“Take Me to Church” by Hozier is a potent critique of the institutionalized religion and its restrictive standards, wrapped in a veneer of a sultry love song. He juxtaposes the free-spirited, raw emotion of love with the rigidity of religion, emphasizing the inherent human need for freedom and acceptance.
The opening lines, “My lover’s got humour/ She’s the giggle at a funeral,” immediately presents a lover who stands opposed to societal norms, a giggle in a place of solemnity. She is a symbol of unbridled freedom, a stark contrast to the conformity that religion often imposes. Her being referred to as “the last true mouthpiece” indicates her as Hozier’s true spiritual guide in his life.
In the chorus, “Take me to church/ I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies/ I’ll tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife,” Hozier equates religion to a shrine built on lies. Worshiping “like a dog” perhaps signifies blind devotion. He presents confession (“I’ll tell you my sins”) as a vulnerability exploited by the church, equating it to a knife being sharpened.
The verse, “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,” Hozier redefines his own faith with his lover at the centre. His religion includes the celebration of love, pleasure, and the natural world. Yet, he also acknowledges that love, like religion, can demand sacrifices.
The song’s bridge, “No masters or kings when the ritual begins/ There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin,” is a clarion call for a love that is freed from societal and religious judgements, a world where love and desire aren’t labelled as sin. Lastly, the verse “In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene/ Only then, I am human/ Only then, I am clean,” suggests that in the throes of love and earthly desires, Hozier finds his true humanity and his version of purity.
“Take Me to Church” acts as a scathing critique of the Church while uplifting a sensual, earthly love that feels far more real, more human to Hozier. It’s a clarion call to love fearlessly, to question narratives handed down by establishments, and to craft our own version of faith, love and honesty.