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Personalism and Universality

Harold Bloom's Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine has to be taken a piece at a time. It's certainly the toughest book I have faced in a long time, although I assume he wasn't writing it for people like me who have only a passing familiarity with -- and only marginal interest in -- theology.

It helps to have studied Shakespeare and French novelists. (I was once a theatre critic, and have an M.A. in English.) For example, Bloom sees similarities between Jesus and Hamlet and the "vivid personage" that is Vautrin in Balzac's La Comedie Humaine.

Besides being pretty abstruse, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine seems at first blush defensive about the uncomfortable way millions of Americans interpret Jesus as their personal property.

". . . Every searcher for the 'historical' Jesus invariably discovers again herself or himself in Jesus. How could it be otherwise? This is hardly deplorable, particularly in the United States, where Jesus has been an American nondenominational Protestant for the last two centuries . . . I do not disapprove of our natural tendency to hold individual conversations with a personal Jesus. I don't see that it makes Americans any gentler or more generous, but only rarely does it make them worse."

I think you are treading on dangerous ground -- dismissive fundamentalism -- when you claim a personal relationship with Jesus, and at the same time feel the need to convert or proselytize. You can't claim a 'personal' relationship and universalism simultaneously.

Forgive me Mr. Bloom, but more often than you seem to admit 'holding individual conversations with a personal Jesus' makes people less tolerant of those who don't hold such conversations, and even of cultures who don't agree with the Gospels that Jesus is Christ above Torah.

Clearly, this will be one of many posts. I hope no one gets bored as I slog through Bloom. This I know to be true . . . my journey will be worth it at least.

New York, New York

A Wall of Light - And Some Darkness