“Love at Home”: a deconstruction

When I was a kid I was often told that singing a hymn to myself or out loud was a good way to banish Satan or to remind me to “choose the right.” And when you spend half your life in meetings these hymns become embedded in your subconscious.

Today, sort of out of nowhere, I remembered a hymn that my Mom used to often sing at us, sort of ironically, when I was fighting with my siblings. It was a hymn that, once I turned my mind to it, I found I remembered almost ever word of the first verse from memory. That hymn was “Love at Home.”

Because the church has put their whole hymnal online for anyone to see, I was able to look it up and read the lyrics that had risen to the front of my mind.

And I was completely fucking horrified. Let’s take this one verse at a time shall we?
1. There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound
When there’s love at home.
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on ev’ry side.
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there’s love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there’s love at home.

What does this teach? What message does it embed in our malleable brains? That love is always – every second of the day – joyous and peaceful. That you can only love someone when you’re smiling, and being sweet. That there is “joy in every sound” – no arguing, no debating, no communication that involves conflict of any kind. That if there are disruptions in the sweet gliding of time we are do not actually love each other.

2. In the cottage there is joy
When there’s love at home;
Hate and envy ne’er annoy
When there’s love at home.
Roses bloom beneath our feet;
All the earth’s a garden sweet,
Making life a bliss complete
When there’s love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Making life a bliss complete
When there’s love at home.

“Hate and envy ne’er annoy when they’re love at home.” You’re never allowed to be annoyed, to be angry, to feel any feeling that is hard or sad or expresses conflict because if you do you don’t love the other person. Everything in the house is a fucking rose. Life is bliss complete when there’s love at home. If you aren’t literally happy every second of the day, if you ever are not blissful then you are doing it wrong. You’re not loving right. Everyone else knows how to do this and you’re failing.

3. Kindly heaven smiles above
When there’s love at home;
All the world is filled with love
When there’s love at home.
Sweeter sings the brooklet by;
Brighter beams the azure sky.
Oh, there’s One who smiles on high
When there’s love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Oh, there’s One who smiles on high
When there’s love at home.

So now that we’ve defined love as absent of any conflict or emotions that aren’t the color of an easter egg, we say that heaven is only happy, that Heavenly Father will only smile at us when there’s love at home. Again, if there is anything dark or sad or hard, we must not be loving right and Sky Daddy is sad. “Sweeter sings the brooklet by; brighter beams the azure sky” so the world is only made beautiful by fluffy fucking fake love.

This is not what love is. Love is hard. Love is conflict. Sometimes love is arguing and debating and talking through things. Love is about letting people express their hard and ugly feelings. Love is not trying to cover everything with a coat of light pink paint.

Also disturbing, is that this is filed under the topics: Home, Joy, Love, Motherhood.

That’s right– only mothers are responsible for making sure the house is quiet and calm all the time. Fathers aren’t responsible for love, or for teaching their children how to love. They aren’t responsible for their emotions, or for their part in resolving conflict.

Nope, just mothers. Only mothers have to find a way to make inherently conflicted people into lobotomized zombies.


One thought on ““Love at Home”: a deconstruction

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  1. It’s amazing how problematic even the most positive-sounding messages can be. When I first read those verses, the worst thing I thought about them was that they were saccharine and cheesy, but harmless enough — I mean, what could be wrong with a message about loving one another? But then I see those deeper implications about the *kind* of love the song is promoting — a shallow, conflict-free, never-tested love. I’m reminded of the Anne Sexton poem, “Cinderella,” which ends with the image of that supposedly “happily ever after” kind of love:

    Cinderella and the prince
    lived, they say, happily ever after,
    like two dolls in a museum case
    never bothered by diapers or dust,
    never arguing over the timing of an egg,
    never telling the same story twice,
    never getting a middle-aged spread,
    their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
    Regular Bobbsey Twins.
    That story.


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