Friday, September 4, 2015

Don't Guard Your Heart

Christian parodies of popular songs are all fun and games until... this:

What we have here is "the Christian version" of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." It's called "Super Grace" and the lyrics are available here.

Usually Christian parody songs are just kind of silly and cheesy, and I find them delightful in moderation. But this one, oh this one. This one has some really dark stuff from purity culture, stuff about "guarding your heart."

To summarize the lyrics: In the verses, the singer describes the kind of man she is looking for. "He's always in prayer and above reproach. / He's a Jesus-loving man, man / trusting in God's plan, plan / waiting for the band, band / he'll just hold my hand, hand." Totally dedicated to God, not having premarital sex, etc.

And then the chorus.

"Christian boys got my heart beat running away
But I need to guard my heart so I'll pray,
God give me your hallelujah hallelujah grace
God I need your hallelujah hallelujah grace
Give me your super grace."

Oh my.

In other words, the song is saying this: "I really really like boys. GOD HELP I NEED YOUR GRACE!"

In case you missed it: A young, single woman is very interested in men, and sees this as a crisis requiring God's intervention.

And THAT is purity culture.

This idea is captured in the phrase "but I need to guard my heart." "Guard your heart" is a term from Proverbs 4:23, where a teacher gives his son advice about wisdom, so obviously it means "girls, be really paranoid about liking a guy 'too much'", yes? (Well, that's what it means in purity culture.)

"Super Grace" isn't just some silly harmless parody song. You guys, I've lived this way. Whenever I had a crush, I would go home and pray. And pray and pray and pray. And agonize over everything. I wanted to spend more time with the guy, but any positive interaction with him would just make my crush bigger- which meant I was "giving away part of my heart" which meant I definitely wasn't "guarding my heart."

I was terrified and I begged God for help. I begged that God would give me an answer- was this the guy that God had destined to be my husband? (If not, then there must never be any romantic connection between me and him- then I wouldn't be "pure" for my actual future husband.) I begged that God would take away the feelings. I prayed that God would never let me have a crush on a guy unless he was The One.

"Guard your heart" means "be terrified of your own emotions and desires." It means "don't like a boy 'too much', and we're never going to define what 'too much' is." It means "having a crush now can ruin your chance of having a happy marriage in the future."

And if you think I'm misinterpreting "Super Grace", and I'm seeing all this unhealthy stuff that's not there, kindly take a look at this bit:

"See, I want to be a wife but I must wait.
Oh no no no no I have to wait.
Oh no no no no I have to wait. Yeah.
But Christian boys got my heart beat running away.
But I have to guard my heart so I'll pray,
God give me your hallelujah hallelujah grace,
God I need your hallelujah hallelujah grace,
Give me your super grace."

The song jumps straight from having a crush ("Christian boys got my heart beat running away") to marriage. There is nothing in between. You have a crush, but you can never act on it- you must wait for God to say yes, and then you can date and get married. (Note: In the version of purity culture I followed, God's approval to begin dating didn't necessarily mean you were in the clear and you would definitely marry that person.) (And notice I said "in the clear"- I believed that being single was safe, and being married was safe, but the process of moving from "single" to "married" was a terrifyingly dangerous minefield of impurity. Better commit your entire life to this person AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so you don't have the possibility of breaking up hanging over your head.)

Also, the song "Super Grace" inadvertently does a FANTASTIC job of showing the mixed messages that purity culture gives teenage girls. In the verses, the singer describes exactly what characteristics she's looking for in a potential husband. In the chorus, she prays that God would save her from her attraction to guys. And you know that both of those are things the church taught her. Seriously- all the characteristics she describes are about being an upstanding Christian. There are no "worldly" concerns like finding a guy who's attractive, fun, compatible with her, etc. They are all church-approved desires, and yet she still thinks she needs God to save her from them. Uh, yeah, mixed messages.

Spock finds it highly illogical. Image source.
Purity culture says we should all be as romantically and sexually inexperienced as possible, until we get married. But then, what to do with the large numbers of teenage girls who are totally interested in boys? (Also, guess what- not all girls are romantically/sexually attracted to boys, and that's fine too.) Purity culture redirects this energy into a longing for one's "future husband." Yep. Instead of talking about the guys we liked, we were supposed to make lists of the characteristics we wanted in a future husband. Instead of dating, we were supposed to focus on becoming more godly and becoming better wives for our future husbands. Instead of being in a romantic relationship, we were supposed to write letters to our future husbands.

Instead of learning about concepts like respect, communication, and consent, which are necessary for healthy relationships, we were supposed to focus all our energy on stamping out any romantic or sexual thought or desire that may cross our minds, in order to be pure for our future husbands.

That's what "guard your heart" means. It is not a cute little saying. It is not life-giving. "Guard your heart" is a vortex of fear and guilt. It's an unending cycle of feeling awful because you're unable to completely squash your God-given emotions.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23"
Grumpy Cat: "NO."
Image sources here and here.

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