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

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.

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