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Beyoncé Vs. the BiblePhoto by Matt Sayles / Invision / AP

Beyoncé Vs. the Bible

Jan 31 2014
Was her sexy Grammy performance with Jay-Z actually good for marriage?

At Sunday night's Grammy Awards, Beyoncé and Jay-Z performed a memorable rendition of her new single. "Drunk in Love" is risqué (to say the least), but it highlighted a sexual relationship often ignored by secular artists: sex in the context of marriage.

Since that night, a debate has ensued over a central question: Was their performance good for marriage?

On the opposing side are those who felt the performance perpetuated female objectification. Christian blogger Nicole Unice noted that after Jay-Z joined Beyoncé on stage, she merely functioned as his "ornament" rather than an equal, human partner. At the New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley compared Beyoncé's dancing to the likes of Miley Cyrus. Schaefer Riley was also appalled at Jay-Z's seeming delight in his wife's self-objectification.

On the other side of the debate are those who believed the performance was a boon for traditional marriage. Over at Think Progress, Alyssa Rosenberg explains,

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z got on the Grammy stage last night and did what conservatives have been dying for someone to do for ages: they made marriage look fun, and sexy, and a source of mutual professional fulfillment.

Echoing some of these sentiments was fellow Her.meneutics writer Laura Turner, who made the astute comparison between the Grammy performance and the erotic biblical book, Song of Songs. She expounded on this notion further in a follow-up article, arguing that Beyoncé and Jay-Z show us how sexy Christian marriage can be.

In many ways, the comparison between the Carters' performance and the Song of Songs is apt. Both celebrate the physicality, sensuality, and sexuality of marriage. Both affirm that married people can have vibrant sexual lives, refuting the tired myth that marriage is the land where libidos go to die. It's a message that Christians have been trying to communicate a lot in recent years.

But the comparison between "Drunk In Love" and the Song of Songs is helpful for a second reason: contrast. When we place the two side by side, we can discern important differences between marital sex as portrayed by the Carters and by the Bible.

The Song of Songs is also known as the Song of Solomon, though many scholars doubt that Solomon was its actual author. The Hebrew in verse 1:1 can easily be translated "in honor of Solomon" or "dedicated to Solomon."

Though there is no way to know for sure, some scholars suspect the Song of Songs was actually written by a woman. It is the only book of the Bible in which the woman's voice is dominant. The bride's words comprise a little more than half of the book, whereas the man is given only 39 percent. In this regard, the Song is similar to "Drunk in Love," in which Beyoncé is the dominant voice.

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