Singer, priest, boss: the latest from Sinead O’Connor

John J. Thompson

John J. Thompson
August 21, 2014

On her latest album, Sinead O'Connor speaks of the church with the authority of a boss and the compassion of a big sister.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
August 22, 2014

I wanted to be sure to post the "Take Me To Church" video along with your piece, John, because it works so well along with the music as a sort of confessional (especially the opening, which superimposes the current Sinead over the former).

I do have one question each time I watch it, though, and it has to do with this line: "I'm the only one I should adore." In context, it comes after she's described the sort of "love songs" she used to write, presumably to please others. So there is the sort of self-respect and self-discovery you speak of here, yet it also seems to contradict the selflessness of true worship (which is, after all, a key part of church). I guess I'm wondering, when does self-respect cross over into self-worship, and how do you read this line in particular?

John Thompson
August 22, 2014

Yeah - that line jumped out at me too. Honestly - other than that line I feel the song could work as a "call to worship" in many church contexts. But - upon further reflection the line doesn't bother me.

First - there is Proverbs 19:8 - "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good."

Also Ephesians 5:29 - "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes (adores?) it, just as Christ also does the church,"

I've got a hair-trigger for new-agey, feel-good, self-love ideas. But I think in the context of this song we are confronted with something different. Those are the words of a woman who, it appears, has invested excessive energy in "adoring" others - be it men, culture, acceptance, etc. It feels to me that she has had a sort of revelation that those affections are misplaced and that she is wasting her love. By saying "I'm the only one I should adore" I believe she is talking about self-respect and doing what is right for her instead of compromising and trying to satisfy others - men in particular. The fact that she immediately follows that line with "Take me to church" also seems to say that the first step in "adoring" or loving oneself is to get yourself to safety - to remove yourself from the place of abuse and harm.

It's hard for me to sing along with that line - but I get it. If this was written as a congregational worship song I'd be all over it. But as a personal reflection on moving from a place of objectification (love songs, being "that girl", etc) to a place of personal peace and purpose it makes sense.

I also think the song deserves consideration within the context of the songs that come before, and after it. I think it makes more sense that way. And I'm serious about the fading out thing. I wanted to write a whole paragraph on that. Just about every song feels truncated - but none more than that one. It feels she had more to say, but stopped herself for some reason. Somehow I doubt that it was coincidental or meaningless.

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