How Can We Compete?

Last Sunday was a busy day, so I was looking forward to curling up in bed and sparking up the DVR to watch the season finale of Call the Midwife. When I got ready for bed and turned on the television, the first show to pop up was the broadcast of the Billboard Awards and, more precisely, Hozier singing his hit song, “Take Me to Church.”

The song was not new to me. My eighteen-year-old daughter is a fan. I was aware, then, that the song is not a positive song about the church. Instead the lyrics feature this 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. Offer me that deathless death. Good God, let me give you my life.”

Hozier is an Irish singer who is distressed about the dominant church of his homeland and, in particular, the treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church. The problem is that the song conveys a sweeping brushstroke that fails to capture that his complaint is against just one aspect of the Church. These days, many of his listeners are likely unfamiliar with Christian churches and denominations. And worse, they will take his lead in deciding that all of the Christian “Church” is bad and unwelcoming of lots of different kinds of people, especially homosexuals.

This is completely wrong and false. Those fans singing along ardently are misled and misinformed.

NOT ALL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND DENOMINATIONS ARE THE SAME. NOT ALL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND DENOMINATIONS ARE UNWELCOMING OF HOMOSEXUALS. NOT ALL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND DENOMINATIONS REQUIRE A PROFESSION OF A PARTICULAR DOCTRINE OR DOGMA.

But, how can churches, especially small churches like the one I serve (which is welcoming of all, including homosexuals), and small denominations, like the United Church of Christ (also welcoming), compete with the powerful images promoted by such hugely popular singers like Hozier?

Why is it so difficult to recognize that the Christianity is made up of a diversity and variety of styles, beliefs, approaches and perspectives?

Or, is it that it’s just more convenient to continue to cast the Christian Church as one universal, singular entity with one system of belief, and that one system be the easiest to criticize and mock?

I’m sure musicians like Hozier appreciate that listeners have some understanding of the diversity of expression in music, and that even within “categories” of music, there are differences and varieties, and that the public should have at least some level of respect for such diversity.

I ask only the same sort of respect for Christians. We are like “musicians.” We might have something in common in terms of an umbrella concept of what we are about, but under that umbrella, there are many different kinds and many different forms of expression. I don’t expect everyone to understand completely the differences, but at least to acknowledge that they exist.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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