A Pastor's Open Letter to Hozier and His 'Take Me to Church' Song

Dear Andrew,

I have been meaning to write this for some time but when I saw your performance at The Grammy's it finally moved me to action. When I first heard about your song "Take Me To Church" I was intrigued. I thought it was good someone would write a song about going to church. I listened to the song, I liked your voice, I liked the arrangement and I liked the song. But then I listened again, I read the lyrics and my thoughts drastically changed. The song sounded good until the words began to sink in.

"I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies, I'll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife."

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"Every Sunday's getting more bleak, a fresh poison each week."

"That's a fine looking high horse, what you got in the stable? We've a lot of starving faithful."

Why so much hate? Lies, poison, knife. Every Sunday's getting more bleak for the starving faithful. Really.

Pastor Rick McDaniel
Pastor Rick McDaniel | (Courtesy of Richmond Community Church)

I had to find out more about you to understand why someone would write such lyrics. According to interviews you seem to have animus toward the Catholic Church and definitely an issue with Russia's laws against homosexuals. Still to indict all of Christianity seems quite harsh. It is worth noting you wrote this song when you were only 22-years-old. Your fellow Irish rocker Bono has arrived at a very different view of the Church and Christianity with a few more years of life experience. Maybe given some time and a few more interactions with Christ followers you might have a change of heart.

The line, "I was born sick but I love it, command me to be well," paraphrases the 17th century British poet Baron Brooke Fulke Greville's Chorus Sacerdotum. You said you heard that quoted by atheist Christopher Hitchens during a debate. I wonder whom he was debating and who won? Was it a true heavyweight Christian apologist like William Lane Craig? Or did Hitchens further your disenchantment.

I should probably just let this go and trust you will get wiser with time but the popularity of your song makes that impossible. Even you admit the way the song has taken off is totally unexpected. Do people really share your sentiments or do they just like your voice and the song's arrangement? I don't know the answer but since the song's message is so wrong it needs to be addressed. I feel like Julia Kadison, the CEO of the Milk Processor Education Program. After the British Medical Journal published a study suggesting drinking lots of milk could lead to earlier deaths she drew a line. She said, "That's enough. We can't have these headlines that 'Milk Can Kill You' and not stand up for the truth."

It may just be a song, you may or may not be a one hit wonder but I can't let it stand without a response. Your anger with Russia's anti-homosexuality laws should have nothing to do with the Church. Catholics, evangelicals and other Christians are not supporting Russia's discrimination against homosexuals. If you are upset with Russia write a song about them.

Your frustration with the Church or Christianity seems to center on sexual morality. The "stay out of the bedroom" line appears to be one of your favorites. Things don't just stay in the bedroom. Lives get shattered because of adultery, unplanned pregnancy and disease. The Church believes sex is a gift from God. We believe you need to understand human sexuality through the lens of God's morality.

Christians believe sex is designed for married couples, for a husband and wife to enjoy. Whenever sexual relationships take place outside of marriage there is hurt of some kind. If you don't agree with this teaching that is your prerogative but to call it poison is absurd. The poison is the damaged relationships, the poison is the divorce, the poison is the porn addiction. The knife you speak of is not one bringing hurt or death it would be a scalpel doing surgery to bring healing and life. There may be initial pain but ultimately the life is saved. The real lies are sex requires no commitment, sex is just the act and relationship is not necessary for true intimacy.

Your high horse line would indicate you think the Church is being judgmental. But expressing the truth about sexuality is necessary. The Bible teaches right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. There is a place for appropriate judging since moral direction is the role of the Church. Christians should not be intimidated, marginalized or silenced from speaking the truth. You are free to write and sing your music and I am free to challenge your thinking and lyrics. I hope as time goes by you will be open to learning more about the Church and Christianity. I trust you will come to see the value of Christian morality.

Rick McDaniel is the senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Va., and He is the author of Comeback: Overcoming The Setbacks In Your Life. Twitter: @rickmcdaniel

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