These are songs that, at first hearing, seem to be ordinary love songs, but are actually allegories about the singer's relationship with God. This is often done by artists who are trying to gain or keep a mainstream secular audience and feel that talking about God will put people off and exclude themnote . It can sometimes lead to problems when a praise song sounds dirty to people who aren't familiar with the context.
A lot of music from the High Medieval period is a version of this. At various periods and cultures, straightforward songs about romantic love were being frowned on by Moral Guardians of the day, so a lot of lovesongs have at least a veneer of being addressed to the Virgin Mary, an acceptable way for the writers to be writing about loving a woman. Because nuns at this time often expressed their love for Christ in erotic terms, their poems fit in this category as well.
Also compare and contrast Not Christian Rock and Song of Prayer. God Is Good is likely to come up in these kinds of songs. If there's no chance of mistaking that the song is about God, you probably have Gospel Music or Christian Rock. The inverse of this, where love is sung about as though it were a religion, is Love Is Like Religion.
Sometimes referred to as 'Jesus is My Boyfriend' songs.
- The movie Sister Act inverts this by taking 1960s love songs and turning them into hymns. For instance, a version of Mary Wells' "My Guy" that changes the Title Drop to "My God", but keeps the rest of the lyrics identical to the original. Oddly, because of the tamer (relatively) lyrics of such songs at the time, as well as that it's the brides of Christ singing them, it actually works better than modern Christian rock.
- Thoroughly invoked and parodied in Hamlet 2. Imagine the cast of Glee putting on a performance of The Producers, and you're more or less there. It features a song called "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus". Though the director (played by Steve Coogan) insists it's a metaphor in movie, it's pretty obviously a song about wanting to bone Jesus.
Immaculate conception really makes my daybut the dudes got lats that make me feel gay.Turn the other cheek is really showing classBut I really think it's sexy when he kicks Satan's ass!
- In Highway 61, the main character (who's possibly a Christ figure) has sex with his girlfriend in the graveyard outside a church, which is intercut with a choir inside the church belting "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus".
- In an inversion of the trope, Justin Briner sang the traditional hymn "Be Thou My Vision" in character as Eridan from Homestuck, to Eridan's moirail* Feferi. Surprisingly few words are changed, and the central theme that "you make me a better person" is fully intact.
- The Kyon/Haruhi fic Hot Air is based off the religious Owl City song Galaxies. It helps that Haruhi is more or less a God in Human Form.
Dear God, I was terribly lostWhen the galaxies crossedAnd the sun went dark.But dear God, You're the only North StarI would follow this far.
- The Persian/Arabic folklore Layli And Majnun (The Madman and Layli) is a story of Courtly Love; however, many Sufi poets write about it and interpret it as an allegory of the believer's relationship with God. (Of course, that's a typical Sufi thing.)
- The Bible's Song of Songs: Some scholars say that this erotic poetry about a bride and groom on their wedding night is meant to be understood as a metaphor of God's relationship with his people. Of course, other scholars say that the book is simply celebrating erotic love in a marital context. Or possibly both.
- The "Let My Love Open The Door"/"Still" inversion is parodied by "You, You, You" from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, with Stephen as God and Hugh as a (female) backup singer.
- Parodied in True Blood with the song "Jesus Asked Me Out Today," performed at a camp held by the Fellowship of the Sun and attended by Jason.
- Parodied in the Songs of Praise episode of The Vicar of Dibley, in which Dibley's choir performs "Love is All Around" (specifically the Wet Wet Wet cover), with the single alteration of changing "'Cos on my love, you can depend" to "On Jesus's love, you can depend". And it works. (Then again, the original Troggs version was apparently inspired by a Christian rock song called "Love That's All Around" by the Joystrings, so maybe it's not that surprising.)
- Many of George Harrison's songs could be interpreted as this, including:
- "Long Long Long" from The White Album (1968)
- "What Is Life?" from All Things Must Pass (1970)
- "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" from Living in the Material World (1973)
- "Try Some, Buy Some" from Living in the Material World (1973)
- "Blow Away" from George Harrison (1979)
- "Life Itself" from Somewhere in England (1981)
- Harrison was sued (and lost) due to the musical similarity between his "My Sweet Lord" and The Chiffons' "He's So Fine", and the subject matter is ... not exactly dissonant either; there are at least a couple of verses of "He's So Fine" that could be slipped directly into "My Sweet Lord" and not be glaringly out of place.
- A lot of the music of 1980s Christian band Stryper, though this was not surprising.
- "I Know you Love Me" by the Smoking Popes. Josh wrote it before he discovered Christianity and became a preacher, but after listening to it more than once it becomes painfully obvious that it's about God.
- Word of God (ha!) has it that Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" is sung from the point of view of God to humanity, making this an inversion.
- "Bargain" by The Who is actually about the search for God/spiritual enlightenment. Similarly, the "you" in "See Me, Feel Me" and "Who Are You" is stated to be God.
- Angela Aki had one or two of these on her one American album, which was very heavily religious.
"I want to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus on a private beach for two./I want him to nibble on my ear and say, 'I'm here for you.'"
- This applies to about half of everything U2 ever recorded.
- Depending on which version you listen to, definitely a part of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
- ...Leonard Cohen in general, to be honest.
- Prog rock band Twelfth Night had for a time a singer named Geoff Mann, who just happened to be an ordained priest. Not surprisingly there's a lot of Christian values in his lyrics, but he made them as metaphorical as possible because he didn't want the band to be pigeonholed as "Christian rock". The song "The Ceiling Speaks" is a prime example: the line "Christ, I love you" takes on a slightly different meaning when you realise it's meant literally.
- Type O Negative's "Christian Woman" parodies this kind of song by bringing out the above mentioned Unfortunate Implications in the open: the song is about a woman harbouring Perverse Sexual Lust for Jesus Christ.
- Apparently, "I Need You" by LeAnn Rimes falls into this category. Not surprisingly, it's been included on an album called Jesus: Music From And Inspired by the Epic Mini Series.
- "Only Hope" by Switchfoot, especially as it was used in the movie A Walk to Remember.
- "Donnie Davies" with "The Bible Says".
- The aforementioned "You Light Up My Life".
- Johnny Flynn's "The Wrote and the Writ".
- Brooke Fraser does this a lot.
- Justified in Brooke Fraser's case. She also serves as one of the worship leaders for Hillsong Church Australia in Sydney and writes many well-known worship anthems like "Hosanna" and "None But Jesus."
- Parodied in The Magnetic Fields' song "Kiss Me Like You Mean It":
He is my lord, He is my savior,
And He rewards my good behavior.
My secret soul, I know He's seen it.
He says: Come here, baby, and kiss me like you mean it.
- Parodied by Christian satirist the Reverend Gerald Ambulance:
Jesus is my boyfriend!
Jesus is my boyfriend!
Jesus is my boyfriend!
...but obviously not in that way.
- Much of the output of British Christian Rock band Delirious? is overtly religious, but they managed to have several top-20 hits in the mid-90s with God Is Love Songs like See The Star, Promise and Deeper.
- Have I Told You Lately by Van Morrison. The Rod Stewart cover, however, is meant as a regular love song.
- "Some Kind of Wonderful" was later re-recorded by one of the singers who had originally performed it as a religious song with some of the words changed... he probably should have changed more of them...
- "Taking Over Me" by Evanescence.
- Amy Grant has been popular both in the Christian music and mainstream music scene since the 1980s, and has recorded both God-Is-Love Songs and Silly Love Songs of the more romantic variety - as well as even a few "I love my child" songs. As such, it's not surprising for many to confuse just who the love songs were written for.
- "Not Alone" by All That Remains is implicitly one of these, despite being expressed with traditional heavy rock/metal themes.
I'm not aloneWith the touch of your handI am whole again
- Most of Red's output sounds like love songs or songs about relationships of varying degrees of unhealthiness but actually, they are about the narrators relationship with God.
- In at least one interview, Peter Gabriel said that this was partly true of his "In Your Eyes".
- Many songs by Not Christian Rock band Flyleaf, including "All Around Me", "Sorrow", and "Missing", are not explicitly about religion, but can easily be interpreted that way. Made more explicit by the very Christian David Crowder Band covering the former.
- "Love Song For A Savior" by Jars Of Clay, surprisingly.
- Although they might actually be romantic lyrics played straight, quite a few lines in songs by Killswitch Engage seem to imply this, what with how closely they mesh with the heavy spiritual (Christian?) themes.
- "Wedding Day" by Casting Crowns is about getting married to Jesus.
- David Bowie's "Word on a Wing" from Station to Station, which he wrote during his Creator Breakdown in the mid-'70s.
- Several of Lifehouse's songs could be read that way, especially "Everything" and "Storm". In fact, in an interview Lifehouse member Jason Wade once said that he was surprised that so many people took their first big hit "Hanging by a Moment" as a love song, because to him it was a very spiritual song.
- Relient K's "Must Have Done Something Right" is supposed to be this.
- "The King Of Carrot Flowers, Part Two" by Neutral Milk Hotel opens with the singer proclaiming "I love you Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, I love you". Considering it's from an album which frequently alludes to Anne Frank and Reincarnation (as well as mountains covered in semen and lesbian prostitutes) it's either a very overt - and incongruous - example of this trope or an amusingly subtle subversion. At least one Christian rock band has covered it straight however, seemingly without catching the double meaning of the phrase Jesus Christ.
- Jamie Grace's "Hold Me" sounds more like a typical Silly Love Song (and could easily work as one with no lyrical revision whatsoever), but is intended to be about the singer's relationship to God and is often played on Christian stations.
- Swans' "The Final Sacrifice" is a rather bizarre inversion of this trope, being as it is either a comparison of a sadistic lover to Jesus or about a sadomasochistic relationship with Jesus.
- "Greece (Just By The Book)" by the arty Icelandic Post-Punk band Kukl (fronted by a then-unknown Björk) is a relentless and thoroughly creepy parody of this trope.
- Inverted by Sam Cooke, among many others, when singers from the 'gospel trail' started adapting their music to commercial pop in the late 50s.
- Sometimes even occurs in actual hymns and praise songs, especially where the hymnwriter seems to take for granted that people will understand that "You" refers to God. If you didn't know the context, you might not guess that, for example, "Draw me close to You / Never let me go" was about religious feelings. It still serves well enough for worship if you do know the meaning, although the phenomenon is sometimes derided as the above-mentioned "Jesus is My Boyfriend songs."
You are my desire,No one else will do,'Cause nothing else can take your placeTo feel the warmth of your embrace....
- In the 1960s, "Christian Rock" as such was a few years away, but syndicated radio shows like Pastor John Rydgren's Silhouette and Brother Jon Rivers' Powerline used popular Top 40 love songs with phrases of devotion like these that could be addressed to God Christ you know?
- This isn't an entirely modern phenomenon. 18th century Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote one song called "Jesus lover of my soul".
- Heather Clark, particularly her album Dark Yet Lovely, which draws inspiration from the Song of Songs.
- Some spiritual songs by Owl City are mistaken for romantic songs, especially "Galaxies" and "Meteor Shower".
- Originally, "When You Look Me In The Eyes" by The Jonas Brothers was released on Nick Jonas' solo album, a few years before the brothers formed their band together, and it (along with all the other tracks on said album) was intended to be a Christian rock song.
- Bob Marley: "Hallelujah Time" (from Burnin'), "So Jah Say" (from Natty Dread), "Positive Vibration" (from Rastaman Vibration), "Forever Loving Jah" (from Uprising)
- Peter Tosh: "Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)" from Legalize It.
- "God", "Love Defined (the Bible)" by Daniel Johnston from his album Yip/Jump Music.
- "You Raise Me Up", popularized by Josh Groban, is actually a cover. The original song by Christian group Selah even has a third verse that makes the spiritual elements much more explicit.
- Not quite. While Selah did a version as well, theirs is also a cover. It was first recorded by Norwegian-Irish folk duo Secret Garden, featuring guest vocalist Brian Kennedy. It was never intended to be spiritual, but many people obviously interpret it differently.
- Bob Dylan's entire Slow Train Coming album.
- Plumb's "In My Arms" is from the POV of God. Many people view it as being about a mother and her baby though.
- Being a Christian rock band Skillet has a few, such as "Salvation".
- Daniel Amos:
- "I Love You #19" (from Horrendous Disc) is a meta version. It's as much a song about love as it is a love song, pondering how hard it can be to convince your romantic interest that your feelings are sincere—and then it draws a comparison to how hard it is to convince others that Jesus loves them.
- "When Worlds Collide" (from Vox Humana) is a straighter example. It's a love song from God to humanity.
When shadows fall
When lovers mourn
And you fight your darkest tendencies
I promise to hold you close to me when
I'm on your side
- "You Got the Love" by Candi Staton (popularized by Florence + the Machine) can be interpreted as such.
- "Completely" by Ledger (fronted by Jen Ledger of Skillet fame). "My Arms" sounds almost like an inversion.
- Multiple songs by Christian rock group Fireflight, most notably "It's You", "Wrapped In Your Arms", "Core of My Addiction", and "All I Need To Be".
- Older Than They Think, given some of the imagery in John Donne's Holy Sonnets, particularly #14 ("Batter my heart, three-person'd God;"):
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth
- Of course, unlike most of the above examples, he was doing this intentionally, and was probably inspired by the "church as the Bride of Christ" imagery from The Bible. And of course a lot of Donne's poetry was just straight up Intercourse with You stuff. (See "The Flea")
- Even older than these is the Song of Songs of Solomon, whose subject matter has long been a subject of debate. In spite of its lack of explicitly religious content, it is often interpreted as a parable of God's relationship with Israel, or of Christ's relationship with his fellowship:
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with youlet us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.
* St. John of the Cross should probably go down in history for writing the only NSFW religious poetry in Christendom.
- This is very common in Sufi poetry. (To the point that they have also recycled many a secular love poem as religious reading. Because there just isn't all that much difference.)
- Demitri Martin parodied this.
- As did Mike Birbiglia. In this YouTube clip he discusses how he's sometimes fooled by Christian rock songs that start off secular then quickly get religious.
- The musical Altar Boyz is made of this trope.
- The Simpsons did a joke on this: First Ned hears a Christian folk singer announce "a love song about a dude I met in a sleazy motel" and then being surprised when she sings about God. Later she reveals that her band dumped her to sing pop rock, which they achieved by just changing the word "Jesus" to "baby", with the implication that the reverse would be true as well.
Homer: (hearing Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life") I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.
Marge: Well, actually, she was singing about God.
Homer: Oh, well, He's always happy. No, wait, He's always mad...
- South Park parodied this ruthlessly in the episode, "Christian Rock Hard", where Cartman creates a Christian rock group and achieves massive success by just taking already existing love songs and replacing words like "baby" with "Jesus". Unfortunate Implications abound as the songs he picks to adapt get more and more explicit.
Cartman: "I wanna get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus; I wanna feel his salvation all over my face!"
- This Christian parody of the song "OMG" by Usher, which is unambiguously about sex/lust, practically just takes the original song and changes "baby" to "Jesus". And it's serious.
- This parody of Rebecca Black's infamous song, "Friday" converts it into a song about going to Church on "Sunday". Some people believe it to be better than the original. This is not high praise.
- Chris Rosebrough, of Pirate Christian Radio fame bashes this trope for all its worth. Other than the typical TGWTG-esque critique of such horrible music, he goes into an unstoppable rage when said songs end up failing to correctly represent his version of the Christian faith. Case in point, his commentary on this entry.
- The Jewish prayer and hymn Lekhah dodi, despite becoming much more direct very quickly, is an extended metaphor likening God to a groom and Shabbat to a bride. The first line directly translates to "let us go, my beloved, to meet the bride."