Jesus per minute, and Jesus is my girlfriend

Here are a cluster of terms used by contemporary Christian music (CCM) performers and insiders to describe some aspects of Christian songs:

Jesus-per-minute or Jesuses-per-minute (which can be abbreviated as JPM or JPMs) is how many times the name of Jesus is mentioned in a song. That’s one method by which labels and radio stations gauge how “Jesus-y” a song is. The more Jesus-y the song, then maybe the more likely that family-friendly radio stations might give it some airplay.

Then there are Jesus-is-my-girlfriend songs, sometimes also called Jesus-is-my-boyfriend or God-is-my-girlfriend songs. These are love songs to Jesus that make the leap from reverent to romantic, from sacred to sexy. Basically they are songs that you can replace the name “Jesus” with “baby” and you instantly have a pop song in which the singer is crooning to his love interest.

It can possibly be argued that the inspiration for songs like this is the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, which some people interpret as a sensual, erotic metaphor of God’s love for Israel and also for his Christian church. So is sexual love a valid metaphor for God’s love for Christians? That’s a tough question. I guess that’s one more thing we’ll have to ask God when we finally get to heaven.

One of the things I found most interesting was that the expression “Jesus is my girlfriend” is at least 30 years old: take note of the 1982 citation under that entry.

Without further ado… the definitions. (Click the definitions to view them full-size.)

 

Jesus-per-minute n. Also: Jesuses-per-minute; *Jesus count. Sometimes abbreviated JPM or JPMs. The number of times per minute the name Jesus is mentioned in a song.
See also *christian music.
2000 Thompson Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock and Roll 173 : Parents and pastors … wanted music with a high ratio of JPM (mentions of Jesus per minute). 2002 Chicago Tribune (16 Sep.) : Christian radio stations and bookstores keep close tabs on song content. There is an industry slang term in Nashville known as “JPMs,” or “Jesuses Per Minute.” This unwritten rule states that if a song doesn’t mention Jesus or God enough in its lyrics, it fails to get airplay or the proper push from a record label. 2005 Mattingly Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture 000 : “Christian songs” must contain some clear “God-talk.” Many Contemporary Christian Music industry pros call this the “Jesus per minute” rule. 2006 Hearn, interview in Beaujon Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock 185 : “We need to give Christian radio something they want. Something they’ll play.” That doesn’t necessarily mean Jesuses-per-minute. 2008 Radosh Rapture Ready 177 : “You have to have your JPMs to get on the radio—your Jesus Per Minutes in a song.”
Jesus count n. See various senses.
1. The number of times per minute the name Jesus is mentioned in a song.
See more information at *Jesus-per-minute.
2009 Johansson, Bell Sound, Society, and the Geography of Popular Music 283 : The “Jesus count” or “Jesus-per-minute” of a song’s lyrics is rumored to improve a song’s success on Christian radio.
2. The total number of times the name Jesus is mentioned in a song or album.
2004 Howard, Streck Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music 96 : The “Jesus count”—how often a particular song or album made explicit reference to Jesus Christ.
Jesus-is-my-boyfriend song n. Also: Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music; *Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song. A song whose lyrics express an overly romantic or love-sick devotion to Jesus.
1991 Montell Singing the Glory Down: Amateur Gospel Music in South Central Kentucky, 1900–1990 115 : [In the early 1960s] because of the song lyrics that personalized Jesus, many area singers began performing what one person called “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music.” By way of illustration, a quartet at the 1964 Kentucky State Singing Convention sang, “I’m in Love with Jesus, and He’s in Love with Me.” 2002 Alfonso Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music 33 : A related phenomenon is what’s called “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” songs—pop love ballads written by or for younger female artists and addressed to the Lord with all the naïve sweetness that the term implies. 2007 Levin People in Glass Houses 173 : All that “Jesus is my boyfriend” music makes me nauseous. I’ve asked people about this continued urging to “C’mon, fall in love with Jesus,” and they refer me to the Song of Solomon. 2008 Schultze, ed. Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication 129 : As critics point out, much of CWM [=contemporary worship music] remains strongly self-referential and me-centered, focusing on what individual worshipers can do for God. Others call it Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music and romantic-pop music. 2009 Pinson Perspectives on Christian Worship 214 : Without any sense of irony, Wilt admits that “some contemporary worship songs could as easily be sung to one’s spouse as to God.” In our circles, this is known as the “Jesus is my boyfriend” song, and it is not exactly a compliment. 2010 Russell, et al. Routes and Radishes: And Other Things to Talk about at the Evangelical Crossroads 182 : “I’ve also seen a backlash against what some Evangelicals call ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ praise songs.”
Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song n. Also: Jesus-is-my-girlfriend music; *Jesus-is-my-boyfriend song. A song whose lyrics express an overly romantic or love-sick devotion to Jesus.
The 1982 citation mentions a quick litmus test: if the song’s lyrics could equally well be applied to a romantic love interest (perhaps by substituting the name of a man or woman in for the name Jesus), then the song may well be a Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song.
1982 Bultman “Christian Muzak” in HIS Mag. 42/5 (Feb.) 32 : I refuse to listen to one more Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song. You know the kind. You can substitute Mandy or Barbara Ann for Jesus and the rest of the lyrics still make perfect sense. 2004 Howard, Streck Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music 96 : It is this personalization of God that sits at the heart of … the notion of Jesus-is-my-girlfriend songs. 2006 Di Sabatino, interview in Beaujon Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock 233 : “Vineyard was a shift away from Scripture and song to more intimate, very passion-filled songs of praise to God, of personal intimacy…. It’s almost like, in a crude way, you could say, ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ songs.” 2009 Johansson, Bell Sound, Society, and the Geography of Popular Music 283 : Many CCM songs, particularly the radio-friendly adult contemporary and pop variants, express this personal theology in so-called “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs, which address God in the same way a Top 40 song would address a new crush.
God-is-my-girlfriend song n. Syn *Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song.
1996 Horton In the Face of God 000 : One glance at the nineteenth-and-twentieth-century hymns will prove a shift from “Eternal Father Strong to Save” to the romantic rendezvous with Jesus in the heart’s garden … as Godfrey calls it, the “God-Is-My-Girlfriend” music one often hears in contemporary Christian circles. 2002 Camp, interview in Alfonso Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music 29 : “We are flooded today with what I refer to as ‘God-is-my-girlfriend’ songs…. You have songs now that sound like romanticism between a man and woman, and they try to take a sort of ‘I want to fall in love with Jesus’ attitude.”

9 thoughts on “Jesus per minute, and Jesus is my girlfriend

  1. I remember the day when we just sang songs to Jesus or about the Lord. Great post!
    BTW, I’m not a big fan of present day pop-Jesus songs and this explains a lot.

    • From what I gather about the history of Christian music, for a while the only “songs” that were allowed were psalms from the Bible. It wasn’t until the end of the Middle Ages that song writers started coming up with their own lyrics to songs, and even then the church authorities decreed that such “new” songs were for “private worship” only and weren’t allowed to be sung in churches.

      It’s sad to think that some folks just “count the Jesuses” when they’re trying to identify good worship music. The name of Jesus is great… but there is much more to the human heart and mind that I think can be engaged by a song’s lyrics.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • If you want some more meaningful lyrics and can stomach power metal, you might find some of Blind Guardian’s Christian-themed songs (“The Edge,” “Precious Jerusalem,” “Sadly Sings Destiny”) to your liking.

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