In the past decade, pop icon Miley Cyrus has successfully shocked us with her sexually charged antics. Hannah Montana, her Disney Channel alter ego, seems like a distant dream. Cyrus is back, this time with She Is Coming, the first of three, six-song EPs that will make up one collection titled She Is: Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus has always been a gifted performer with a soulful voice and an eclectic range of musical influences (country, pop, and hip-hop to name a few). She Is Coming displays that talent, as well as the now-familiar glorification of casual sex. With Cyrus’ reputation preceding her, the sexually explicit lyrics here are only mildly shocking. Cyrus opens with “Mother’s Daughter,” a throbbing female empowerment anthem in which she is a “freak,” warning naysayers not to mess with her “freedom.” In both “Unholy” and “D.R.E.A.M.,” the catchy melodies over an understated trap beat bring us back to Cyrus hits like “Party in the U.S.A.” The lyrics, however, remind us that we’re no longer dealing with the 2009 Miley Cyrus. On “Unholy” she sings:
Wake up in the middle of a breakdown / Have sex on the table with the takeout ...
I’m sick of … people calling me obscene / You hate me, you love me / You just wanna touch me / I'm only trying to get some peace / So let me do me ...
I’m a little bit unholy / So what? So’s everybody else
Although Cyrus has been married for several months now to Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame, “Unholy” doesn’t seem to be about the intimate sort of mutual love that is shared within a committed relationship. Cyrus makes it seem as if her sexual partners are merely a means to her own pleasure. In reality, each of us are made in the image of God. As such, all human beings have intrinsic value and deserve to be appreciated and accepted apart from what pleasure he or she can bring to another person. For Christians, sexual relationships involve so much more, which is why they are best enjoyed within the lifelong commitment of marriage.
And those relationships are to be enjoyed. Many times, it seems as if those who disagree with a carefree attitude toward sex go so far as to despise sex altogether, considering it to be shameful in all its forms. Christians sometimes fail to see sex as the God-given gift it is, in the right context and with the right motives. In Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love, Christian philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand exhorts believers who are tempted to view sex as shameful to “consider the implications of the fact that liturgy uses it as an analogy for the relation of the soul to God. Is it not obvious that only something which is noble on the human level can be used as an analogy for the supernatural relation of the soul to Christ?”
Christians sometimes fail to see sex as the God-given gift it is.
Given that many Christians can give the impression that all sex is shameful, I am sympathetic to Cyrus and others who give in to the allure of sexual “freedom” outside of marriage. They are, after all, seeking something that is inherently good.
On She is Coming, Cyrus makes the age-old pop star move of closing with a power ballad (“The Most”), which brings an emotional depth to the EP. It is here that Cyrus comes the closest to portraying the true purpose of sex. “The Most” features a refreshing, soulful delivery from Cyrus, who is possibly singing of her new husband:
Oh, oh, and even in my darkest days
Even in my lowest place, you love me the most
And even when I can't stay, even when I run away
You love me the most ...
Your tender touch is the healing that I seek
The over-the-top descriptions of sexual activity in Cyrus’ previous songs perpetuate the myth that sex is purely a physical act. On “The Most,” she finally portrays the emotional and spiritual aspects of sex. She describes the value of the sexual relationship apart from the sole physical pleasure it brings. When one denies the emotional and spiritual connection that one makes with his or her sexual partner, it can lead to hurt and heartache—a far cry from the joy and pleasure of God’s original plan for sexual relationships.
Pursuing individual pleasure leads to dissatisfaction and loneliness. If we honor a total connection of emotions, body, spirit, and will, we find contentment. God sets up parameters for sex not to kill our fun and enjoyment, but so we can enjoy this God-given gift to its fullest potential. There is a sense of emotional and spiritual bonding and ecstasy that one can only experience with a committed partner in marriage. Cyrus is right: sex can be unholy. But it can be holy too.