Saturday, July 22, 2017

It Was DAVID Who Sang, NOT Jesus: Review of a Book Title

The Brick Testament: folk art, outsider art.* 

I was grazing postings on Facebook and read: “I am so grateful for The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.” A good person wrote that. I didn't mistake her intentions, which are to share her joy and kindness and humanity. But the books title?

Songs of Jesus? In Psalms? Jesus? Who didn’t make his entrance until the Psalmist was long gone, the Psalmist being King David and others who weren’t quite headliners but had a way with words, wisdom and beauty.

The book's title conflates fact and history. I suppose some might cry, “alpha” “omega” eternal now, always existing, and other and varied mystical perspectives of time and space. Don’t they know the long and cruel history of the West? I went to a Protestant Sunday School every Sunday when I was a kid.  For fourteen or so years. We read the Bible. That’s what we did. Read out loud (at which I excelled) and discussed (which was hard because I was shy). We were aware of the book's two major parts and in no way were encouraged to believe Jesus wrote, or dictated, or was remembered as saying anything but his words — all of which are hugely famous, many of which are beautiful and inspiring, some of which are confounding.

In my adulthood I learned that the mentions of Jews in the New Testament, a book created by committee, are prejudicial. One might say, antisemitic. I say, cringe-worthy, especially in John (of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John fame), i.e., “the Jews picked up stones to stone him” … “and the Jews began to grumble” … “the Jews were watching for him.” 

In adulthood I have found it hard not to walk out of church at Easter (I was baptized in the Episcopalian church when I was in my forties) when “the Jews” are vilified by dint of writing, editing, and callous refusal to rework the sacred (but openly debated for centuries) texts. This is similar to hearing news reports of Jews killing Palestinians, when it is Israelis who are doing the killing and wrongly claiming the land.

I never, however, heard a minister credit Jesus with writing the Psalms, or hint at same. As this title does: “Songs of Jesus...” This echoes Songs of Solomon, and, since “Psalms” is a selling point in the title, echoes The Psalms. 

For me, this is “truthiness.” For me this is prejudice, obfuscation, arrogant appropriation. 

Because I am half-Jewish I suppose I am especially sensitive to slights. But those slights work out historically as a reason to blame and hate (which humans seem to love to do), as pogroms and worse, so, cut me some slack. And honor history. Even a title as simple as, The Psalms from Jesus’ Perspective, would pass muster. 

If you gotta lie, you are hiding something.
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