I am a Christian but I have a bone to pick with the Christianity I often encounter. Shallow Christianity, it seems to me, has never discovered its base in Judaism. Our base Bible is the Hebrew Bible. Too many Christians want to skip over that.
Deeply devotional and profound is this meditation on Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. Cohen is the accomplished song writer who just died. The speaker is a British rabbi and philosopher Henry Sacks. He goes into what seems to me to be at the base of both religions.
One of the things he says is that the first time love occurs in the Hebrew Bible is in Genesis 22:2 where Abraham hears God say that he must kill his only son, Isaac, “whom you love”. That puts the biblical idea of love in a fraught and conflicted context from the beginning.
Cohen, in his song, says that the help never came, the love never came.
At this time of year Christians affirm that “love came down”. We tend to say that the help did come and the love did come in Jesus. But for all who have the long dark death-strewn plight of the people of God under Stalin and Hitler high in their consciousness, I see how it is easy to say the help/love never came.
And yet Cohen’s song affirms God as a lover and puts himself at God’s disposal.
I dealt with the death of one of my children. I have dealt with my father getting Alzheimer’s. I have been through deep worry about my granddaughter’s health and my wife’s health. Sometimes the love of God seems to come to our aid. But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes the only stance you can take is that of Cohen. You see God as great and yourself as small. You do not let go completely of hope and trust.
To go deeper into the idea of love, I am very interested in Jon Levenson’s new book The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism. As a Christian I should read and compare this to another new book that I hear is groundbreaking: John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. So I am making a reading list for 2017.
I know I have put up a video of this song before. But there is now a better version available.