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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : I Don’t Want To Go To Heaven If I Can’t Get In » I Don’t Want To Go To Heaven If I Can’t Get In

I Don’t Want To Go To Heaven If I Can’t Get In

MCQ - December 14, 2011

The title of this post comes from a recently released single, called “Heaven” by the band O.A.R. (which apparently stands for “Of A Revolution”).

This is not a band I follow much, so I’m not very familiar with their other work, but I like a lot of what I have heard of their music. This particular track, the first single of the bands album King which was released this year, caught my attention partly because it’s a catchy tune and has been getting some radio play, but mostly because of the lyrics.

Of course, it’s just a dumb pop song in some ways, but it resonates with some people and is causing some small stir in the Christian community, partly because it captures, in a very articulate and pithy way, a view that is very widespread in our culture and is the reason, I believe, why many people want nothing to do with any organized religion, including ours. That view is that religion pitches heaven (the ultimate goal of existence) as a kind of exclusive country club, and the kind of person you are is really not welcome there.

Here’s the video, followed by the lyrics in full:

I’M UNDERNEATH IT ALL TONIGHT
OUT MY WINDOW THERE’S A MILLION LIGHTS
A THOUSAND HEARTS FEELING JUST LIKE ME
MAN, IT FEELS LIKE HEAVEN OUT HERE IN THE STREET

I KNOW I GOT A LOT TO LEARN
BREAKING BOTTLES ONLY LEFT ME HURT
PLAYED WITH FIRE TILL I BURNED MYSELF
DON’T YOU KNOW THAT LOVE’LL BRING US SOMEWHERE ELSE

SO YOU TAKE THE LEFT, I’LL TAKE THE RIGHT
UNDER ARREST, WE’RE UNDER FIRE
OH, OH, OH, OH
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN
YOU TAKE THE LOW, I’LL TAKE THE HIGH
YOU LOCK THE GATE, I HEAR THE CHOIR
EVERYBODY GOT A PROBLEM WITH THE WAY I LIVE
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN

MAYBE I SHOULD TAKE MY TIME
AND BUILD THIS LIFE BY MY OWN DESIGN
WITH NO DIRECTION AND IT’S IN BETWEEN
EVERYTHING I LOVE AND EVERYTHING I NEED

SO BRING IT BACK
ALL I WANT IS UNDERSTANDING
TO LIVE MY LIFE THE WAY THAT I PLANNED IT
WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING
MAN, IT FEELS LIKE HEAVEN UNDERNEATH MY FEET

SO YOU TAKE THE LEFT, I’LL TAKE THE RIGHT
UNDER ARREST, WE’RE UNDER FIRE
OH, OH, OH, OH
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN
YOU TAKE THE LOW, I’LL TAKE THE HIGH
YOU LOCK THE GATE, I HEAR THE CHOIR
EVERYBODY GOT A PROBLEM WITH THE WAY I LIVE
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN

SO RAISE EM UP, RAISE EM UP
ALL I EVER WANTED WAS A SHOT AT YOUR LOVE
I KNOW AND I BELIEVE
EVERYTHING WE GOT IS EVERYTHING WE NEED
LOVE’LL GET YOU HIGHER
IT SET MY HEART ON FIRE
I KNOW IT’S WHAT YOU SEE
DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF THEY DON’T WANT ME

CAUSE I’M NO CRIMINAL
I’M NOT YOUR ENEMY
ALL I HAVE IS LIFE
AND I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN

SO YOU TAKE THE LEFT, I’LL TAKE THE RIGHT
UNDER ARREST, WE’RE UNDER FIRE
OH, OH, OH, OH
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN
YOU TAKE THE LOW, I’LL TAKE THE HIGH
YOU LOCK THE GATE, I HEAR THE CHOIR
EVERYBODY GOT A PROBLEM WITH THE WAY I LIVE
I DON’T WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CAN’T GET IN

RAISE EM UP, RAISE EM UP
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED IS INSIDE YOUR CUP
DRINK UP
LOVE WILL GET YOU HIGHER

OH, I’M NOT YOUR ENEMY
I NEVER MET NO CRIMINAL
AND IN THE END I’D DO IT AGAIN
I DONT WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CANT GET IN

OH, I’M NOT A CRIMINAL
YEAH I’M NO ENEMY
IT’S JUST THE WAY I LIVE
I DONT WANNA GO TO HEAVEN IF I CANT GET IN

Here’s a video of Doug Pagitt, who is a Christian minister of some sort, discussing the song:

Here’s a quote from one of the band members about the song:

“The song comes from the belief that you are perfect the way you are and if anyone thinks differently, you probably don’t need them in your life,” says O.A.R. guitarist Richard On.

To me, the song strikes a chord (pun intended) with people because it describes a problem that people have with religion that they are often reluctant, or unable, to articulate on their own. No one wants to be told that they are unwanted and unnecessary, and yet that is often the very message that we lead with when we approach someone about our religion. Perhaps that’s not intentional, but the message heard by people we talk to often is: You need this, because there’s something wrong with you. If you change, that is, if you dress the right way and act the right way and become something completely different from who and what you are right now, then maybe you can get into this exclusive country club after you die, where all the right sort of people are going to be.

I think that’s a bad message. It’s bad because it makes people hate religion, but it’s also bad because it’s not accurate. Heaven (or the Celestial Kingdom if you like) is not an exclusive country club, it’s our birthright. When we invite people to be part of our religion we should lead with love first, and let them know they are part of our family. We’re not asking them to join the junior league, we just want them to come home.

26 Comments »

  1. I agree with your conclusion, and have wondered why the idea of heaven isn’t couched differently more often.

    Also, I saw O.A.R. at a very cool theater in Phoenix in 2005. It was the highest engery concert I’ve ever been to, and very memorable.

    Comment by cantinflas — December 14, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  2. They look like they would be a very good live band.

    Comment by MCQ — December 14, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  3. There IS something wrong with you, and me, and everybody. We’re all sinners who need a Savior. That’s the mostly Evangelical way to put it. It’s of course accurate, though I don’t know that’s the tact we should take. I don’t know that this is the message we, the Church, preach intentionally or even unintentionally. However, the culture and people of the church unfortunately often do.
    What you said about birthright is really what we should be preaching. We have a divine potential. We should be saying “Look at what you can have and how happy you can be!”

    Unfortunately, it seems easy for people to think change means we want change of character rather than change of heart and becoming the best ‘them’ they can be

    Comment by Bret — December 15, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  4. I don’t know that’s the tact we should take

    ‘tact’ =/= ‘tack’: it’s a sailing metaphor.

    Comment by L-dG — December 15, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  5. There IS something wrong with you, and me, and everybody. We’re all sinners who need a Savior.

    Bret, you are right about that, of course, but that can’t be our first message. Our first message has to be that God loves you and wants you with him. We don’t hear nearly enough about God’s love, especially as the reason for why people should be involved in the Church in the first place. Love is a powerful motivator. We should try using it instead of guilt or fear.

    Comment by MCQ — December 15, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  6. To summarize what some are saying, it’s a matter of what message we emphasize. To those who are turned off to organized religion, the message that’s being screamed the loudest is the one about heaven’s exclusivity.

    Comment by Trevor Price — December 15, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  7. I agree it’s a matter of emphasis, but those who are turned off by religion in general are commenting on a message that i don’t think we’re emphasizing or even intentionally sending. It’s just a perception. And the only way to combat that perception is to make the opposite point much louder.

    Comment by MCQ — December 15, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  8. L-dG

    Sorry, you’re right of course. Slip of the typing finger/brain:)

    MCQ,

    I agree. I thought that’s what I said. However, I do think we DO use love as motivator when we preach but like you said, the perception isn’t that we do. The hard part is that when we teach people the gospel we tell them all the new rules they need to follow which I imagine gives people the perception we’re trying to fight. Don’t know what you do about that though. It’s the 2nd principle of the Gospel. How do you help people see the love of God and at the same time humble themselves enough to want to change?

    Comment by Bret — December 16, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  9. I think it’s how we teach about repentance that needs to change.

    Comment by MCQ — December 16, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  10. The problem is that we teach the image of a church, not the image of God. That seems to me the problem not only of organized religion but of participation in any social group. The social group takes on a collective identity. The Mormon collective identity is what one takes part in at church, a solid 97% of the time. Most of what we talk about on the blogs are how to navigate the Mormon identity. The trick isn’t making the Mormon identity more appealing to more people. The trick is to ignore it, as much as possible.

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — December 17, 2011 @ 3:02 am

  11. Ignore it, and teach the love of God instead, which we don’t really do very well.

    Comment by MCQ — December 17, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  12. The message that the missionaries teach is that God loves all of His children and wants them to be happy.
    That is the message of the Gospel. That God knows the perfect way to obtain happiness, eternal happiness.
    It is a fact, if you believe in God, and that the LDS Church is God’s restored church, that there is something wrong, to a greater or lesser extent, with all of us. That to find eternal happiness, we need to change those things that we are doing wrong.
    It is also human nature not to like to be told that one does have a few things that need to be changed. But we do no one a favor by watering down the message, rationalizing away incorrect behavior. That is why a restoration was needed.
    The message of the Gospel is one of love. It always has been. The rewards that God has for living the Gospel are laid out for all of us. The consequences are also laid out for all of us. But no one is forced to make either choice.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 18, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

  13. The message that the missionaries teach is that God loves all of His children and wants them to be happy.

    I know that’s what they think they’re teaching, Glenn. Somehow, though, that’s often not the message that’s getting through. That may mean that we need to emphasize it more, or just say it in a different way.

    But I’m also talking about something more than just our missionary discussions. If someone makes it to the point where they are listening to the discussions, then to a large extent, we’ve already succeeded with that person. Many people never make it to that point because they are not hearing the right messages from us as members of the Church, or from Christians in general prior to that. that’s the kind of feeling that generated this song, and it’s not a unique feeling. It’s widespread. That’s a problem.

    The remainder of your comment misses the point I’m making and is largely irrelevant. I’m not talking about “watering down” anything or rationalizing sin, or forcing anyone to do anything. I’m talking about giving people a reason to change their behavior that actually works.

    Most people are not motivated by guilt or fear. Some are. There are some who will attempt to do the right thing regardless of what motivation is used. Those self-motivated men and women are the backbone of not just our church but every church.

    It’s the rest of the people I’m talking about. The people that would be motivated to listen and understand our message and change their lives if only they really understood the love God has for them and his overwhelming desire for them to return and claim their inheritance. Love, God’s love for us and our love for one another is the most powerful motivator for people to change. I don’t think we’re using it enough.

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  14. BTW, the quote from the band’s guitarist in the post above is not a quote I agree with. Telling people they’re perfect the way they are is flattering, but ultimately rings false to most people. People know they’re not perfect the way they are. But they need to feel accepted and loved the way they are before they can find the strength to change.

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  15. Yesterday, the RS lesson was about the final judgement and the teacher asked what blessings we’d get if we earned eternal life. Somebody said we’d get to keep our families and be Gods. I leaned over to the woman next to me and said “I don’t wanta be a God and I don’t want to live forever with my family.” Then the lesson went on to what happens if you DON’T keep the commandments, what you WON’T get. Finally, I raised my hand and said, “you can earn eternal life by obeying the commandments because you’re afraid of what will happen—God’ll get ya, you can come from fear. But it’s better if you keep the commandments out of love for Jesus Christ.” Honestly, sisters had caveats to that. Mormons are afraid to relax, love and hope.

    I kind of hate Relief Society for that reason. Later, a sister raised her hand and went on about only associating with other Mormons to be on the safe side (in my head, I screamed: “What about Arthur Bishop? Gary Gilmore?? Are you nuts?”)

    What the heck happened to righteousness for righteousness’ sake? We are on the wrong track here. The message of this song reflects some of my own frustration. I guess in the latter days, fear works better than love. And some of us are resenting it and bending over backwards to give a different message, which may or may not be self-defeating.

    But grim-faced religious with long noses pronouncing damnation on imperfect people are not doing God or heaven any favors.

    Comment by annegb — December 19, 2011 @ 8:22 am

  16. I guess in the latter days, fear works better than love.

    I don’t think so. I think fear works sometimes and in the short term, but love works always and in the long term.

    But grim-faced religious with long noses pronouncing damnation on imperfect people are not doing God or heaven any favors.

    Love that.

    Comment by MCQ — December 19, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  17. “It’s the rest of the people I’m talking about. The people that would be motivated to listen and understand our message and change their lives if only they really understood the love God has for them and his overwhelming desire for them to return and claim their inheritance. Love, God’s love for us and our love for one another is the most powerful motivator for people to change. I don’t think we’re using it enough.”
    ———————————————————-
    MCQ,
    I really think “the rest of my post” is relevant to the discussion. A person is told of God’d great love, that God loves him/her just the way that he/she is and because God loves him/her so much, He will not cast such an one off. This is a real life situation and is the watered down message of which I was speaking.
    I think that the knowledge of God’s great love is not the message that is being lost. It is the reflection of God’s great love in the way we live our lives, especially in reaching out to those who have made the first tentative steps in accepting the Gospel. Those who see God’s love reflected in the lives of the people in their new religion usually will grow and flourish, while those who come in to an indifferent culture will wither away quickly.
    I do agree with you on your point that people are not really motivated by guilt or fear. And that is not the Gospel message. The Gospel message is here is what the Lord has in store for you, and here is what you have to do to obtain it.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 19, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  18. Glenn,

    I’m not at all sure what you are trying to say. If The things that you are saying are “the gospel message” are that God loves you and wants you in His Church are not getting through to most people. That’s my point. We are not teaching these things nearly as effectively as we need to be.

    The Gospel message is here is what the Lord has in store for you, and here is what you have to do to obtain it.

    I don’t agree that’s the Gospel message.

    Comment by MCQ — December 19, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  19. MCQ,

    I am saying that the message that “that God loves you and wants you in His Church” is the the part of the Gospel message. That message is being taught in the missionary discussions, in the investigator classes, etc (among other things).
    I am not sure how you feel that we are not teaching the message of God’s love as effectively as we should be. I think that this is happening more after we have baptized a new convert rather than in the missionary phase.
    I think that a continuing sincere show of love by the general membership in each of the Wards and branches can do more than any other type of message of love. And in that, I do believe we need to be more effective. Home and visiting teaching records would bear this out, I do believe.
    But all of the love in the world (or out of it) cannot make someone “right” who does not wish to be. I present Lucifer as my star example.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 19, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  20. Glenn, did you read the post?

    I am not sure how you feel that we are not teaching the message of God’s love as effectively as we should be. I think that this is happening more after we have baptized a new convert rather than in the missionary phase.

    We’re not teaching it as effectively as we should be because most people are not getting it. That’s why people say the things that they say about not wanting to associate with organized religion (including our Church) and say the things this song is saying. Things like our involvement in prop 8 and other hateful divisive campaigns haven’t helped. By contrast, the Church’s stance on immigration HAS helped and I thank God for that.

    What happens after baptism is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about breaking through the barriers to get people interested in our Church (or religion in general) in the first place, and sending the right message so that they continue to want to hear more after they hear our initial message. I think our initial approach has to be about love and acceptance. It’s only after someone feels loved and accepted that they are motivated to improve their lives and change for the better.

    I feel like I’ve said all this before.

    Comment by MCQ — December 20, 2011 @ 12:53 am

  21. We’re not teaching it as effectively as we should be because most people are not getting it.

    Here’s a quote from one of the band members about the song:

    “The song comes from the belief that you are perfect the way you are and if anyone thinks differently, you probably don’t need them in your life,” says O.A.R. guitarist Richard On.

    Is this the message that we must promulgate in order to be “more effective” in spreading the word about God’s love? That people are perfect just the way they are? That they do not have to change anything to be included in the Celestial Kingdom?

    MCQ, I am afraid that many do not accept God’s word, God’s religion because they are getting the message effectively, and that message is one they do not want to hear. The message that there are things that they need to change, that they are not perfect the way they are.
    I am not talking about the superficial things, such as how one dresses or styles their hair, but the things that God has said that must be changed.
    I will give you an example. A young man I knew was taking the missionary discussions. He was welcomed into the young adult group in the ward and had participated in many of our activities. However, when the missionaries taught him the lesson on the law of chastity, it all came to an abrupt end. He was a womanizer and just felt that he could not give that aspect of his life up. It was not the message of God’s love that he did not receive, but the message of change that he did receive which turned him aside.
    Should the missionaries have back pedaled and told that young man that what he was doing was okay? Not to worry about it?

    I think that the line would better read, “I don’t want to go to heaven if I have to change anything since I am already perfect the way I am.”

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 20, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  22. Glenn, are you paying any attention at all to what’s been said previously?

    I said in #14:

    BTW, the quote from the band’s guitarist in the post above is not a quote I agree with. Telling people they’re perfect the way they are is flattering, but ultimately rings false to most people. People know they’re not perfect the way they are. But they need to feel accepted and loved the way they are before they can find the strength to change.

    If you’re not going to pay attention to the discussion, thenm there’s no purpose in talking to you.

    The point of this post is that people are being asked to change without FIRST getting the message that we love them and God loves them. Do you understand the word FIRST?

    I’m not saying to tell them they don’t need to change. I’m saying give them the context they require in order to want to change.

    My point is that most people are not motivated to change their lives just because you ask them to, or just because it’s a requirement to get into your club (whether that club is Heaven or the Church). They are motivated to change only when they understand and feel God loves them and wants them to return to him and that change is requires to be the person that they want to be: the person who can stand in God’s presence with others who love and need them. You have to link the desire to change to something they actually desire. Membership in the club isn’t enough for true change of behavior, especially if you are asking them to give up ingrained behavior.

    In your example, why would the young man you taught want to change from being a womanizer? You made no mention of giving him any reason to do so. You just said you told him that was a requirement and then he backed off. That’s exactly the problem I’m talking about, Glenn. You never showed him any reason why he would want to change that part (or any part) of his behavior.

    You have to give people a reason to change, not just tell them they need to do it in order to qualify for membership in your stupid club. Unless people actually feel the love of God and the love of others in the Church, there’s no reason for them to change their lives in any significant way.

    Comment by MCQ — December 20, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  23. Should the missionaries have back pedaled and told that young man that what he was doing was okay? Not to worry about it?

    No, they should have back-pedaled and told that young man that God loves him and wants him and that the other young men in the ward love him and want him to be with them. Just saying those words alone is not enough, people need to feel the truth of them, but saying them is a start, and it’s something we don’t do enough.

    Comment by MCQ — December 20, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  24. In your example, why would the young man you taught want to change from being a womanizer? You made no mention of giving him any reason to do so. You just said you told him that was a requirement and then he backed off. That’s exactly the problem I’m talking about, Glenn. You never showed him any reason why he would want to change that part (or any part) of his behavior.

    You do not know that at all. You are making some assumptions. The young man in question really felt, or at least said and indicated that he felt loved by God, felt the church was true, and had a wonderful relationship with the young adult group. That message of love and friendship was what really attracted him to the church. He had received the discussions God’s plan of salvation, the Atonement by Jesus, etc. He had no problem with the concept of tithing and the other doctrines that he had heard. No problem with the Word of Wisdom. He seemed to have but the one stumbling block that he could not or would not overcome. He was still friends and friendly with the young adults when I departed the area.
    Contrast this with another young man that the missionaries tracted into. He was heavy into the drug scene, he and his girl friend and was living the life he wanted until he heard the message the missionaries had for him. He was able to give up the drugs, alcohol, and free love life that he had been living. The young adult group welcomed him into their midst and his girl friend also eventually followed, took the lessons, and joined the young adult activities.
    All three of those young people heard the same messages, consorted with the same group of young adults, but chose different paths.

    No, they should have back-pedaled and told that young man that God loves him and wants him and that the other young men in the ward love him and want him to be with them. Just saying those words alone is not enough, people need to feel the truth of them, but saying them is a start, and it’s something we don’t do enough.

    Now, I will be one of the first to admit that I am not perfect and that the missionaries are not perfect, nor is anyone else that I know. Yet I will dare say that the missionaries as a whole come the closest to showing that pure love of Christ that sends them out into the world for two years to try to spread the message of God’s love. This was the message that all three of those young people heard in the very first meeting with the missionaries.

    I don’t think those missionaries needed to back pedal to say something that they had been saying all along, nor do I think that young adult group needed to back pedal to show a love they had been showing all along.

    So who are the “we” you are speaking of? What blueprint can you give us beyond “God loves you and wants you to be with him”?

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 20, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  25. Glenn, if you don’t get it by now, there’s no point in continuing this discussion. You now say that love had been communicated to this young man and the others you have seen taught. If that’s the case, then that’s all I’m arguing for, but I find it odd that this is the first time you have mentioned it.

    Just giving the discussions does not necessarily communicate love, nor is every missionary good at communicating that love just because they happen to be on a full-time mission.

    Comment by MCQ — December 20, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  26. MCQ,
    I really think that I “get it”. I just do not agree with the basic premise that you seem to be presenting.

    We’re not teaching it as effectively as we should be because most people are not getting it.

    Granted that none of us are teaching it as effectively as we should, that we all need to improve on that aspect, but your evidence for that conclusion is most people are not getting it does not follow from the evidence.

    The actual evidence that you presented via the song and the quotes indicate that people are not getting it because they do not want to change. I presented a real life example of such an one, and another real life example of two others who did desire to change while receiving the same message in the same environment.
    Over the years I have seen this same scenario played out over and over. A person begins receiving the discussions and are receiving spiritual conformation that what they are hearing is true. However, when they learn “the rest of the story”, they find something that does not sit tight with them and walk away. This actually happens more time than it does not.
    Yet there are those who do receive that same spiritual confirmation and when they hear “the rest of the story”, they realize that there is nothing of an earthly nature that they have to give up that can compare with the things that God has in store for them.

    If there is any place that we, as a church, are falling down, it is in the aftercare that the new converts receive.

    Or there may be those who are like the son of Alma the younger, Corianton, whose bad example was a detriment to the missionary efforts of Alma and his other son among the Zoramites.

    And in that vein, I think you are correct, that we as LDS need to let the way we live the Gospel and treat our fellow man, to let our “light so shine before men, that they may see (y)our good works, and glorify (y)our Father which is in heaven.” (From Matthew 5:16) And we need to do it better.

    Thanks for the dialog and the food for though.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — December 21, 2011 @ 6:45 am

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