“Take Me to Church”: A Christian Review

by Feb 10, 2015Culture, Music22 comments

Hozier_Take_Me_to_ChurchTake Me to Church,” by the Irish artist Hozier, is a global hit, reaching the number one slot in 12 countries and the top 10 in 21 more. It has gone triple platinum in the U.S. Here’s the opening verse:

My lover’s got humor;
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 gettin’ 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.

(Rabbit trail which, I promise, will return to main road:) Those last two lines are a reference to a Christopher Hitchens piece in which he criticized the Ten Commandments:

One is presuming (is one not?) that this is the same god who actually created the audience he was addressing. This leaves us with the insoluble mystery of why he would have molded (“in his own image,” yet) a covetous, murderous, disrespectful, lying, and adulterous species. Create them sick, and then command them to be well? What a mad despot this is, and how fortunate we are that he exists only in the minds of his worshippers.

For all my appreciation for the late Hitchens’ considerable wit and intellect, that’s a sophomorically bad misreading of the Torah, one skipping over a rather prominent passage, Genesis 3. God did not create us sick. We did that ourselves. And something else we did ourselves is on sad display in those lyrics above: we have worshiped the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18–31). And what has that got us?

The yawning nihilism/erotic existentialism of “Take Me to Church.” I have picked up the habit of grabbing swords people swing at me (like the serpentine suggestion, “If the Heavens ever did speak…”) and, at least in my mind, swinging those swords back at the original swingers. It’s not enough to tear down my worldview—you’ve got to offer me an alternative. And what Hozier offers, at least within the limits of this popular song (and his comments on it), is an only-sex-is-real-ism I don’t want. There are no absolutes in his church (um, absolutely no absolutes?) except this one: sex feels good.

[There are] 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.

Conservative Christian pop music voyeurs are not, perhaps, very practiced in the art of pop music hermeneutics. But if I’m reading him right, I think he’s saying that illicit sex is the moment when he feels most like himself, and the moment when his burdens—yea, even his guilt—fall away. The sexual act is the closest thing Hozier has to transcendence. But not one that gets him very high above six feet: it only makes him “human”; nothing more.

I’ll take my worldview over yours, man. I’m more than merely human; I bear the image of God. And I’ll take the cleansing Jesus offers me, because it really lasts. It’s not over when the worship high is. And one day I’ll get a permanent worship high, and a permanent cleansing. I still get tastes of heaven in the bedroom, but they’re called “foretastes” because sex is not the only heaven I get.

You can’t know in advance the effects of your own sexual choices. Every one of us trusts to some sort of worldview to help us decide which choices will best further our goals. We even rely on our worldviews to give us the best goals. So Hozier is a bit hypocritical to complain that religious institutions are squelching people’s sexuality. “Take Me to Church” is, ironically, taking a God’s-eye view and telling us the best way to a fulfilling life.

But at what cost? My church has absolutes in part because I need to be told to deny some of my impulses out of love for others. My church tells me to protect my children by being (absolutely) faithful to their mother instead of to the impulsive ideals of eros. How permanent is Hozier’s worship, I wonder? I’m guessing—and I say this sadly, not triumphantly—that his “Personal Life” section on Wikipedia will be longer than mine when he reaches my age in ten years, let alone when we stand before the Absolute Person.

If people made “Take Me to Church” the top album of 2014, perhaps they did so because they do desire to feel human, and to feel clean. These are good desires, planted there not by random genetic mutation or by ancient astronauts but by our Creator, who gave us our moral feelings (Rom. 2:14–15). He made us for Himself, and our hearts will be dirty until we find cleanliness in Him. We won’t truly be human until we see Him as He is—because we were made to reflect Him.

T. David Gordon has said that “pop music, largely created by and for commercial purposes, resist[s] serious analysis…. Commerce, then, has an enormous interest in our not taking such questions seriously” (26). What, indeed, do faux-deep pop songs like Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave” mean? Not much, Munson and Drake argue in a take-down of that song in this excellent book. You can hardly make sense of a lot of indie rock lyrics, they say. And I (and commenters on lyrics sites, at least implicitly) agree.

But Hozier managed to say something with some clarity to it, even in the brief space of a pop song, and he issued that something as a pretty direct attack on my spiritual family and my God. And he just won a Grammy. So I thought a little answer was in order.

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  1. Mark Ward

    For my own files:

    Rock’s excessive sexual preoccupations pose a much more fundamental question: Is rock’s eroticism (especially in its most excessive forms) not only immoral but idolatrous? Is sexual pleasure made into a false god? (151) —Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

    • Larry

      All of you act like homosexuality is one of the Ten Commandments, you act like it is the worst possible thing versus lying which IS part of the Ten Commandments. Stop using religion to justify your homophobic tendencies.

      • Mark Ward

        Dear internet stranger, I’m not afraid of homosexuals. I love homosexuals. I love all sinners made in God’s image—which is precisely what I am. But I am a redeemed sinner, saved by the precious blood of Christ. And the Bible says quite clearly that those who practice homosexuality are not redeemed.

        Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10 ESV)

        You are absolutely right that lying violates one of the Ten Commandments, but so does homosexuality—because the seventh commandment is not just a negative commandment against married people having sex with someone other than their partners; it is a call for meeting God’s standards for sexual holiness in all of life. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 19 and in Matthew 5, where he draws out implications for sexual purity from God’s creation of Adam and Eve. Both lying and homosexuality are specifically named as sins that will send people to hell (Rev 21:8). This is a deadly serious matter. I refuse—I absolutely refuse—to be caught in the false dichotomy you and our culture try to place me in. It is not hatred for homosexuals that leads me to oppose their sexual desires and actions (though some professing Christians do hate homosexuals, I admit); it is love for them. I told one homosexual relative that I insist that I can love and profoundly disagree with her at the same time. I’ve known homosexuals, often from Christian families, who have acknowledged this possibility. Love means opposing someone efforts at self-harm. I don’t mock homosexuals; I never have. Not once in my life. I urge them to repent. The very next verse in 1 Cor 6 indicates that they can be saved and cleansed from sin, as I have been:

        And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

        This viewpoint wasn’t invented yesterday by American culture warriors; I stand in line with the historic Christian faith, and with Jewish faith in Yahweh before that.

      • S.

        Hi Larry, I am so sorry if you feel offended in any way. You are correct that the Bible doesnt speak of homosexuality in the 10 commandments, but there is more to the Bible than the 10 commandments. The Bible says to not do that which is “unseemly.” That passage is refferring to homosexuality. The Bible also says that if you do commit homosexuality that God will turn you over to your own sin. The Bible has more dos and donts other than the 10 commandments. The Bible is Gods word that He gave us because He loves us, not because he wants to tell us to stop doing things we enjoy just to tell us we are bad or to be mean. In fact Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. I believe that God gave us do’s and dont’s in order to protect us from the consequences that can happen when we dont follow Gods word. God clearly had a purpose in His design for the male and female body. Sin in the world is what can confuse Gods intentions for our bodies. Dont let Satan fool you as He only seeks to harm and destroy. I am sharing this with you because I care about you. S.

  2. Jordan Hartley

    My wife brought this song to my attention because she happened to like the musical style. She asked me if the lyrics were blasphemous as we started watching the music video for the song. I couldn’t really tell until a scene glorifying the sin of homosexuality came up. I shut it off at that point and that was our confirmation that the song was no good.
    This article really put things into perspective for me and I plan on sharing it with my wife tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to write this well thought out, brief apologetical analysis.

    • Mark Ward

      Glad to be of service.

      Yeah, I watched part of the video, too, and stopped when, in my skimming, I saw a gay kiss. The actual lyrics are about heterosexual immorality, but Hozier said in an interview that the song grew out of his frustration with the Catholic church’s teaching on homosexuality: “The song is about asserting yourself away from that and finding a new thing to devote yourself to.”

    • natalie

      Bruh, I can’t believe that you completely missed the point. You are more offended by the “sin” of homosexuality but turns blind eye to those who judge and hate others.

      • Mark Ward

        Natalie, your argument is not with me.

  3. . Susan Stutz

    Wow! I am happy that there are Christians out there besides me that think there is a serious problem with this song. I am a musician of more than 30 years so I was attracted to the music as it stood out very different and draws you with its repeated moving minor baseline. So, I pulled up a you tube of the song on my phone. Like you all, I was also horrified when I saw the gay kiss, but out of curiosity as I knew the words were not good I tried to watch the rest of the video. It was horrifying. There is an inference of the KKK that is extremely disturbing and the use of a Molotov cocktail is just evil even though used against a homosexual. As Christians that is not what we would ever do even though we disagree with Homosexuality. The gay man was then drug and then abused, etc. It is so sick I can’t even write what all was on that video. I believe, after a brief view and study of this song and video that this song is extremely blasphemous and Sacrilegious. To say that you might as well just worship during sex in an adulterous relationship is the height of evil. God is not mocked. We as Christians need to be aware of the onslaught of evil around us that continues to reach to the lowest depths of evil. We need to be a light in a dark world. If we do not make it clear to those around us that this type of sick entertainment is poison for the soul, we could be in danger of some accountability for the demise of our Christian nation and the destruction of families and brokeness. The Bible says that friendship with the world is enmity with God. For me, I have recently had an awakening that for me to enjoy a song like Imagine, is in my view hypocrisy on my part as it speaks lies and glorifies the idea of no God and no heaven. Anyone who dreams of a world like that is both anti God and anti man. Humanism is a huge snare as it steals our value as human beings that is God given. This song, Take me to Church also steals our dignity as human beings and belittles us to below the level of animals. There is great danger in such thought and teaching. We as Christians need to stand strong against the wiles of the devil. He is roaming, seeking who he may devour. I pray that the writer of this song, Take me to Church will come to Christ and repent of the evil that he has shared with the world in the name of musical accomishment. The only place for this song is in the Pitt of hell. Dear God have mercy on us all.

  4. Anonymous

    Take me to Church is a valid criticism of Christianity especially Catholicism. If you still believe homosexuality is a sin, I can tell that you’ve never read up on research done by the Vatican labs. It’s been proven time and time again to be something built into a person.
    Maybe you should have watched the full video. People like you and thoughts like this are what lead to the murder of so many LGBT people across the world. Many are murdered by “Christians.” That doesn’t even include the number of kids kicked onto the streets or those who are pushed into suicide or those who endure conversion torture, often called conversion therapy (another tactic proven to not work).
    This song rightfully calls you and people like you out. It tells you that what you’re doing is harmful.
    That “blasphemous” video showed you what you are endorsing. A man was murdered by Christians in that video and you call him the sinner?
    May God have mercy on your hateful soul.

    • Mark Ward

      It is true: I did not finish the video. I don’t condone murdering anyone.

      But I don’t agree either that because desires are inborn they are moral or that conversion of homosexuals—or of any sinners, including me—is impossible. I take a standard orthodox Christian view.

    • Scott

      Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for having the courage to post something on a blog which is clearly in opposition to your own views. Your frustration and angst comes through very clearly.

      Mark Ward responded already but he seemed rushed, and I’m not sure you even understood what he was writing to you. I would like to respond as well.

      At the essence of this discussion is who defines the concepts of what is “right” and “wrong.” And at the center of that discussion is whether or not there is a God Who created and sustains us. Hebrews 1:1-3 from God’s word tell us that all things and people were made and are sustained by Him through the Second Person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Lord is rejected willingly today, which leaves truth dead in the street, justice far away, and our society wrapped up in the lies and tangled webs we weave (see Isaiah chapter 59). Those lies and the willing rejection of the Lord are our society’s attempts to supplant the Lord. Instead, the “consensus” is god, and enabling crowd-sourced morality.

      Where the rubber meets the road is that you would like to take crowd-sourced definitions of right and wrong and use them as the objective standard against which to judge other people’s thoughts, words, and deeds. But your standard relies on a relative truth. One thing is true about relative truth…it will change and often with the wind.

      There was a song in the early ’70s by Bachmann Turner Overdrive called “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” I remember it as a teenager in the Classic Rock genre. One of the lines of the song offers that common, crowd-sourced definition, “Any love is good love, so I took what I could get.” In this song, “love” is equated to a mixture of “lust” and “sex” and that is where the culture often leaves the definition. It also often recognizes a kind of romantic love and occasionally an altruistic style of love. But when someone is chanting “love is love,” typically that’s a mixture of the main definitions.

      The Lord defined three different kinds of love in His word. There is an unconditional kind of love, a heterosexual romantic style love, and a brother- or sister-hood love. Notice the difference between the BTO definition, even coupled with the wider culture, and the Lord’s definition.

      Who’s standard should we then use? If we acknowledge the Lord, we must follow what He has defined or we deny acknowledging Him. If we do not acknowledge the Lord, then we are left with our own concepts which lead us further and further astray. But either way, it is difficult to even have a conversation with someone who disagrees, such as in this case, because there is no common definition of what we are even talking — or writing — about.

      Much to the consternation of the LGBTQ crowd, the Lord has defined sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as sinful. He has also defined torture, failing to properly support family members, and murder as sinful as well. Pride, greed, and gossip are also sins. We need not list them all…it would take the rest of the day.

      I challenge your assertion that homosexuality has been scientifically proven to be a “normal” manifestation of human sexuality. There have been many attempts to suggest this is the case, but no outright test or truly blind study has proven it. In fact, it has been shown that many of the suicidal actions taken by members of the LGBTQ+ community were the result of an underlying mental illness.

      LGBTQ+ manifestations are, instead, like any other sin. Hebrews 12:1, which calls Christians to run directly toward the Lord Jesus, says that in that effort we are to cast or brush aside those sins which so easy ensnare us. In Old English, they are said to “beset” us.

      Have members of the LBGTQ+ community been sinned against? Certainly. Evidence shows that at least some of this community “are the way they are” because someone sinned against them, particularly as children, in a sexual manner which then bent them toward a homosexual expression. Was that right? Absolutely not!

      But the Bible, God’s word, also tells us that we all have sinned and need to be rescued. Christians are no different. Sin is something each of us has with us all the time (1 John 1:8-10). There is a solution, not in bad treatment, but in the Lord Jesus. He with the Father and the Holy Spirit alone have the ability to address the sins of any of us, cleansing them from us and changing our hearts and lives. It is a faithful saying, said the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That’s all of us, no matter what tribe or class we wish to place ourselves. And the result of that saving is that the Holy Spirit will lead us out of many of our sins of which we will finally be free in heaven. For those in the LGBTQ+ community who have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, many have found freedom from their homosexual attractions through the Lord’s word in their lives — check out what they have to say. Moreover, the hate you suppose in your closing was actually broken down by genuine faith, for as the Lord reconciles Christians heavenward or vertically, He also reconciles horizontally between tribes, peoples, etc. — see Ephesians chapter 2.

      Truth rests in Jesus and proceeds from Him through the word of God, the Bible — not via the Vatican or our cultural consensus. As Psalm 100 says, “We are the sheep of His pasture. He made us and not we ourselves.” He sustains all of us even in our sin…but not forever. Please accept my invitation to turn to Him today in faith and trust. Please pray for us as we pray for you.

  5. Susan

    Dear Annonymous,
    I would like to share more with you as first, there is more to the song than it trying to reveal what horryfing ways some people have treated homosexuals in other countries. If the song is exposing the evil perpetrated against homosexuals than on that topic I am happy the song is doing that as awareness can help us to fight for and protect those who are being wrongly treated, however, graphic imagery of violence can be misunderstood and potentially can encourage mentally ill people to do what they saw on the video, or for me, the sick imagery is upsetting and disturbing, and not my view of entertainment. The thing that was first appauling about the song “Take me to church” is that it is saying, that for him, going to church is an adultorous sex act in the bedroom. I grew up going to church and I am a church musician. I have great respect for going to church and I believe that we need to meet together at church to worship God. In fact, there is scientific proof that going to church to pray and worship is healing to the body physically because we have a creator who desinged us to need to commune with Him and worship and glorify Him. Any song that describes going to church as a sex act is simply evil. Adultery is sin. The lyricist uses a sinful act and calls it worship. That is the height of evil. I believe in God and I believe in the Bible. I believe that God’s word tells us how to live because God cares about us. It is clear that if you look at the 10 commandments, that includes “Thou shalt not murder”and “Thou shalt not commit Audultery” in the same list, both are evil, and both have huge consequeses. Encouraging people to not do things that will be hurtful to them is what I like to do, as I care. I think the lyrisist is a very damaged individual. So sad. I wish I could help him. I wish his words were not out there potentially leading others down a bad path in any way.

    As for how homosexuals have been treated, if violence has truely been perpetrated against them, that is a horror and those people doing that should be punished. I believe that anyone that harms anyone is doing something evil or sinful. I have a friend from High School that I grew up with who is homosexual. I agree with you that homosexuals may have an in born leaning in that direction as I believe that is the case with my friend, but I think it is the result of a fallen world caused by sin that is the reason for some to have a homosexual leaning. If you think about the outcome for homosexuals and that often thier relationships don’t last a life time which can cause them to be alone later in life, that is truely not a happy situation, and they can’t have thier own biological children, which is sad as children are a huge blessing, and so in the end of the homosexuals life they may not have loved ones as they age or a family member to give them a helping hand in their most desperate hour. I don’t believe the homosexual is purposely doing something wrong. As for Christians murdering homosexuals, I have never heard of that. None of the Christians I have known would hate a homosexual, and they would never harm them. If anything they may try to help them. For me I care about homosexuals including my friend Curtis who is homosexual. I also think homosexuals are very kind and caring and loving people. Anyone who hates them because they are the way they are is truely wrong. People could try to lovingly help them as a heterosexual relationship can be amazing, as clearly two people of the opposite sex has anatomy that clearly works together well. This is an interesting topic and I realize one of much debate, and homosexuals have felt hurt for a long time for which I feel bad about.
    But, for me, the huge offensiveness about this song was the Title, “Take me to Church” when he was talking about worshipping in a bedroom in an adulterous sex act and not talking about going to church at all. That is blaring wrong. That song sound be banned until the words are changed. We live in a nation under God. God sees and knows the sin that is rampant in this land. We need to pray for healing in our land and pray that we as a nation will know God and make Him known. Dear Lord, Please reveal yourself to those in our nation who need you Lord and long for a relationship with You. We are a nation in desperate need of You, and in desperate need of healing. I pray that You will protect all of us from harm. In Jesus name, Amen

  6. Brodie

    Hi Mark! Just letting you know you should update your “About” profile below . . . your claim to be academic and an editor falls a bit flat when you confuse verbs and nouns.

    I’d urge you to also rephrase your sentence “I’m more than merely human; I bear the image of God” is a rather tribalistic reading of scripture. It would be better to say – “we” bear the image of God – including, gays, worshippers of other religions, atheists, humanists, and, yes, Hozier as well.

    I’ll leave my feedback to that, as replying to such comments that quote chapter and verse (Jesus did not find it necessary to write in chapter and verse, actually, he didn’t write at all) always seems to miss the point of the story. Most of Christendom never used citations in such an empirical way (chapters were added about twelve centuries after Christ, and verses even more recently). I understand Scott’s desire to treat the story as a legal document, but unfortunately for him that’s not what it is. I think Jesus also had something to say to folks who treated what they believed to be the revealed word of God as legalese. Editorially, that also makes it difficult to reply.

    Mark, I also find it disturbing that a cultural anointing of this song (given its popularity) warrants a public response from you on your blog, but the anointing by Evangelicals of leaders like Trump (given the demographics of Evangelical support) does not bear a mention. I accept your premise that sex can, and does, lead to hurt, but that premise should also lead you to believe that family separations (many Christian), refusing to welcome strangers, and grabbing women by their pussy should also warrant a public denouncement. I hope that you do engage with your fellow Christians about this, but I do not find any public record of you doing so.

    The songs popularity shows that it clearly resonates with around the world with your fellow image-bearers (it resonated with me, doubting and questioning the institution of church as morally bankrupt). I’m not yet finding anything in your response that resonates in the same way, to feel, as you say, human and clean. Where is your church today in working to resonate as Jesus did? Where are you in providing a “little answer”?

    • Mark Ward

      Brodie, I sent you a personal email, and I regret that you haven’t replied. I am now approving your comment as promised. Here, for my own tiny blog audience, is what I wrote to you:


      Maybe this sounds weird, but I really appreciated your message and was super glad you took the time to write it. When I was a pastor in the South, I got so tired of people smiling and nodding when I told them biblical truths I knew they didn’t believe in. I’d much rather have a stiff rejection than a polite but pretend acceptance. And you’re a good writer, clearly an educated person. I do make editorial mistakes (though I couldn’t find the one you mentioned—care to help me out?), but I can still recognize good writing when I see it.

      I will approve your comment, but I thought I’d try a private conversation before inviting the pressures of a semi-public one on my blog. A few thoughts:

      1. Absolutely, you—and gays, Muslims, atheists, humanists, and Hozier—bear the image of God. I wrote a rather large book making and then repeating this point over and over. We’re in agreement there?

      2. It’s kind of funny that you would complain about chapter and verse divisions to me, one of the minor dukes or earls of the let’s-get-rid-of-chapter-and-verse-divisions kingdom. Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to know this. But again we find unexpected agreement amidst overall stiff rejection of one another’s worldviews (?). However, Christians were using “prooftexts” long before chapters and verses. And so were believing Jews. They’re only bad if they’re taken out of context (which certainly does happen, and Christians, including me, are unfortunately at times guilty of this!).

      3. I confess I didn’t anticipate the horrendous evangelical anointing of Trump in 2015, when I wrote this post. =) FWIW, I’m a Never-Trumper who nonetheless believes that a lesser-of-two-evils defense is possible for voting for him. In other words, I expect evangelicals who do vote for him to publicly hold their noses while doing so (or to keep their votes private, which is fine, too). But I couldn’t do even that in 2016, and I’m not planning to do so in 2020. Trump violates every “character matters” claim we made in 1998. Even though I was 17, I remember that well—and I still believe it. I think we evangelicals are going to have a kind of (earthly) hell to pay in the not too distant future for our hypocrisy. I couldn’t believe it when evangelical Boomers (especially) I respected acted publicly happy to vote for Trump. I’m happy to say, however, that I have many Christian friends who see Trump the way I do. And I most certainly have denounced Trump’s misogyny and sin in the only place where my voice might persuade others, I think: Facebook. I’ve also written about similar themes on my blog, though I have such a hard time thinking about Trump without revulsion that I can hardly bring myself to talk about him on my blog. Maybe that should change; probably it will come voting season. I personally did not speak against family separations and refusing to welcome strangers, but that’s because more knowledgeable friends of mine were already doing it so capably. And because I’m pretty frustrated over the failure of either side to acknowledge that 1) we can’t let everybody in, 2) we shouldn’t let nobody in, and therefore 3) the debate over immigration ought to be about how many we let in and why—but instead it seems the right says “nobody” and the left says “everybody.”

      4. So… I have to turn some of your questions back to you: how can the church be morally bankrupt if there is no God to give us morals—or a bank? If he’s not there to keep track, to guarantee final judgment, why not get all the sex you can while you can, no matter whom it hurts? Where is my church today? Stumbling along like the imperfect creatures we are, trying to help where we can. My family just gave $XXX to a suffering person I won’t give identifying info about. My church gave $XXXX to the same person. We just had another suffering person over to our house to talk and encourage, and that night that person had their first full night of sleep (and their first night falling asleep without smoking weed first) in a long time. Are we doing a ton of good? No. Are we doing all the good we should? Boy, I don’t know. Almost certainly not. But here’s what I know: my life in Christ is happy, and it helps me love others as myself. I have forgiveness of my sins, and that helps me a great deal when it comes time to forgive and do good to others. If I lived the lifestyle Hozier recommends, I’d either have no loving family at all or I’d have hurt them in terrible ways by my infidelity. The Bible describes the world, and my heart, in accurate ways.

      And a final question to you: what’s your story? I sense one in there. You have some church background, but you’ve rejected it—or are in the process of doing so?

      I’m happy to converse; again, I really like it when I can have clarity in disagreement.


  7. Christopher S

    Thank you for writing this piece. When I sought music to provide me strength recently, this was one I initially connected with, until I put the lyrics into context and felt they misrepresented faith and feeling at the time.

    I feel as if this became popular when it did because many are seeking for that connection with faith, but are lost in their understanding and this song is deception in disguise.

    God Bless.

  8. Ronald Haden

    Homosexuality is not a sin, and never will be. Hozier isn’t talking about sex, he is talking about homosexuality. ‘Our gentle sin’ refers to the two men loving each other. Yes, there are sexual references, but the base core is the act of one man loving another man. Homosexuality cannot be changed in any way. If God wishes for a man to be punished by sending him to hell simply for the act of loving another man (a love no different from yours or mine for our SO), then that sounds like a God who is having too much fun with his creations. Like a child pouring water around an ant to see it struggle to stay in it’s tiny circle of boundaries. Love is love, and no one needs to be corrected for the way in which they love.

    • Mark Ward

      Ronald, I absolutely could be wrong in my interpretation of the song. I assumed the portion you reference was staying on the topic of *heterosexual* premarital sex. Again, I could be wrong: he could have subtly switched topics.

      But let me get to the more significant issue and tell a brief story to illustrate where I think you and I are at…

      When I was 14, I read in the Yale Book of Family Medicine (26 years later, I *think* that was the title) that mental explorations of heterosexual lust were good and right, and that masturbation in particular was a healthy thing. But I knew what Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount, that, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

      Even as a young man only halfway toward the age at which I’d eventually be married, I knew that there was a simple and clear disjunction between what these undeniably intelligent doctors were saying—and what Jesus, the Son of God, said. They couldn’t both be right. I didn’t know anything at the time, not really, about internet porn or the other temptations that would soon be coming my way. I just knew that I had to choose to accept one authority and not the other.

      The same is true of homosexuality. God will judge you and me both in the end. At least, I would say, acquaint yourself fully with the option you have rejected. The Bible does not say that God made some people homosexual only in order to judge them. If you really want to know what it does say, then read. I can give you some guidance.

      • Ronald Haden

        After reading your post, I read several others to understand the meaning of the lyrics again, thinking that I may be mistaken. But your interpretation of Hozier’s lyrics is rather different than what Hozier himself said, and what we can understand from the music video. Let me tell you my interpretation:

        My lover’s got humor
        She’s the giggle at a funeral
        Knows everybody’s disapproval
        I should’ve worshiped 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
        A-, Amen, Amen, Amen

        ‘Giggle at a funeral’ refers to something not accepted within the society in general. He says it is humorous, and knows that it has everybody’s disapproval. Despite that he says that he should have accepted (worshipped) it sooner, and if the Heavens ever did speak, then it is the last true mouthpiece. ‘It’ here is homosexuality, which can be interpreted from the music video. ‘Every Sunday is getting more bleak’ refers to how he hears in his church that his sexuality is a sin, and how it feels as if someone is giving him poison every week. The next two lines are references to his sexual experiences, and the rest of the stanza is also similar: his Heaven is with his lover, but he has to be alone because he is afraid, he was born this way, but he doesn’t mind, and yet his church commands him to be well.

        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
        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

        Repeated for emphasis, but most of it is rather simple, he feels that it is a lie that his love is wrong just because it is for another man rather than a woman, hence he calls it ‘shrine of lies’ (I think so, I’m not sure about this one). Deathless death is love, as Hozier himself said. But it is a sarcastic dig at the church, where he feels that people like him are demeaned (worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies). He challenges God saying that he will list out his sins and He can sharpen his knife. But he still wants his ‘deathless death’ and tells God that he is willing to give Him is life for it.

        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
        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

        He is a pagan because he does not fit into the views of his church. But the man he loves is the sunlight in his life. The rest of this stanza is simply a sexual reference.

        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
        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
        Oh, oh, Amen, Amen, Amen

        This might be my favorite stanza yet: he says that there are no masters or kings when he loves his partner. His love is innocent, since it does not affect anyone negatively. It may be a sin, but it is a gentle one, full of love and innocence. Since God has condemned him for being that way, he calls it an ‘earthly’ scene with ‘madness’ and ‘soil’ since he will never go to heaven. Yet he says that this is the only time he feels human and clean.

        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
        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

        I feel this may be a better interpretation of the lyrics. While I don’t think you are wrong in yours, it does seem to clash with the message the music video sends. What I had a problem with was your views on homosexuality in the comments, which seem to me to be rather outdated. As for what has been written by God, homosexuality was a part of quite a few religions. The Apollo-Hyacinthus story is quite popular. The Egyptians too had accepted it in their religion. I’m not sure what the Quran has to say about it, but there are several stories in the Hindu myths (I confess I find myths of other religions fascinating) which definitely cross into the boundaries of homosexuality. I find it very hard to believe that if God is absolute, if he is omniscient (sadly I find myself a skeptic, not quite an atheist, but yet questioning what we are told is correct) then He would teach some of his children one thing and some of them the other. That seems rather strange to me, and incorrect. No, thank you, I’ll stick to science, science and logic.

        Quoting the passage in your earlier comment: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)

        If this is so, then I do not want God. If He is really truly so abrupt as to put homosexuals in the same category as thieves, drunkards and adulterers, then I do not want to go to his heaven. If someone who practices idolatry (say, a Hindu, since I live in India) is not worthy of heaven, then I will go to whatever heaven the majority of my countrymen will go to on their death. I have seen more love and devotion from a single family at a temple than I see in my church. I find the Bible too supremacist in its belief. Either God accepts all His children who are pure of heart, or he is not God at all.

        Good day.

        • Mark Ward

          Maybe we’re both guilty of treating a pop song too seriously! =) Your interpretation is possible given the music video (which I did not watch in its entirety), but I took that video as a purposely provocative parallel to the textual message of the song.

          I love science and logic, too, but I see them as created things and not as independent universals that themselves rival their Creator. Even within a science-and-logic-only worldview, which I take to be an endorsement of materialism (?—correct me if I’m wrong!), homosexuality makes little sense, because it confers no survival value. Science isn’t supposed to operate in the field of values, anyway, only of facts. That it cannot stick to its brief—that it posits survival as a “value”—is a hint that there can be no rootless, science-and-logic only worldview. You can say that you are fully objective and have no values or loves affecting your judgments of the cold, hard facts; but I don’t think you can live that way consistently. I’m sure you do not! You valued *me*, contrary to your materialist principles, when you spoke with some patience instead of abuse, when you wrote with some elegance instead of just emoting. You showed me some respect, as if other humans have a value independent from what they contribute to your own survival. I notice this and appreciate it!

          If you disagree with God in Scripture creating male and female and condemning homosexual sex, then your disagreement is with him far more than it is with me. Our creator knows best how a happy human life can be led. His commands are not meant to destroy but to fulfill our joy. Repent and believe the gospel, my friend. Jesus died for the sins of all Hindus and all Christians.

        • Jayci

          Your interpretation is far more intelligent & open minded. Hozier is an amazing writer & I believe these lyrics to be true, regarding the dangerous and deadly misinformation & misdoings of organized religion in every way.

          I can’t imagine persecution of anyone because of who or how they love. Killing people, now that’s an obvious sin I would think; Love? Seriously? It saddens me to know how ignorant people can be to believe and live by such things. After all, isn’t the all knowing, perfect creator supposed to be the judge of all things?

          This is why I’ve never found a church besides the outdoors, learning all points of view & music that makes me feel truly enlightened.

          • S S

            Hi Jayci,
            Well I can answer your question. Yes, murder is sin. The Bible says ” Thou Shalt not Murder”. It is one of the ten commandments found in the book of Exodus.
            As for love? There are many ways love can be expressed. The most amazing love is Agape love which is God’s perfect love for us. There is also the love of a father and a mother for thier children, and the love that children have for their parents, and for their siblings. There is the love that a husband has for his wife and the love a wife has for her husband. Love can happen in many different types of relationships. But if you are trying to say that sex is love, and having sex in ways that God doesn’t allow is love, than you are sadly mistaken. God made sex for marriage, and He made a man and a woman Adam and Eve. He did not make Adam and Steve. The Bible states that it is sin to “do that which is unseemly” If you read the Bible you will learn what is right and wrong and that sex has its proper place. .Yes, the all-knowing perfect creator is the judge of all things, and He clearly will judge the deeds of mankind. I would urge you to buy a Bible, and start reading it. It is God’s word. You will learn so much. I pray that you will find God’s love as His love is perfect love. Sex out side of marriage has consequences. Hoziers song ” Take me to Church, is evil.
            God wants us to worship Him. Any other form of worship is idolatry. The Bible clearly states in the ten commandments to “not have any other God’s before me”. If sex is Hoziers God, that truely is his idol, so he is sinning. Sex outside of marriage is a sin, and sex with same sex partners is sin. And, it you are worshipping creation and not the creator, you are also sinning. Paganism is evil. Read what was going on when St. Patrick worked hard to convert people to Christianity. The Pagans were doing awful sick evil things. God gave us the Bible to help us because He loves us. He created the family in a very specific way gor a purpose Family needs family from birth til death. That is God’s design.
            Praying for you that you will turn to God and read the Bible which God’s word for us because He loves us.
            I hope you will find peace.