I Don’t WANT to Hug Jesus.


Ick. No thanks.

This weekend, my wife and I had a discussion that may reflect a challenge facing the Church in the West.  It began with a conversation about what I consider one of the most dreadful scourges of Catholicism today – contemporary Christian worship music (I know some disagree).

At some point in our exchange, I mentioned that I did not want to hug Jesus.  My wife’s head shot back and her eyes widened.  Her look, some strange admixture of shock, hurt, and fear, had me concerned and perplexed for a moment.

I wondered if I had maybe misspoke and by mistake said something deeply hurtful or offensive or heretical.  The room was silent, and I quietly reviewed what I had just said in my mind while we stared at each other.

Slowly, softly, and gravely, my wife stated, “You don’t really mean that.”

“Is she serious?” I thought.  “Uh … yes I do.” I responded.   “You know Jesus is a real man right?” I asked.  “With a hairy chest any everything that goes with that?”

“A man who loves you very much” my dear wife responded.  “Do you know how hurtful that would be if you didn’t hug him?”

My point was that not every “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” needed to involve images of falling into His arms and longing for His warm embrace.  I’m sure that to some this is what works for some, and I am very happy for them (assuming it doesn’t get weird).  But to others, this relationships is a bit less squishy and more … dutiful I guess.

Deep love does not require a relationship immersed in sentimental imagery, though it certainly can.  But it can also be more rugged, a relationship resembling more a beloved Commander and His loyal soldier than two best buddies.

I doubt any have died shouting ¡Viva mi mejor amigo Jesus!, but I know of more than one shouting ¡Viva Cristo Rey!


  1. Timshel says:

    I recently had a similar conversation with a friend of mine. Now, I don’t dislike all contemporary Christian music, but I like it more on the radio and less during Mass, and I said so. I also said that I think certain songs are inappropriate for church simply because of the time we live in and the fact that they can and will be misunderstood. Case in point: “Your Love Is Extravagant.” Often the argument for including contemporary music in the Mass is that it makes praising God more accessible to people — but while I know that the “lover” analogy is scriptural and beautiful in its way, I can’t imagine that borderline Catholics are going to be drawn into the church singing about an intimate friendship in our secret place. I think, if I were a priest during these dark days, I would be uncomfortable with that song. I said as much, and my friend frowned and said emphatically, “That’s not what the song is about.”

    The problem is, even though I know he right, it’s what I hear. Every time. And I’m sure others do too.

  2. Didymus says:

    At least some of this is probably a man-woman difference. I recently spoke with a woman who said her dream would be to have Jesus visit her home where they could just sit and chat over coffee. I responded that if the Creator of the universe walked into my house, I would most certainly fall to my knees and beg for His undeserved mercy. She looked at me like I had two heads. Not that their isn’t an element of friendship in our relationship. But as I recall, Jesus did not say “I am the way and the truth and your BFF.”

  3. Nikki says:

    Dear Hythloday,
    I had a similar encounter last week with my Lectio Divina prayer group. We were contemplating John 15:1-17. I was struggling with Christ calling me His friend as I feel unworthy of such a description. He is my King and I am his servant. Others in our group were trying to help me understand that through obedience and because He has chosen and appointed me to bear fruit that I am worthy of such a relationship. But for me to call Him “Friend” simply does not encompass all that He is. Thank you for helping me realize it’s ok to react as Didymus would if Christ were to show up at my front door. I too, would fall to my knees and ask for mercy rather than sit and have coffee together. But then, I might ask for a hug just like any daughter does when her loving Father finally arrives home.

  4. Spaniard says:

    I recall talking to a Lutheran friend one day, and he told me proudly how their band had played a very soulful, “gospel” version of “House of the Rising Sun.” I said, “uh, I think that song is about a [synonym for brothel].” He blinked a few times, shrugged, and then went on to the next topic. I’ve never had that level of experience in Mass, but it does illustrate how the music can overcome our (common) senses.

  5. Spaniard says:

    What can I say?– I love it.

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