has raised women's standards for a romantic relationship impossibly high.

Jesus "is so much more than a nice guy who buys us the occasional bouquet of flowers and tells us we are pretty," writes Reissig. Well, sure. But most women today are looking for a good deal more than a floral arrangement and a periodic compliment. That she sets the bar so low for what women ought to expect from a dude gives away the real agenda behind the complaints about the "Jesus is my boyfriend" trope. Thanks to feminism, women not only have higher expectations for marriage, too many ladies have become, in Reissig's words, "sinfully self-sufficient," struggling with the sin of "contentment." The antidote for all of that wicked independence? Women need to stop turning to Jesus for all their needs — and, as Reissig's Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood would have it — "grow in willing, joyful submission to their husband's leadership."

It's easy to mock young women who are "dating God" instead of other human beings. But it's far more important to point out the sinister agenda of those who want women to call it off with Christ.

Image by almagami/Shutterstock.