What Hozier’s Take Me To Church Says About the Culture and the Church

IMG_6832Irish artist Andrew Hozier-Byrne is on the rise. Take Me To Church, his most popular song, reached #2 on the Irish charts, and the music video has about 5 million views on YouTube. If you haven’t heard the song yet, it is very likely that you’ll be hearing it soon.

The first time that I heard the song, I immediately liked it. Everything about it pulls you in. The lyrics are catchy, the beat is hypnotizing, and Hozier’s voice is captivating. However, as I heard the lyrics that first time, I began to take a step back. This music wasn’t your standard fare, catchy radio tune. This was a song with a deeper meaning.

Take Me To Church says a lot, both about the culture and the church. As art should, it raises questions and provides arguments. We need to be listening to what it says.

One of the most clear statements that the song makes is that it is good for man to do what comes naturally to him, free from religious, moral, or cultural standards. As the closing lyrics say, “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.”

When asked what the song is about in an interview, Hozier answered, “It’s about humanity at its most natural, and I guess the song is very much about sexuality, about the sexual act itself. It’s also a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek swipe at, say, the Church and organizations that would undermine humanity at its most natural by pontificating over things like sexual orientation or natural humanity.”

In my opinion, this is indicative of the culture’s attempts to find life in things apart from the Life. According to the artist, you cannot be fully human if you are not expressing yourself sexually as comes naturally. Interestingly, I think that Hozier is pretty close to the truth here. God designed us as sexual beings, and because he designed us with sexuality, our sexuality is a good thing, to be practiced within certain boundaries. However, as Augustine would explain, our desires have been corrupted, so it is no longer good to seek to satisfy them all.

This, too, Hozier nearly recognizes. He sings, “I was born sick / But I love it,” indicating that he may recognize that he is flawed. Unfortunately, instead of seeking restoration, he chooses to revel in his fallenness, as have so many in our culture. Hedonism and relativism have led many people to fall in love with their sin, even though they may recognize it as such.

The song also argues that the church has no answers, that it is a shrine of lies that offers no absolution. I think that this is indicative of the culture’s view of the church. For many people, that is exactly what it is.

Of course, the culture’s view of the church is pretty obvious. What really interests me about these claims is the portion about the church not offering any absolution. Hozier is unfortunately right about this to a degree, especially with regards to homosexuality, a major theme in the song’s music video.

Many times we forget that Christ loves all and forgives anyone who repents from his sins. In my experience, people with anything other than a heterosexual sexual orientation are not welcomed or received well in the church. They are somehow seen as different, worse, or even as the enemy, perhaps because we have gotten our politics and our faith too mixed up. Sadly, this alienates a whole group of people who are seeking what only Christ can offer.

Take Me To Church is a culturally significant song, and it should at least cause us to stop and think for a moment. Although I disagree with much of what the song says, I still find value in it. It calls the church out on an important issue, and it indicates the prevalent, or soon to be prevalent, views of society. Consequently, we should be listening and reflecting. Let’s take this as a challenge to love well, to love as Christ loves.

Discussion — One Response

  • Jean Golladay July 29, 2014 on 1:31 pm

    Good article, Joseph! Great opening, great finish, and many good points in your analysis of the song.