“She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert: Why I Find It Beautiful

I identify as evangelical Christian and hold a high view of Biblical authority. I believe the Christian definition of marriage is between a man and a woman and that Christians should seek to live out Biblical sexual ethics in the forms of celibacy or monogamy within marriage. Most likely, I would not become a member or work at a church that believed otherwise.  However, I’m ambivalent about civil recognition of same-sex marriage and supportive of civil recognition of same-sex union rights because I recognize that American society increasingly does not share my definition of marriage. I support identical rights and government recognition for committed partnered same-sex couples as are enjoyed by committed heterosexual couples because the former is now a recognized by the general population in the US. Consenting adults have the right to define and live out their sexuality however they please in modern liberal societies and I support this. I would, after all, prefer to be known for trying to share and live out Christ’s love than for trying to change others’ definition of marriage.

Lots of folks would label my views homophobic, intolerant, or fundamentalist; evangelical campus ministries like the one I work for are frequently de-recognized at secular colleges and universities for believing similarly. Some conservative Christians consider my view overly liberal or capitulating to popular culture, too. While there have been some shifts in views among Christians and certainly in society toward same-sex relationships recently, my views outlined above aren’t changing any time soon: they represent my sincere convictions after wrestling with biblical-theological ethics and the best I can understand of how to live out my faith in a pluralistic society and political system.

While I find it catchy and pleasant-sounding, I dislike “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but not for the reasons you might think. The hook is catchy and I like Macklemore’s delivery, but the track is fairly derivative of lots of midtempo, mellow hip hop from the last decade that integrates a lot of acoustic elements, especially indie (e.g., Atmosphere). If I were a gay I would be incredibly offended by the song. “OK Macklemore, so you think my same-sex love is just as good and the same as yours, huh? Good for you! I’m SO glad you won a VMA and got nominated for a Grammy by singing about how YOU consider ME an equal — I should be so honored! I don’t feel that you are appropriating my cause at all because ONCE you thought you might be gay and you have a gay uncle — you totally know of our struggles! It makes so much sense for a straight man to be the first hit artist with a song about my cause!”

From my own vantage point as an evangelical Christian, the song is equally offensive. With several broad strokes, Macklemore grossly misrepresents Biblicism and over-generalizes and conflates all religious conservatives with provincialism, homophobia, and the de-gayification movement — which by the way was the majority view of all mainstream psychology until not that long ago; it wasn’t a religious conservative thing. He further feeds into the polarizing, politicized rhetoric perpetuated on both sides of the marriage debate that reduces all sexual orientation into either a free depraved decision or inherently biological in all cases — whichever narrative suits each side’s political aims must explain all sexuality and the other side is evil incarnate and must be destroyed!

And yet “She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert — a song based on the hook from “Same Love” — strikes me as beautiful, meaningful expression. The melody and instrumentals are haunting, evocative, multi-layered, lush, and emotional. Lambert, a practicing lesbian and Christian who does not view the two as conflicting, makes great use of vocal color and embellishes just enough. The song and lyrics help me feel an experience, a story, and the emotion.

I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm

Many LGBT folks share that they obviously did not choose to be queer because life would be so much easier if they weren’t. Many still wish they weren’t or at least did at some point; that they could change. And I imagine that must be a horribly painful experience and here Lambert sings about it while feeling warm next to her presumed same-sex lover. She captures the simultaneous pain and warmth and shares her full emotional experience in that very moment.

I’m not crying on Sundays, I’m not crying on Sundays
Love is patient, love is kind
My love, my love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm

Lambert was born into a Pentecostal home but did not attend church for much of her childhood due to trauma and ostracization after her parents’ divorce. Later, she began attending well-known evangelical megachurch Mars Hill. She came to believe in “love the sinner, hate the sin” about her sexual orientation and sought to repent and change. The line “I’m not crying on Sundays” is a declaration to herself because she spent every Sunday for nearly a year crying as she left church out of her guilt and shame. The repeated choral refrain of “love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor 13) is her reminder to herself; I assume she is recalling to God’s selfless agape love as lived out by Christians rather than quoting the passage out of context and referring to mere romantic or sexual love.

I can’t imagine how painful the whole experience was; it must have sucked to go through it. Thanks Mary Lambert for using song to share your experience. You do it beautifully.

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