Leave Room For The Holy Ghost! (Take Me To Church)

There are two parts to this message. I am going to start with the second part first, because it is what prompted me to write this today, combining it with earlier thoughts. Today I had a couple of errands to run and I went out to Garner as a result. It’s a bit of a drive, which means I turned the radio on. And before anyone says anything, yes, I listen to secular music, and we’re not discussing that here. If the fact that I listen to secular music offends you to the point where you want to argue, stop reading this and unfriend me and save me the trouble. After what I recently learned about a gospel artist is any indication of where gospel music is, it’s not much better than regular music is anymore…but I digress. In the process of having the radio on, I heard a song that is by Hozier (whose sound almost reminds me of Elton John), titled, “Take Me To Church.” I noted a couple of the lyrics and I had to stop and think about what was being said. According to what I discovered, the song is supposed to be an allegory comparing his girlfriend/significant other to religion or spiritual worship. This is an interesting proposition in and of itself for a song…but I couldn’t help but note that some of what he says in the song isn’t particularly complimentary.

The lyrics to the song are as follows:

My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshiped her sooner

If the heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week

‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it

My Church offers no absolutes.
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you—

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen

[Chorus 2x:]
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

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

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

[Chorus 2x:]
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

No Masters or Kings
When the Ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin

In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am Human
Only then I am Clean
Amen. Amen. Amen

[Chorus 2x:]
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

I think the thing that stopped me dead was when he got to the part, “I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife.” Along with some of the other lyrics, I sat in the car and wondered, is this really what people think about church? Do people really think that church is about doing the things that are listed in the song – gaining prestige, looking tasty and plenty, worshiping at the place of lies, not offering an absolute, creating fabrications about heaven, inflicting judgment – is this really the impression we have of church? Then my thoughts went immediately to – is this really the impression of church that the church has given?

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we have – and are – giving the impression that “church” is something we have to earn. We worship at the altar of our own vain works, making people think they aren’t even worthy to walk in the door unless they have mastered our “Thou Shalt Not” lists. Ironically enough, these lists often are not clearly written out in Scripture, based on years of the traditions of men (yeah, Catholics aren’t the only ones with those) that we have upheld through the years without a thought. Before anyone darkens our doorways, we want to make sure they understand what we hold as our own “gospels” and want to make sure they look like…sound like…feel like…we do…about everything.

The pursuit of such has become a judgmental witch hunt, one which plays out before people even reach that pivotal point of decision-making process. Every one of us, in our lives, does not just make our singular “Jesus is Lord” confession and then find ourselves done with it. Over and over again, we are faced with the decision to walk away from the Lord or continue on as He wills for us. We still face temptations, we still face obstacles, and instead of upholding this precept and encouraging people toward God, we make the task so intimidating, we are pushing people the other way – into giving up on God.

The first part of this – “Leave room for the Holy Ghost!” is a phrase any Catholic school kid will remember, but, most likely doesn’t make the leap for those unfamiliar with Catholic school culture. It used to be that when we had a dance, the chaperones would tell us, “Leave room for the Holy Ghost!” This meant that we weren’t supposed to be all smushed up against our date, but we needed to leave a space between us – that “room” was for the Holy Ghost. Any time someone would say that, we would know it meant we had to “break it up,” so to speak, because we were dancing too close.

In parallel, I am always telling people to “Leave room for the Holy Ghost!” in evangelism. Just as with dances when I was younger, we are evangelizing “too close” to people. We are so all-up in their faces about whatever we think holiness is, about sin, about them sinning, and about what they should or shouldn’t be doing that we aren’t leaving room for the Holy Ghost to come in between what we say and enter into their hearts as it is His job to convict, not ours. People are being smothered, all because we don’t leave the Holy Ghost room to move or work in someone else’s life.

My parallel to the song above: we are trying to play “Holy Ghost” and not leaving room for the true Holy Ghost to move. Maybe we don’t think God is working fast enough or well enough, or maybe it’s just convenient that God isn’t convicting someone about something we think He should be. The result of our overbearing, controlling behavior are feelings expressed in the song above. People think that because Christians can’t leave room for God to convict or work in others, that church is all about the Christian reflection: waiting to stab you in the back over your sins, becoming bigger and grander all the time, reasons why someone isn’t going to heaven, and about the deathless death.

I’m not saying that we have to agree with everything that everybody does. I am not saying that we have to condone anything or give anyone “permission” to do things. But maybe, just maybe we need to take a step back and breathe and let God deal with people about some of the things they are doing in their lives. Maybe we need to get past this idea that we even have a place or a right to tell people what they should or shouldn’t be doing so directly and with such emphasis. Maybe, just maybe we need to look at ourselves and our own witness long enough to make sure we measure up to what we preach, ourselves. We need to “leave room for the Holy Ghost.”

Then maybe we’ll get others to a point where they at least feel welcome enough to come through the door.

© 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.


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