Dissecting CARCASS’s “Heartwork” – Fifth Incision

This is the fifth in a series of articles analyzing the lyrics from the 1993 Carcass album “Heartwork”.

“Embodiment”

I bow down your precious icon, deity of self suppression
This effigy of flesh, corporeal christi, nailed
In submission to this false idol, seeking deliverance
From this spiritual hierarchy, downward spiralling, a corrupt throne
Of repression and guilt

Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn

On my knees, before this tormented flesh, in irreverence
In communion with this parasitic host of virtuous divinity
This imperious creed bears testament to the failures of our morality
Righteous durance is our cross we bear in stations
In stations of the lost

Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn – thy kingdom burn
Our will be done

From your knees arise
By your own hand, your god you scribe
The earth shall inherit the meek
Your god is dead

Bound down, in God we’re trussed, foul stature
Icons embodied in flesh, we nail
In servitude to deities fashioned in our self image
Shadows of eternal strife cast by those who serve
Serve a crown of pawns

If up until this point you weren’t sure how the band Carcass feels about religion, “Embodiment” states it completely and in no uncertain terms. The song is an outright renunciation of organized religion, Christianity in particular.  The lyrics bubble with hatred and scorn for the self-annihilating principles that they believe mark the Christian outlook.  I don’t share the disdain that the band feels for Christianity, but the force of the language used in their argument is highly compelling.

The song’s central argument is that Christianity is an advanced form of slavery.  They make the case by dismissing the existence of any fathomable God, and assume the goals of religion are to allow those in power to continue an unfettered hegemony over the practice of free will.  Where some perceive peace and comfort, Carcass sees control and subjugation.  Certainly, some of their argument is legitimate.  There are scores of historical examples, from The Spanish Inquisition to the excesses of The Crusades, where the misuse of religion has advanced the selfish ends of a tyrannical elite.  However, the song fails to address much of the comfort and solace that it has brought people for over 2,000 years.  Further, it would be facile-minded to simply assume that the self-abnegation at the core of Christian thought is a completely bad thing. Foregoing one’s desires to benefit the community is often—in religious or secular context—a constructive contribution to the human race as a whole.

In spite of the problems the argument presents, the language is striking.  The core belief is contained in the beautifully efficient and devastating pun “In God we’re trussed”.  By taking an expression found on American money and perverting its message, Carcass is able to make several critical points.  First, the use of a religious phrase in an economic context effectively links the agenda of today’s Christianity with the pursuit of financial gain.  Then, they take the phrase and change “trust” (an act of faith) into “trussed” (to be tightly bound, or in this case, completely controlled). Essentially, they argue that, while you may choose to subvert your needs for the Church, it will not extend you the same courtesy—and worse, it will use your belief to hoodwink you into giving up your possessions and your liberty.  In their eyes, it is the greatest hustle in human history.

The true penance paid by believers is best expressed in the heart-wrenching lyric “the earth shall inherit the meek”.  The original phrase—“the meek shall inherit the earth”—is an appeal to the Job-like masses, that give so tirelessly but ask for little in return.  They suffer in silence, but at the end of the day will be rewarded…or so the story goes.  The good and humble people will come to control the earth, and the wicked will be cast from it.  The subversion of this expression contains allows for a very troubling message to be presented.  If you suffer in silence and do the right thing, your reward will be the grave. Death awaits us all, and those who are pious and righteous are rewarded with the same eternal darkness as those who pillage the world blind. The meek will be buried right alongside those who engage in a Dionysian life of personal excess and unabated greed.  The ground cannot tell the two apart.

If this argument is legitimate, it presents us with chilling questions about how we should live our lives; questions that go beyond religion.  If there are truly no consequences for our actions, why not do whatever we want? If all that is promised to us for a good life is an eventual death, what is the motivation in living justly?

I believe that the truth or untruth of God’s existence need not bear on whether someone acts morally.  If every word of the Bible is true and God’s existence is exactly as portrayed in Christianity, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  If every word of the Bible is false and Christianity is an unholy scam perpetrated by on the masses by ruthless power mongers, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  The reward of living a just life is simply getting to live a just life.  That’s all.  The earth may inherit the meek, but at least the meek can lessen the suffering of those around them.  Nothing else is promised and nothing else is certain.  T.S. Eliot eloquently summarizes this principle in his poem “Choruses From The Rock”

All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.

It is our station to care for one another to the best of our abilities, regardless what the truth of the universe is.  Love without condition is the greatest gift we could bestow on the universe, no matter the terms of our existence.  Any philosophy that brings us closer to that ability is worth our respect and consideration.

[If you like what you just read, author Keith Spillett regularly unravels his brains into The Tyranny of Tradition  ~Ed.]

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