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“We’d Nonetheless Worship This Love”: Needing God with Hozier, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber

The hit music of 2013 was a plea to be taken to church—however to the frustration of those that had been searching for indicators of cultural tides turning again towards Christian religion, the church right here was the physique of one other individual, worshiped via the ritual of lovemaking. “My lover’s obtained humor …” Hozier sang in “Take Me to Church,” “I ought to’ve worshiped her sooner.” Changing institutionalized Christian worship with the worship of the lover liberates the singer from the shackles of oppressive faith and makes him free to embrace his humanity in all its grittiness and earthliness, to have fun the embodied nature of human existence. The worship of the lover turns into virtually another faith.

But there’s one thing fascinating occurring by way of human needs and transcendence in “Take Me to Church.” Hozier’s music virtually unwittingly admits that human beings have an inherent impulse to worship and that we crave for an expertise of transcendence. In different phrases, we lengthy to offer ourselves away in worship.

Related echoes of transcendence could be present in two newer pop songs: Taylor Swift’s “False God” and Justin Bieber’s “Holy. Within the pauses, sudden jumps, and virtually unconscious impulses of their remedy of romance, “Take Me to Church” and “False God” make seen our eager for God—a longing that Justin Bieber’s “Holy” additionally factors to, though otherwise.

Within the Church of the Lover: Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and Taylor Swift’s “False God”

It could shock you, however I believe that Hozier’s obtained worship proper in some ways.

Hozier’s music—full of non secular imagery and allusions to particularly Christian types of worship—strikes towards its crescendo with a gravitas harking back to liturgical music with its refrain of “amens.” The church of the lover “presents no absolutes” and is free from hierarchical energy buildings (“no masters or kings when the ritual begins”). Regardless of lingering guilt and disgrace, the worship of the lover is marked with boldness and freedom. In a reference to the Backyard of Eden and humanity’s fall, Hozier sings, “There is no such thing as a sweeter innocence than our light sin / Within the insanity and soil of that unhappy earthly scene / Solely then I’m human / Solely then I’m clear.” In just a few masterful strains Hozier reaches towards the paradox of his earthly worship: it won’t result in an ideal paradise, however it’s exactly within the pure fleshiness of our bodies mingling that the gates of heaven are opened.

The singer goes as far as to plead: “Provide me that deathless dying / Good God, let me offer you my life,” recognizing that the transcendental want to offer your self wholly to a different is on the coronary heart of worship. Right here heaven hangs low, descending to the insanity and soil of our earth: to expertise bodily union with the lover is heaven, paradise, church. It’s another type of transcendence, skilled via the worship of one other, reaching towards non secular union.

It could shock you, however I believe that Hozier’s obtained worship proper in some ways. Worship is extra than simply an acknowledgment of the supreme worth of what’s worshiped. In worship we give ourselves to a different, we yield to the opposite’s energy. As such worship is each harmful and inherently human. 

What’s exceptional about Hozier’s quasi-theological imaginative and prescient is his consciousness of the ambivalence and hazard of worship. Having deserted the god of “bleak” Sundays, the singer longs to offer himself fully to the lover. However he’s nonetheless conscious about the value and hazard of giving oneself away to a different. “I’ll worship like a canine on the shrine of your lies / I’ll let you know my sins and you can sharpen your knife. … / To maintain the Goddess on my facet / She calls for a sacrifice.” Although the worship of the lover is in some sense a type of liberation because it opens up a brand new method of experiencing transcendence—free from the dogmas and guidelines of institutionalized faith—the inherent hazard of worship stays: to worship is to be within the energy of one other. And who is aware of whether or not the opposite could be trusted? 

In Taylor Swift’s “False God,” it isn’t a lot the lover as it’s romantic love itself that turns into another object of worship. As in “Take Me to Church,” worship in “False God” is earthly and bodily. Heaven reaches earth when the lovers contact (“I do know heaven’s a factor / I’m going there whenever you contact me”). The altar of worship is the physique of the lover (“faith’s in your lips … / the altar is my hips”). Confessions are made and there are references to Christian worship and liturgy (“Make confessions and we’re begging for forgiveness / Acquired the wine for you”). And but, once more, the depiction of romantic love as worship is full of a way of ambivalence, even hazard: “They are saying the roads get arduous and also you get misplaced whenever you’re led by blind religion … / However we’d simply get away with it / Faith’s in your lips / Even when it’s a false God.” The religion the singer has within the love between herself and her lover is blind— trusting daringly, even desperately towards all the chances—and there’s no assure for Swift that the god of romantic love could be trusted. But the urge to worship, to yield to the facility of this love, is irresistible.

Each “Take Me to Church” and “False God” exemplify how human eager for transcendence is skilled in a secular, disenchanted world the place God shouldn’t be. We lengthy for that Higher for Whom we had been made, though we are able to hardly identify him or our want. But, intimations stay: hints, hunches, and guesses. A rumor that maybe we had been made for Another person. Depictions of romance like these present the artists searching for a brand new house for our want towards transcendence, in romantic love. 

Additionally they reveal a few of the artists’ fashionable assumptions concerning the nature of non secular worship. Fashionable critics of Christianity are inclined to accuse it of an anti-body and anti-sex mentality. Hozier particularly appears to match his embodied, earthly worship of the lover favorably with the sort of other-worldly, disembodied transcendence that Christianity is supposedly providing. And plenty of Christians, too, settle for with out realizing Hozier’s both/or dilemma: We should select between the pursuit of other-worldly, disembodied divine transcendence and our extra “base” bodily existence and needs. To seek out transcendence—to seek out God—one should go away the dim earth behind. 

This, nonetheless, shouldn’t be a lot a Christian as it’s a Platonic imaginative and prescient of transcendence: God far-off, within the realm of spirits and concepts, the earth at greatest a shadow of his being. On this understanding of transcendence, heaven and earth are pushed aside, they turn into one another’s opposites, and to lengthy for God is to lengthy to depart behind the physicality of human existence.

In actuality, Christian religion celebrates the earthly, bodily actuality of human existence and appears ahead to the redemption of our our bodies in God’s new creation. Romance and sexuality aren’t against figuring out God: they level towards him. That is the place Justin Bieber’s “Holy” provides an fascinating voice to the dialog that Hozier and Swift begin. In “Holy,” romance and sexual needs are damaged signposts that time towards God.

On the Altar of Love: Justin Bieber’s “Holy”

At a primary look, Bieber appears to be suggesting one thing just like Hozier and Swift. In a catchy refrain he sings: “The way in which you maintain me / Feels so holy / On God / Working to the altar like a monitor star.” Right here, too, there are references to baptism: the singer needs to “go all the way down to the river” to be purified, and “the sky opens up”—a reference to the baptism of Christ—when the lovers contact. As in baptism, so within the bodily union of our bodies there’s a sort of dying in giving oneself fully to a different. Such a dying purifies and is adopted by a resurrection. So plainly once more within the act of intercourse one thing transcendental takes place.

Bieber’s upbeat music, nonetheless, conveys not one of the sense of looming hazard that Swift and Hozier affiliate with the worship and transcendence skilled in romantic love. As a substitute, there’s a deliberate ambiguity: the altar the singer is working to shouldn’t be solely the physique of the lover, however fairly actually the altar the place he marries his love, and the baptismal waters refer not solely to the act of bodily union, but additionally to precise baptism. Bieber is suggesting another imaginative and prescient of how romantic love and worship mingle: the transcendence of romantic love is skilled as an openness main into divine love, not as a alternative of it. That is doable as a result of the singer in “Holy” lives in a world the place God is current and the place human life is open towards him. In consequence, romantic love is sanctified by God on the altar the place the union of the 2 lovers is blessed, and factors towards God’s love for human beings. On this method Bieber is situating himself within the Christian custom, going all the best way again to the Music of Songs, of seeing human romance and marriage as a picture of divine love.

For Bieber it’s not the lovers’ worship of their love or one another that sustains them, however reasonably their mutual worship of God: by giving themselves first wholly to God via baptism, they may give themselves wholly to one another in marriage. “Formalize the union in communion He can belief / I do know I ain’t leaving you want I do know He ain’t leaving us / I do know we consider in God and I do know God believes in us.” As a substitute of looming hazard, then, there’s a way of full belief and pleasure in abandoning oneself to a different. The contact of the opposite feels holy and is, certainly, a sort of heaven.

The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Bieber is pointing towards a distinct path again to the Backyard, a distinct house for human needs: worshiping a God who shouldn’t be closed off from his world, however current in it, sustaining it along with his presence. Therefore, the worship Bieber depicts shouldn’t be against the embodied nature of human life. Relatively, embodied human existence turns into a pointer towards God.

On this theological imaginative and prescient of romance, human sexual needs carry inside themselves the key of all created issues – the key “not identified, as a result of not seemed for / However heard, half-heard, within the stillness / Between two waves of the ocean” (T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”). The key is that the world shouldn’t be empty of God; quite the opposite, it was created by God for God and finds its completeness solely via him—and so it longs for him, for its personal transcendental finish. The entire cosmos longs to worship.

In gentle of this transcendental longing, it’s not shocking that each one three songwriters make references to water and wine, to baptism and the Eucharist. The sacraments are, in spite of everything, concrete and embodied methods of experiencing a God who shouldn’t be far off, however who seeks communion with us. They’re methods of worship, of experiencing transcendence. As such they level towards the longer term marriage of heaven and earth when God fills the temple of his creation along with his glory. Via the sacraments we give ourselves to God wholly and fully—our bodies and all. And—as is made vividly clear within the Eucharist—via them God offers himself to us bodily. Is it any surprise then that these songwriters who discover the transcendental dimensions of a distinct sort of bodily union can’t cease referring to the sacraments? Whether or not they comprehend it or not, whether or not they embrace it or insurgent towards it, the key is there—not identified, as a result of not seemed for, however heard, half-heard between the pauses and waves of the music.



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