Take Me To Church

Hozier – Take Me To Church

A Response to a Noteworthy Song

[Verse 1]
My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshipped her sooner
If the Heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece

Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you

I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen

[Chorus x2]
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

[Verse 2]
If I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight

To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice
To drain the whole sea
Get something shiny
Something meaty for the main course
That’s a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable
We’ve a lot of starving faithful
That looks tasty
That looks plenty
This is hungry work

[Chorus x2]
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean

Amen. Amen. Amen

[Chorus x2]
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

We are trying something new here, responding to a noteworthy song. There is no prompt. Just the song, video, and lyrics.

antipas2I hadn’t heard this song before Aurelius pointed it out to me (yes, I live under a musical bridge). It’s hard to tell exactly what the song is about on the surface. It’s interesting, because the first time I listened to the song I didn’t watch the video, only read the lyrics. I couldn’t tell what it was about. Watching the video made it clear that it’s about homosexuality.

In the video about the song, he says it has to do with institutions that work against people’s humanity. That’s an interesting statement, because it takes as a given a certain definition of humanity. Elsewhere he seems like he’s focusing on sexuality as a very natural element of humanity, of course meaning to say that homosexuality is thoroughly natural. Moreover, I still have some confusion about the message. For example, is his lover and his Goddess one and the same? Hozier has written some very poetic lyrics, which I’ll applaud him for – thank you for not writing meaningless babble or another banal love song.

Anyways, I am both sympathetic toward his song and a bit critical. I am, of course, sympathetic toward the plight of homosexuals who feel persecuted and judged by Christians, or anyone. Nobody deserves to be mistreated and bullied. Everyone is a human being and deserves respect.  The Church, and Christians, have been very guilty of this over the years, and not just toward homosexuals.  For this, I’m ashamed.

However, I also feel like he (and others) can fall into the trap of stereotyping, which is the same thing they tend to be critical of the church for. For example, in his “story behind” video, he talks about how it’s been a very bad year and few hundred years for the Church. This is a bit one-sided. Of course the Church is guilty of plenty, but then again the negative news makes headlines more than the positive news. It’s rarely reported how many of the doctors in west Africa fighting Ebola are Christians doing it because they feel compelled by their faith to serve on the front lines of a dangerous fight. A small article appeared in the Dallas newspaper recently talking about what a remarkable work a local church had done during the Ebola situation there, welcoming and loving the family of the man who died. It’s been a bad year for the Church if you read the negative headlines. I think it’s sad that all the good that the Church does often gets ignored and overlooked.

As for the issue of homosexual rights, we’ll deal with this more in-depth in a future post, but I’ll go back to my earlier statement: nobody deserves the bullying that the video portrays, regardless of who they are. You treat people with respect, whether they are your friends, your enemies, or a hardened criminal. A big part of my moral compass consists of approaching people as people separate from their actions, so even if I disagree with someone’s actions (such as a homosexual couple), they are still deserving of my brotherly respect.  I reserve the right to disagree with their lifestyle choice while still valuing them and honoring their rights.

 – Antipas

Response from Aurelius

I had the same confusion you did about the song’s meaning and had to watch the music video and interviews with the author to better understand it. Some lines are still lost to me, e.g., “No masters or kings when the ritual begins…”

Good on NBC for reporting about Samaritan’s Purse’s response to and efforts in the Ebola outbreak. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most mainstream media often shy away from religious topics in an unachievable effort to appear unbiased, and that’s a shame because there are a lot of newsworthy religious topics to report. The media tend to focus on negative events, which Jimmy Fallon humorously counters with his series, I’ve Got Good News and Good News.

To your last paragraph, I don’t think people can be wholly separated from their actions as you suggest, although I think this could easily spawn another prompt. Most actions are primarily driven by intentional thought, but there are some actions that are more driven by our instinct or personality. An alcoholic’s thoughts sometimes cannot drive him to the correct action of not drinking excessively. Alcoholism is a disease that is hereditary in part (also environmental and psychological), similar to our current understanding of homosexuality in that way. Fortunately, alcoholism can be treated with a moderate success rate, but the treatment can be drastic, involving rehab and detox programs. You cannot say the same about homosexuality. It is not treatable even with drastic treatment programs as I reference in my response. Today’s science shows that it is a part of who that person is just as my heterosexuality is part of who I am. I cannot choose to be gay or be treated into becoming gay.

Regarding sin, we won’t be able to converge on that point. Sin is a religious construct, but I do have a moral compass that differentiates right and wrong and contains a whole lot of gray area. With it, I see absolutely no problem with homosexuality. It’s not natural to me, but I have no doubt it is natural to others. For some context, a century ago American Christians argued that women voting was biblically wrong, and before that the bible was used to justify slavery. Times have changed, and they’re changing again.

aureliusThis song is incredible. I first heard it on the radio and found it musically intriguing. The singer is clearly passionate and the instruments are unobtrusive yet powerful. After listening to the lyrics I grew from liking to loving the song. I’m admittedly a sucker for deep lyrical songs, and this is now one of my favorites. I’ll start this response with thoughts from the artist then draw some conclusions.

From the Artist: There are a lot of interpretations available, many valid, but I prefer interviews with the artist. Hozier told New York magazine that the song is about sex and humanity, a “tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that… would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love… choosing to worship and love something that is tangible and real. But it’s not an attack on faith.” The video is a specific example of this message, painfully portraying the state-allowed homophobic attacks in Russia. In the same interview, Hozier discusses his inspiration to write the song. “You grow up and recognize that in any educated secular society, there’s no excuse for ignorance. You have to recognize in yourself, and challenge yourself, that if you see racism or homophobia or misogyny in a secular society, as a member of that society, you should challenge it. You owe it to the betterment of society.”

Implications: Those who attend church have probably heard the saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” which sounds sweet but forces faithful people to feel ashamed and lesser. Macklemore addresses this cultural discrimination of homosexuality in his song Same Love. The first verse of Hozier’s piece juxtaposes two figures. The female lover of the female narrator is introduced as “my lover,” a love that is real but shamed by the second figure, the church, introduced as “my church,” denying entry into Heaven because of homosexual sin. Homosexuals attending church often feel this way, but there are many homosexual Christians that have found accepting churches and communities. We need more of those communities.

Fear-based church is losing popularity as the public loses its belief in hell. Some church leaders are intentionally trying to rebrand hell. I’m not sure what will come of it, but the relevance here is that Hozier is calling out those who would shame others for their sexuality, not just the church, but the church is a big culprit here, oftentimes subtly but sometimes harshly. This is not love. Even saying homosexuals are inherently sinful but accepted in our communities is not love. Love is instead not differentiating or treating homosexuals any different than heterosexuals, believing the years of evidence that sexuality cannot be altered. There is still a lot of research to be done to determine how sexuality is determined and the public is still at odds on whether homosexuality is innate or acquired. Treating homosexuals different in any way does no good. In fact, as Hozier illustrates, it harms.


Response from Antipas

Like I mentioned on the other side, there’s a line that needs to be walked.  I do agree with Hozier saying that if you see racism, homophobia, or misogyny in society, it’s the right thing to do to stand against it.  I don’t need a religious argument to know that I’m against those things.  People are people, and whether homosexuality is innate or acquired (I tend to think it could be either, depending on the person), it’s still not something to discriminate against.

However, I’m concerned about where you say that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not real love.  Or that calling homosexuality a sin while welcoming them in church is not love.  That’s concerning to me, as a Christian, because it doesn’t even give us a chance.  Our set of beliefs, and the book we believe to be God-breathed, is unambiguous about homosexuality being a sin.  If we’re not allowed to love people without loving everything they do, then it’s impossible for a sincere Christian to be a member of society.

Furthermore, why can’t real love condemn the actions of a person?  If a husband cheats on a wife, and she loves him and forgives him and he works to restore himself, was it not real love on her part, even though she surely hated his actions?  If a child steals something at the grocery store, isn’t the parent’s love even more true if the parent condemns the action and makes the child return the shoplifted goods?  If I believe that homosexuality is a sin before God, why can’t I still love that person?  If love is a self-sacrificial desire for the best for another, I’d argue that it’d actually be less loving to overlook an action that you believe to be wrong.

In the end, I’d be disingenuous to my religion not to believe that homosexuality is a sin.  But this isn’t a finger-pointing exercise.  The Bible is clear that that all people are sinners, and equally separated from God.  The Bible is judgmental toward things that I’m plenty guilty of, such as looking lustfully at a woman (says I’m an adulterer), hating someone (says I’m a murderer), and gluttony (says poverty is coming).  Rather than finger-pointing at one particular sin, can’t we be clear that there are a variety of sins, of which we are all rather guilty?  It’s a shame that homosexuality has gotten such attention, at the expense of other things I believe are wrong.

One response to “Take Me To Church

  1. Pingback: Don’t Re-Church Us |

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