“Take Me to Church” (Hozier)

A lot is made of the fact that Hozier’s lyric cites Christopher Hitchens citing Fulke Greville’s “Chorus Sacerdotum” from 1554 regarding the Christian predicament: “Created sick— Commanded to be well.” In this way, it’s been possible to understand singer Andrew Hozier Byrne as a Hitchens’-style fellow traveler: an anti-Christian secularist and atheist. But the purpose of Hitchens’ appropriation of Greville (in Letters to a Young Contrarian [2001]) was to highlight the problem of Christian sacrifice and salvation: “I didn’t ask for it, and would willingly have foregone it, but there it is: I’m claimed and saved whether I wish it or not.” Hitchens calls this structure of sacrifice “totalitarian” and “worse than a Big Brother state.” Hozier Byrne, however, actually doubts the doubter. Rather than announcing the end of sacrifice, he both transports it back in time, and makes it personal in present-tense scenarios of affection: “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.” In a way, then, “Take Me to Church” doesn’t believe that we are done with sacrifice, and doesn’t accept that it can be finished by fiat. If even love has a sacrificial structure it is likely that we remain firmly embedded.


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