Honor Among Thieves (or the lack therein)

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“Upon hearing the first verse and chorus, I thought that this was nothing more than a rapturous praise of sexuality gone too far—a goddess with the alleged power to absolve his sin and make him well. I was uncomfortable with this, but then I immediately realized that what Hozier is doing will be condemned as sacrilegious by anyone with a conservative bent, and that should come as no surprise—certainly not to him.” [1]

“Hozier, and any other artist, can use words as if they were on the free market. But they aren’t. Words have a relational meaning in the divine-human community and a history to boot. In short, Hozier is using stolen capital of the Christian faith. And I, for one, would like it back when he’s finished toying with it.” [2]

“Christian morality (so called) has all the characters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than action; innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil, rather than energetic Pursuit of Good: in its precepts (as has been well said) ‘thou shalt not’ predominates unduly over ‘thou shalt.”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

“Beware of organizations that proclaim their devotion to the light without embracing, bowing to the dark; for when they idealize half the world they must devalue the rest.”
Starhawk

Picture me, drinking my morning coffee on the day that same-sex marriage became legal in Alabama, stumbling onto this article while searching for the original video of Hozier’s song. At first, I was intrigued. Why, here was a Christian on a site that touts the values of the Christian faith dealing with a specifically radical song and claiming to be moved by it! It didn’t hurt that he wrote brilliantly—all of the commas in place, all of the thoughts well versed—something that even I forget to do in blog writing. In fact, he snuck in his bitch-slap so deftly at the end that I almost thought I deserved it.

Almost.

It should go without saying that the original meaning of the song is somewhat disregarded by this author. If there is any doubt, you can always watch the interview in which Hozier clearly denotes that the song is an indictment of the homophobia and its related violence in Russia. Of course, the church carries its heavy share of the blame. Interestingly enough, Mr. Hibbs side-steps this angle and lunges straight into an accusation of theft of Christian terms and their related dogmas. There is only one sentence that refers to the intended focus of the song, but even it is only in parentheses. If Hozier has stolen Christian capital to make a point, Hibbs has stolen the resistant rhetoric of the LGBT movement to reclaim it.

But this is still not what chaps my bum. (After all, this tactic is what many of us do when trying to reclaim ourselves.) What really irks me? He’s wrong. Plain and simple. Let’s break this down a bit.

His claim is that the word “church,” and all of the divinity that the term represents, is Christian. And now we have a party folks. You see: the word actually derives from the Greek term “kuriakon or kyriakon,” or in German “Kirche,” or in Hebrew “kikkar” (circle), or the Anglo-Saxon root word “Circe” . . . in other words (yes, I see the pun): it is a Pagan term. Most often? It’s in reference to the structure/body/house of a Pagan god(dess). Any simple research will take you here. And that, my friends, is only half the problem.

As one of my blog followers clearly pointed out: he skips over the second verse of the song, altogether. Can’t say as I blame him—it’s a doozy:
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
To 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 [3]

Smart man, refusing to deliver on an argument here. It’s simply reverent. I hear it and my knees buckle: he’s singing the words of my people. We are over 30,000 years old and have been sacrificing, worshiping, and slinging our faces toward the sun forever. Amen, amen. Mr. Hibbs, however, ignores this passage and pushes on:

“What makes Hozier’s words effective is the Christian faith itself. The central themes in the song–worship, sanctity, identity, relationship–and the words he uses to express them have little weight if not grounded in biblical revelation and the history of the church.”

*Cracks knuckles*. Let’s get this straight: these are Christian words? Christian themes? We have stolen from, um, you? This premise wholly denies the worship, sanctity, identity and relationships of legions of souls that were long upon the Earth before Christianity—and its representative “call to papers” text—ever shouted their first hallelujah. I get it though. What better way to make yourself right than to ignore history, science, anthropology? Alabamians have been doing this forever—and at least haven’t attempted to hide within the satin sheets of linguistic prowess. It looks more like this: “Y’all is going to hell. God said so.” Brother, please.

I contend that the author of this article is, well, unnerved by the rapturous nature of the song. (Strange how it reminds me of homophobic reactions to anything that smacks “gay.”) And that is fine and good—we understand. But man, read a book. Pick up one on etymology. If these terms (worship, sanctity, church) are Christian capital, we are only stealing them back. All’s fair in love and bullshit. But more than anything, dude, we never considered them “capital.” The whole concept of it being such gives me the willies—but hey. If you’re building an Empire . . .

Or a Walmart with a cross . . .

But let’s push further. The article also claims that:

His words are effective because they are weighty, but they are only weighty because of the gravity given to them (1) by God himself, whose Trinitarian nature is the basis of all effective communication; and (2) by years of use in the Christian tradition. The way I see it, Hozier is trying to exploit that historical use in order to praise what he considers to be the essential mark of humanity: sexuality. He has, in a sense, stolen weighty words from the church in order to empower his message for the world. My question upon hearing the end of the song was, “is he allowed to do this?”

Yes, Mr. Hibbs. Yes, he is allowed to do this. You see, not everyone ascribes to your dogma. Your first premise is, well, as ridiculous as assuming that dinosaurs died because they couldn’t fit on the Ark. The second assumes that stealing and using terms for your own gain (regardless of “years of use”) somehow makes such an act noble or just. Such an argument could also assume that stealing my car, driving around in it to go to church and such, makes the car yours because of “years of use.” And you dare to question my right to reclaim the car? Why, that car is Pagan, sir. I think the bigger question is: why do you need it? Oh, capital. That’s right.

Mr. Hibbs: some things are not for sale. If it is true that “Words have a relational meaning in the divine-human community and a history to boot,” then you have a sincere apology to write. History does not begin just a little over 2,000 years ago—and your faith has no dog in this fight. In short, Mr. Hibbs, you are using stolen terminology of the Pagan faith. And I, for one, would like it back when you are finished using it as capital for the Christian church.

But I digress into anger. Does Hozier sling the church into question? Yes. Does he take some liberties with assumed terminologies? Yes. Did he flip the church on its uppity ass to illuminate that the emperor has no clothes? Perhaps. My response to Hozier’s song, “Take Me To Church?” is pretty simple:

Thank you. Thank you for reaching past the institutional horror of religion and landing in something spiritual and real. Thank you for allowing for a moment in which we can become “clean” in the sexual and primal moment of real love. Thank you for calling out “the church” as that which deems us “sick,” simply because some of us love someone of the same sex. Thank you for reclaiming rapture. Thank you for mentioning—regardless of why—the reverence of “goddess” within that moment. And, forgive them. They know not.

Sorry, Mr. Hibbs, but if we are to tally how much of your Christian capital was earned on Pagan backs—well. I, for one, will need the deed to your house. Contact me for my bank information.

Signed,
A Pagan

1.  http://www.reformation21.org/articles/stolen-capital-the-weight-of-words-in-hoziers-take-me-to-church.php

2. Ibid.

3.  Hozier, “Take Me To Church,” Rubyworks: Island-Columbia: 2013.

About Southern Fried Witch

Deep-fried magic tastes better with ranch dressing.
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11 Responses to Honor Among Thieves (or the lack therein)

  1. Woot!! Yes, ma’am and Amen.

  2. Sarenth says:

    Nicely said. I loved the deep passion with which you wrote this, and agree with your voice here. Thank you for writing and sharing this.

  3. Sable Aradia says:

    Reblogged this on Sable Aradia, Priestess & Witch and commented:
    Somebody give me a hallelujah!

  4. Lunapo says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Deb says:

    Most excellent! Thank you so much for this powerful post!

  6. Robin Prine says:

    I loved this – going to read it again! HUGZ!

  7. Pingback: Honor Among Thieves (or the lack therein) - Pagan Business NetworkPagan Business Network

  8. GrandbabyWitch says:

    Silly muggle…

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