Take Me to Church – Warning: This is NOT a Nice Post

**Seriously, this is not a “nice” post so if you’re squeamish about hard topics or are tenderhearted about conflict, skip this one.

steeple FBCHVTake me to church . . . the lyrics play large on the radio as I try to de-stress between families in crisis.

The young man’s voice floods my car with angry passion –he feels damaged by the church, he’s resolved to worship at another altar, he affirms his allegiance to a god with no absolutes who urges him to worship in the bedroom

His heartbreak is palpable through the back beat– the artistry, the language, the pain – take me to church. The young man braids his agony into lashing cords aimed at the back of hypocrisy.

I’m moved, and conflicted by the gospel style burdened with words that condemn.

The inspiration for his song is outrage at sick acts of violence against homosexuals in his homeland and the preachy words that incite those acts. My spirit is awash in his pain. My heart deluged with sadness

Sadness for the gentle young men and women damaged and tortured by ignorant brutes tattooed with a self-righteousness that is insufficient cover for their sins. For the twisting of the message, the perversion of God’s word transformed into a Billy club by those who seek to impose it, enforce it, promote it without knowing the One who spoke it into being. They have no insight that their crimes, too, nailed Jesus to the cross. That they, also, are an offense without the righteousness provided only by Christ on the cross.photos by Hannah Roeleveld

This violence against these gentle men and women quickens their commitment to their own sin, widens their separation from God, as they are tortured in His name. This, too, saddens me. Saddened that they allow evil to hurt them three times – once with words, once with fists, and once with an elixir of deception that promises healing while delivering death.

Struck by the power of its rhythms, its lyrics, its emotional truth, the music draws me in and yet, I know, I can’t enter this young man’s sanctuary because on his altar burns a strange fire.

This is how he must feel, too. He’s appropriated the metaphors, the gospel beat, and the verbiage of the church, so he’s attracted to its beauty, longs to enter in but he stops at the door because he rejects the words spoken inside, knows he must choose, chooses to kneel before a lesser god, who is no god at all.

I understand. There are truths that divide. There are lines and people must choose to stand on one side – or the other. The emotional truth of the singer’s pain moves me but I know he has ingested a lie at the altar of his goddess as she serves deception at her communion table. I will not share this cup.

This song is a glass wall sealed from the inside and he doesn’t realize he’s chosen to remain on the side with the abusers, the hypocrites, the ones holding the knives because they, too, have let the wafer of falsehood dissolve on their tongues, poisoning their blood, blinding them all.

Jesus didn’t come to say, “everything’s going to be all right.” If the consequences of sin weren’t real, He wouldn’t have had to suffer, bleed, or die. When Satan offered Him the world at the start of His ministry, He would have accepted it and moved on. Instead, He rejected the offer knowing everything was at stake. Everything hung on the cross.

When Herod beheaded Jesus’ cousin for the crime of saying that Herod worshiped in the wrong bedroom, Jesus said this: “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” Matthew 11:16-17 (ESV)

Jesus knew that Satan has an enticing soundtrack.

The music can have an alluring back beat. The lyrics may contain the compelling poetry of a broken soul. The harmonies may evoke compassion, the melodies may captivate with half-truths and the heady high notes of shame, but if we dance with deception, we’ll wake up chained to a foreign altar worshiping a cruel prince who laughs at our pleas for mercy.

Take me to church, for I am not ashamed to worship at the altar of the One True God, Jesus Christ. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

At the altar of the one true God, there are truths spoken – truths that divide – absolutes – and those who reject them by word or by deed are welcome at other altars but they won’t find freedom there, or healing, or life, or peace.

Jesus didn’t come to say everyone is okay. He said, in fact, we’re all wrong. The gentle souls who choose to worship in the bedroom instead of at the cross are as wrong as the sadistic malefactors who brutalize them for sport – they can all be reconciled to the Father but only through Jesus Christ. There is only one holy communion.

Those who worship must worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus died to rescue gentle sinners and vicious ones alike. Love is patient and kind. Love always hopes. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love doesn’t brutalize, love sacrifices its own life.

Those who worship Jesus Christ don’t worship like dogs; we worship as free women and men. We worship as friends of God.

Take me to church, loved ones, for I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” Take me to church and join me there, interceding for those bewitched by the beautiful melody of a dangerous lie.

**Please note, any comments on this post that disparage one sinner or particular sin as worse than any other will be deleted. We all are sinners in need of Jesus Christ. Pharisee-ism and hypocrisy produce as great a stench as brutality and sexual sins. Comment with love and truth, loved ones.

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    The Conversation

  1. Long story short: I’m a rebel, a prodigal who was in the far off country for almost 25 years. It was legalism and a broken Christian and (pastors) family that set my feet to running. My return Home was in late 2007 and have unlearned much. I often say that I ran for freedom’s sake and ended up in chains.

  2. I woke this morning with the exact thought and prayer on my heart. I actually wrote a post about it but did not finish it yet. Thank you for this Lori It needed to be said and you did a great job. I will share my post with you once I prayerfully finish it. Love, Grace and Truth that is what living the Christian life is all about. Gods love in us speaking the Truth while applying grace.

  3. Linda McClellan says:

    That is such a hard subject to even try to talk to about. It actually scares me to say what I feel is right. First, and this is my opinion, anyone is welcome in God’s church, no matter what color, what beliefs, preferences (sexual or otherwise). They are welcome, God loves everyone and as Christians we are to love others as we love ourselves. We may not approve of everyone or their way of life but we love them because they are created by God.

    When all this marriage between same sex couples came up or rather became something spoken about commonly everyone made a decision of how they felt and stuck with it. Many going totally overboard from both sides. I studied the Bible and have been for many years and two people of the same sex getting married in God’s house is not biblical. If a church decided it’s going to do it, or bless these unions that is up to that church and it is also up to the parishioners whether they want to continue going there. And NOT because of that person’s lifestyles but because of what God says in the Bible. It split the church I was attending, and I’m not naming denominations, and my husband and I switched along with about 10 other families that had held positions such at vestry members, and such. It was a very hard decision and split a lot of friendships as well, the people who believed this stayed and resented the ones that left. It was a mess and it’s still going on, Bishops are stepping down and leaving. I don’t know the answer to the problem, I hold nothing against anyone for joining my old church if they have. I will not judge or try to understand, I know the Bible and that’s it! Only God can judge!

    • Brave of you to comment, Linda. It IS a hard subject. I pray hard and hold my breath every time I write about it.

      • Ann Knowles says:

        Lori, God bless you for the truth you speak. From the first time I read this blog, I felt like God was putting words in your mouth to speak to people who need to hear. And we all need to hear the things you write. It is the most compelling blog I read and it touches my heart every day! Thank you for being brave and standing up for the truth of God’s word in a way that shows your love for Christ and for others.

  4. Judith Robl says:

    This is a difficult subject. One of my best friends had a son who died of AIDS twenty-odd years ago. I loved this boy from the time he was little. He was like one of my own. It was a huge grief on all sides. We love the person, not the sin. But we do a disservice to people when we just nod in politically correct agreement, anti-un-dis-ir-regardless of the right or wrong of the behavior.

    Thank you for taking on this difficult subject with your usual truth and clarity.

  5. Another meal full of Truth that divides like a sharp-edged sword.
    Thank you for the words, the song, and especially for the caveat at the close.
    May God bless you for your Disturber activities. Amen

  6. Tamson Jensen says:

    I LOVE this song – have had it stuck in my head for weeks. I was so intrigued, I recently looked up some interviews to see if I could understand what the lyrics meant. The singer said it is not an attack on faith — it is a mixture of lots of experiences and metaphors but the video definitely highlights the persecution of the LGBT community. He’s from Ireland and said there’s a “cultural hangover from the influence of the church.” It’s such a gift to be able to write a song like that — that creates curiosity and conversation and allows everyone from Christians to atheists to relate and identify with it in some way. I’m sad for the way he feels about the church, but I also get it. We have done some awful things in the name of God and on our “fine looking high horse” we sit in judgment, and create us vs. them, create barriers (which we justify is for their own good – after all, it wouldn’t be a loving thing to do to accept their sinfulness) — all while claiming to know the love, grace and mercy of God. Christians might not want to admit it, but I think this song beautifully captures how many people feel about the church.

    • Tamson, I love how you’re able to hear the heart of the songwriter. I think most Christians understand this song is how many people feel about the church, the challenge is knowing how to respond. It’s definitely wrong to judge, to hurt, to condemn, or to put up false barriers. I think it’s also wrong to pretend there are no absolutes in God’s word regarding behavior. As much as it is up to us, we need to be at peace with everyone but we aren’t free to dismiss what God requires of us all – and that is to die to self.

  7. Maxine D says:

    This hobbit is disturbed – on many levels. Thank you for disturbing me.

  8. Your article caused me to watch the music video on Youtube. I watched half of it. It was poignant, sad, angry…as you said.

    The church is called to love. Jesus commanded us to love. He didn’t exclude any group from this love.