You Want it Darker: A Song of Accusation and Lamentation

Leonard Cohen’s newest single/title track to his new album You Want it Darker is as close to perfect as I have heard in terms of modern poetry.

At 82 years old Cohen has distilled a lifetime’s worth of experience and writing into a beautiful frightening song that is wonderfully simple and complex at the same time.

It is Cohen in the role of prophet singing in a voice of lamentation and accusation. But which prophet? Part accusing Job and part wailing Jeremiah, it is a brilliant blend perspectives that points fingers at both God and self (as humanity’s representative).

The song goes as follows:

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker

 Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lordThere’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer, let me out of the game
If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory, mine must be the shame
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord

[Outro: Cantor Gideon Zelermyer]
Hineni
Hineni, hineni
Hineni

 

The words make me shiver as I read them again and again. Here is Cohen taking on the role of the priestly caste of Israel (as the Cohen’s are part of) and using his voice, the voice in the song; Cohen standing before God as he nears the end of his life claiming that God is culpable for the state of things and that we are Gods accomplices:

You want it darker, we kill the flame

Like the brashest of the prophets he speaks without fear of recrimination with the challenge leveled to God again and again in Hebrew – “Hineni, Hineni, Hineni, Hineni” or “Here I am” made even more powerful by the fact that it is sung at the end by a cantor from a Montreal synagogue.

It is the ultimate human cry, made most poignant through the experience of Jewish history from Egypt through Babylon and Aushwitz – “Where are you oh Lord?” sung as a round alongside “We know we have failed you just as you are failing us“.

These are the words of a man who will not hide his face but rather stand before God without apology and speak honestly without care for the consequences.

I cannot say enough about the significance of this song/poem in the Cohen anthology of writings – it is truly astounding.

Daredevil as Christ

I am now three episodes into Daredevil season 2 on Netflix and while I do not think there will be any spoilers ahead just in case I will say now –

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

“he descended into hell…” – The Apostle’s Creed

There is an obvious irony in developing a character named Daredevil as a sort of Christ for Hell’s Kitchen but in some ways this helps us see the overlap with greater clarity in that we expect there to be none so when they show up they do so glaringly.

Backstory – as a child Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) is involved in an accident that leaves him blind with his other senses heightened to superhuman levels. In many ways he sees far more now than before (or at least after training and honing).

Murdoch’s mother is long gone, his father dies not long after the accident leaving him detached from traditional parents.

Raised Catholic his religion, its various themes and iconography have significant shaping effects on Matt as he evolves into Daredevil. One could argue that Daredevil evolved long before Matt ever put on the uniform in the sense that it is his persona and not some separate alter-ego that comes to life when he suits up, like so many other superheroes. Matt Murdoch is Daredevil and Daredevil is Matt Murdoch.

Daredevil most definitely has a Messiah complex. He very strongly feels that only he can save the people of Hell’s Kitchen. He recognizes that others help in their way but only he, is uniquely fashioned to ultimately do the job.

If Murdoch is Christ than his priest acts as the voice of God for him as he regularly seeks out his advice.

There is a very strong resemblance between Christ and Daredevil in what must ultimately be done for salvation to fully occur – that is that their body must be broken and their blood must be spilled.

There are times when one can almost hear the words of the sacrament if communion from 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 as we watch Daredevil fighting with the forces of evil…

He broke it and said “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Each time Daredevil enters the fray it is as if he is performing some form of penance on behalf of the ones he is saving and even for those he is fighting, who he believes can be redeemed; Each time it is as if he is partaking in communion.

While there does not need to be a perfect overlap if we were to extend the analogy further we could suggest that Murdoch’s partner Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page fill that role.

The Spirit of God is not so evident or direct as either God or Christ but no less powerful a motivator. Both act in a way that offers constraint and reminds Daredevil that, unlike God, he is constrained and has limits.

If Daredevil is Christ than in season 2 The Punisher, Frank Castle, is fallen Adam…the corrupted image of God/Christ who personifies perfectly Daredevil’s mission. He is both the broken that needs redemption and the evil that needs cleansing.

It is apt that Castle is also Catholic as in some ways he is a dark reflection of Daredevil. He is temptation in the sense that he offers to Daredevil a way to deal with the problem of evil by eradicating not only the source but all who is infected by it.

Daredevil recognizes that evil can only be dealt with at the source if it is to be defeated. To walk the path of eradicating those who are also infected by evil is to walk a path that would ultimately lead to the realization that all of humanity must be eradicated…that none deserve life and all deserve death. This is the path that Daredevil sees and resists at all costs…Castle cannot see this and walks the path willingly.

Daredevil does not send the evil to Hell but rather to Purgatory. Part of Catholic theology Purgatory is that place where the redeemable go to be purified to a point where they can one day enter Paradise. Prison is Purgatory and Daredevil believes that through the criminal justice system people can find redemption.

It is appropriate that Murdoch became a defense lawyer because in his role as Daredevil he continues his advocacy. Christ being the ultimate advocate for humanity the comparison is more than appropriate.

Ultimately Catholicism is the strongest influence on Murdoch who is shaped into not the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen as he is know so much as the Christ of Hell’s Kitchen, offering his body and blood as sacrament for the dispossessed, the evil and the broken that through it, they might be saved. He does this in the same way as the Priest does within the church only in this instance the church is the streets and rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen.

Why the devil suit? Ultimately, while we may conjecture about the similarities between Daredevil and Christ Matt Murdoch would certainly have none of it. The choice of the Devil as his personal imagery has less to do with frightening criminals (as he himself might suggest) and more to do with his own sense of unworthiness and sin.

Ultimately this aspect of Daredevil is what keeps him grounded. It is his humanity and it is the humanity of those he confronts as they are faced with an image of who they really are inside. It is also representative of the ongoing battle Murdoch, and the rest of us, have with ourselves.

Daredevil is the Christ of The Apostle’s Creed, descended into Hell, seeking to save those already there.

Gender Identity & the Trinity

I find it interesting that many people have gone through great and torturous grammatical and theological gymnastics and contortions to attempt to convince other people of a Christian trinitarian view of God (to which I subscribe) but these same people cannot for the life of them comprehend the emerging nuance and complexity of gender identity among their peers.

I have used all sorts interesting examples to attempt to explain the Trinity (God as three distinct personas sharing one essence (this is where the 3 in 1 phrase comes form).

I have read even more odd examples that do the Trinity a disservice: God is like three-in-one shampoo; God is like an egg (shell, white and yolk); God is like Aquafresh toothpaste etc. They are all cringe-worthy.

There is no good demonstration of this in reality because it is a paradox.

PARADOX: “A seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true” – Oxford English Dictionary

paradox

I remember once taking three separate glasses of water and pouring them into a single glass as a demonstration of three in one…glazed looks met me.

I remember trying to use Saint Patrick’s legendary shamrock demonstration of three leaves in one…still confusion.

God is. God is Creator. God is Christ. God is Holy Spirit. God is one. Christ is not Creator. Creator is not Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is not Christ. All are one God sharing the same essence. Not three Gods. God is.

This is Orthodox Christianity.

This is very confusing.

The Creator has historically been referenced as Father. Christ as Son…both therefore as masculine. Although it is more appropriate the call the Creator Father/Mother given that the creation narrative speaks of people being created in God’s image of Male and Female. Biblically the Spirit is often feminine and referred to variously as Sophia (Wisdom/Feminine) etc.

So while we continue to allow the paradox of the Trinity to exist within our faith frameworks clearly demonstrating unique gender identities within the Godhead… we cannot seem to grasp a non-binary way of dealing with human gender identity.

Why do we struggle with this?

Likely because difficult ideas that do not meet our experience hurt our heads. We like simple answers and things we can understand. We are not fond of paradox.

Well some people resolve the paradox by simply affirming that God is He. HeHeHeHeHeHe…there is no identity confusion or blending…God is He and that is final.

Of course to do this is to be dishonest with scripture and the cultural, time and language-bound context within which it was recorded. It denies very clear references to God as female, and God as female and male, and God as something other than these two.

But He is what we know and love because He is historically strong in a patriarchal society and He is the word most commonly translated from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into our languages. We grasp onto He as though it were the last log of a rapidly unwinding raft in what we perceive as the raging and frighteningly chaotic tsunami of gender identity conversation that is flooding unwanted into our world.

A clue to the way through might exist in the fact that regardless of perspectives on God all views can be boiled down to one primary, foundational point – we call and identify God as (BLANK) because we believe this is how God views God’s Self.

Therefore perhaps we might bow to what others are choosing to call themselves as well – be it He or She or Ze or They or something else. We might not understand it. We might feel it is some form of paradox. We might not like to have more than two categories…but as with, God perhaps the other knows best and we should learn to respect this.

Christian Vaccum: A Minor Rant

Sometimes I wonder if Protestant (particularly evangelical) Christians think that there were no Christians between the dates of 313 CE (the legalizing of Christianity) and 1517 CE (general beginning of the Reformation).

I say this because I often read various posts on blogs etc. by Christians. When their references fall between the above dates there is often the attachment of “Catholic” written in a way that one imagines it being said aloud in a foul tone followed by a hearty spit. 

When Protestants speak of Christian history, often the word ‘Christian’ is only attached when it is referencing denominational history post-Reformation or early church history pre-313 CE. I find this annoying and betraying of a serious bias.

It is as if there are people who seriously think God was not involved in the history of the church for one thousand two hundred and seventeen years.

A little humility needs to be injected at this point: 

– Christian history is a theological history of God’s interaction with humanity, centred on Christ…it is not selective

– The Protestant Bible is 188 years old and is any Christian Bible translation or revision that follows the 1825 decision by the British and Foreign Bible Society to omit books of the Biblical apocrypha. (see Wikipedia).

– The Catholic Bible is 1,613 years old (traced to Latin Vulgate) comprising the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including the deuterocanonical books. (see Wikipedia; with apologies to the Orthodox Catholic for not mentioning the minor differences between the two).

– A church is a natural, mutually desired gathering of Christians for the sake of celebration, worship, education/edification, prayer, healing, etc. A church is NOT a building designated Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc. 

I think, with these realities in place, a more mutually respectful dialogue can take place between ALL Christians regardless of their very human denominational structure/designation or lack thereof.

What if you found out God was real?

I am posting a link to a video of a recent Youtube video segment of Ray William Johnson and Anna Akana’s show Runaway Thoughts because there is a portion of it that I think is VERY interesting.

Before you watch it you should know that MOST of what you wade through to get to the portion I am talking about WILL offend you aaaaaand likely a lot of the part I am referring to WILL offend you. Lots of vulgarity and language.

But I think its worth it for the section of the video I am referring to – specifically the section in which they answer a viewer’s question “If you found out that God was real what would you change about your life?”

Listen very carefully to this discussion because I believe it is very much the position a large segment of western culture is heading in terms of their views on God – particularly as presented by Christianity.

Once again if you watch it prepare to be offended – you have been warned. Don’t watch it if you get offended by vulgar references to sex and sexuality or bad language.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPJn6bXfA-E