I really like Take Me to Church as a song; that being said, I hate to note that its quickly turning into an atheistic anthem, when that’s not what Hozier’s intention was for it. Moreover, various Christian responses I’ve read paint Hozier as a next generation Marilyn Manson Anti-Christ figure, accusing him of corrupting the children and your usual gambit of shallow accusations. The goal of the blogs I’ve seen has largely been to stop Christians from listening to the song. Alternatively, my goal isn’t to answer if Christians should listen to the song or not, that is an individual issue of conscience (1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14), my goal is instead to see what we can learn from a song that so poignantly grasps the attention of the general public, to understand its message and how it reflects the culture in which it was conceived.
Hozier’s goal in his song (according to multiple interviews) Take me to Church is not to attack the church directly; rather he wishes to address what he sees as Christianity’s “undermining (of) some very natural part of what it means to be a person.” Here he’s referring specifically to same sex attraction, but more broadly to all sexual attraction. To understand Hozier’s background is complicated, he’s an Irish born singer, so when he refers to “the church” as one single entity it’s difficult to tell if he’s addressing Christianity as a whole, Anglicans, or Roman Catholics; after listening to several interviews with him, it seems most likely that he means all three. He doesn’t have a deep understanding of theology, but what he does have is a response to the persecution of same sex couples, and what seems like a war on sexual stimulation in general. This is why I find this blog post worth writing, Hozier’s song beautifully illustrates culture’s complete idolization of sexual desires and sexual fulfillment. Furthermore, Hozier shows respectable depth as a musician in his music video, musical history (being a member of the beautiful choir group Anuna), and attention to carefully chosen lyrics that seem rare in today’s society. He is a man who knows how to craft and deliver a meaningful message.
Hozier’s message confusion seems to stem from a clash between his lyrics and his music video. Most people are paying attention to his music video, which depicts the hunting down of a same sex couple who are beaten and murdered by Christian (or right wing, it’s difficult to tell which group specifically) fundamentalists. His lyrics seem to depict a more thoughtful and carefully crafted message however, pointing out that true human faith, salvation, and love is found not in “the church” but is rather found in the arms of a lover. I want to address his lyrics more than the music video itself, because the music video depicts actions that any actual Christian would find horrific, but the lyrics illustrate a fantastically interesting concept.
Throughout the course of the song, Hozier depicts his relationship with his lover in the following ways: he worships her, she is the mouthpiece of heaven, she offers freedom in the bedroom, she is his heaven when he’s alone with her, she is the sole purpose of his life, she’s the fulfillment of his temptations, and finally (most importantly) she is the way in which he is made clean of sin. It would be a beautiful love song if it wasn’t so blasphemous! Moreover, Hozier consistently references that he sees that this world is not as it ought to be, we are a fallen humanity; however, he views the way to solve this problem as embracing it, and fulfilling his sexual temptations.
Let’s just take a minute to distinguish Hozier’s worldview from a Christians: the lover vs. Christ as object of worship, the words of the lover vs. the Bible as the mouthpiece of God, sex vs. salvation as the method of freedom, sex vs. eternal life as heaven, overwhelming love of partner vs. God, fleeing temptation vs. indulging in it, and finally, salvation through sex vs. salvation through Christ. I really appreciate Hozier here, because he points out to the culture just how much weight most people put on their sexual lives, as if they are the ultimate fulfillment of all desires; however, as anyone who has dated can tell you, Hozier’s gospel message is entirely impractical to live your life by. Who was the last boyfriend or girlfriend that really worked as a method of salvation for their partner’s problems? When was the last time 5-15 minutes of sex was fulfilling for an entire lifetime? When did you last applaud someone who took their partner’s opinions as the word of God? The problem with Hozier’s message isn’t that he indulges in sin and thereby obtains some satisfaction that those within the church cannot obtain; rather the problem is that his satisfaction is far too small and easily obtained by mere relationships and casual sex. In the process of being fulfilled in his relationships, he overlooks finding ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
This is why I really like Take Me to Church, it perfectly demonstrates the flawed view of relationships and sex that is running rampant in our culture. Sex cannot save you and it does not ultimately define you. This is why his meshing of messages from his lyrics to his music video seems so fitting to the culture at large and out of place to Christians. If your relationships and sex define who you are as a person, than telling someone that they are called to celibacy is the equivalent of telling someone that they cannot experience the love of God. The message of Hozier’s song is really that if you can’t have sex, you can’t experience true heaven, true salvation, or true glory. A culture that tries to make sex its savior will truly be disappointed, whether or not they go to church. The only true hope for fulfilling our desires and obtaining everlasting joy is by trusting in the unconditional love of Christ.