Sunday, January 03, 2010

Leonard Cohen on the State of Christianity


From an online chat...
Seth: You have such vivid Christian imagery in many of your songs,
and much of it is contrasted with the selfishness of the "modern"
individual. I was wondering what's your take on the state of
Christianity today?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Seth, I don't really have a 'take on the state
of Christianity.' But when I read your question, this answer came to
mind: As I understand it, into the heart of every Christian, Christ
comes, and Christ goes. When, by his Grace, the landscape of the heart becomes vast and deep and limitless, then Christ makes His abode in that graceful heart, and His Will prevails. The experience is recognized as Peace. In the absence of this experience much activity arises, divisions of every sort. Outside of the organizational enterprise, which some applaud and some mistrust, stands the figure of Jesus, nailed to a human predicament, summoning the heart to comprehend its own suffering by dissolving itself in a radical confession of hospitality.

18 comments:

Heather said...

i don't know what this means! but it intrigues me. :o)

Anonymous said...

This is quite thoughtful. I believe he captures what is at the heart of Christianity. He does it tactfully without having to resort to taking potshots at the institution. Christendom is an altogether easy target--tho most of us would have been deeply attracted to what Jesus was on about.

Anonymous said...

"Do not suppose that I come to bring peace..."

...

Beth said...

My goodness. His Buddhist training shows there, as one might expect, but that's a million dollar answer in terms of cutting right to reality. (Do you have any fuller source citation, btw?)

J. Andrew Camp said...

Fantastic stuff. I'll never forget the first time I heard the 2nd verse of "Suzanne" and what that meant for us sailors.

mjaneb said...

Amen, Beth. He cuts right to it. What a mind!

Anonymous, what is that "Do not suppose that I come to bring peace..."?

Aaron J said...

mjaneb,

Anonymous was referring to Jesus' quote in Matthew 10:34-39:

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

It's a hard passage, that is for sure!

Rev. Brian R. Dixon said...

Whether you characterize the experience Cohen describes as Grace, Mercy or Peace... this may be an answer for hope as full of truth and beauty as they come. Two phrases from Cohen's answer continue to ring in my ears: "In the absence of this experience..." and "Outside of the organizational enterprise..."

mjaneb said...

Thanks, Aaron J. Just another "What the hell, Jesus!!" from me.

mjaneb said...

woah, Leonard Cohen.

Ricky said...

From an online chat? So dear Leonard composed that juicy morsel on the conversational fly? Goodness gracious. That sucker's going on my fridge! Thank you muchly!

Variations On A Theme said...

really spectacular

emlarson said...

@Beth a fuller citation and more detail is at:

http://www.canoe.ca/JamChat/leonardcohen.html

Seems like it dates back to October of 2001.

stephy said...

Why you gotta make me cry, Leonard? He makes my heart go pitter-pat.

Suzanne said...

Having listened to Leonard back in the early 70's, I knew he was brilliant, but it was hard to find those among my circle who wanted to listen. I am so thankful to see that you are all appreciating his poetic prose. He has such a gift.

Mike Todd said...

Pure genius.

Jeannette said...

One of the anon commentors brings up Matthew 10:34 "Do not suppose that I come to bring peace..."

yes and...

Read the words of Jesus recorded in John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Cohen was very articulate from a place of intimacy where his heart is not troubled. Thank you for sharing this.

Martin Grossman said...

The key to understanding Cohen's position on Jesus is that he admires him as as a Jewish teacher, not G-d. He has never abandoned his essential Judaism . His interested in Buddhism has not changed his commit to his commitment to Judaism or Jewish ideas either. He once said he sees Christianity as having brought many Jewish ideas to the world and quotes Maimonides as having seen Christianity similarly. He is also critical of the failings of the Church's anti Judaic history in many poems and comments.