Theology of human sexuality, Christian sexual ethics in a secular-pluralist society, and the relationship between Christianity and the queer community are all complex subjects. I’m happy to share my thoughts on all of them in a private conversation with anyone.. In the meantime these are my thoughts on one particular song.
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 fatalistically 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 share 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 been awful to go through it. Thanks Mary Lambert for using song to share your experience. You do it beautifully.