Friday, August 22, 2014

Theology of the Sloppy Wet Kiss

Back in the day (read: Early Church history), the Song of Solomon was read purely as an allegory for Christ's love for the Church. Because of course it was.

Come on, Solomon. Get your crap together. 

In a Church culture that came dangerously close to vilifying sex and marriage altogether (and sometimes actually did that), there was really no other option. That sort of stuff was obviously waaaaay too graphic to actually be talking about sex. That would be super gross and weird (not to mention sinful!)! No, what it was really about was the relationship between Christ and his Church. Because...that makes it...less weird? I guess? Maybe?

In any case, they were wrong. Most scholars now see it as a pretty frank celebration of human sexuality in marriage, although you can still make the case for it also being allegorical for the passionate love Christ has for his Church.

And that brings me to the title of this post: Theology of the Sloppy Wet Kiss

It's taken from a line in the song, "How He Loves." (it's the one that goes "Oh, how he loves us" a lot). "But wait!" you say, because you speak out loud to yourself when reading posts on the internet. "I've heard that song a lot - like, a lot - and I've never heard the words "sloppy wet kiss." Well, that's because although the song was originally written by John Mark McMillan, it was popularized by David Crowder (of "The David Crowder Band"). And they changed the words

Originally, the bridge went like this: 

"And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss."

However, fearing (probably correctly) that the evangelical Christian world would absolutely lose their crap over the line, Crowder changed it to the much less "graphic" "unforseen kiss." 

Now, if you clicked that link up above (here it is again), you'll see that McMillan already wrote a post about this five years ago, but I didn't discover that until two minutes ago, so there's no point stopping now. So here it is:

There is nothing immature, or juvenile, or vulgar, or even irreverent in the idea of a sloppy wet kiss. In fact, as a married man, I can say without fear of retribution that they're kind of the best. Any sort of reservations or rejection is merely guilt by association. In and of itself, a sloppy wet kiss is good: It brings to mind feelings of passion, of union, of a love that won't stand on ceremony. Yes, it's messy...but then again, so was the cross. So was the Incarnation. So was this whole bloody rescue operation, ending with the triumph of triumphs and a wedding to put all other weddings to shame. 

And my point, I guess, is this. Even the Church Fathers, the ones who thought that sex was basically the worst, still understood the value of that kind of imagery when talking about Christ's love for his Bride. They still understood the value of the profound mystery that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 5:32, although they misunderstood the rest. And I wonder if maybe we've forgotten that. I wonder if we're sometimes in danger of sterilizing the Incarnation, sterilizing Christ and his Bride, and forgetting that when you get right down to it, it was really more of an action/adventure story with a romantic twist

PS: This, like many posts, was written entirely on a whim in the space of about 30 minutes, and may be poorly thought out. I guess we'll see in the morning. 


  1. Now, just imagine the horror if "navel" had been translated more accurately...

    Song of Solomon has been problematic for Christianity for a long time. It is awkward to have an erotic poem in the middle of a book perceived to be above all that physical, body-related stuff. It also cuts against a view of women as sexually passive, merely exchanging sex for love and commitment.

    After 13 years of marriage, however, I find it to be a breathtakingly beautiful portrayal of the intensity of an emotional and sexual relationship where each leads and each follows, and everything becomes wrapped up in the delights of love.

    1. I originally had quotes around both "navel" and "mixed wine", but I figured that wasn't really any case, I agree completely.

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I have a push back and I'd like to hear your thoughts. I think I agree with your point in this post - that Christianity at various times has objected to the physicality of sex and the physicality of the Incarnation. However, in my opinion, the eroticism found in some modern worship music doesn't seem to be the counter to this. I just can't shake the feeling that, because our heads and our hearts are so far apart, when we want to feel strongly toward God we try to tap into our own erotic passion because it's one of the strongest we have. Romantic love is so elevated in our culture (at least a narrow truncated version of romantic love), that all other loves are insignificant in comparison. I worry that the sentiment in songs like "How He Loves Us" is a symptom of the over emphasis on erotic love in our culture. Am I making sense? I find St. John of the Cross or George Herbert's poetry about the somewhat erotic nature of the love between God and humanity to be beautiful, moving, and appropriate; I just don't get the same impression from this song in particular. Thoughts?

    1. Alishia,

      Thanks for the pushback!

      First off, I think I'd agree with you about some songs being inappropriate in their use of erotic language.

      However, I don't think "How he Loves" suffers from that: The "sloppy wet kiss" line is the only "erotic" language in there. And I think in that context, it appropriately conveys a certain sense of messiness and passion.

      My objection, then, is to the whole "guilty by association" thing. The song breaks custom, but it does not break the commandment (Chesterton's "Manalive").

      Thoughts? Also, did you click on the last link in the post? What did you think of THAT one?

    2. Thanks for responding! It sounds like we agree in principle but perhaps just disagree regarding this particular song. I read the lyrics to the other link you posted but haven't heard it yet. I suspect I will have to listen to it in order to give proper feedback (I think the music contributes to the lyrical interpretation). As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts!