Leonard Cohen, the Christ-Haunted

From a piece I wrote for First Things marking the passing of Leonard Cohen:

“What I mean to say is that there are many things about Christianity that attract me. The figure of Jesus is extremely attractive. It’s difficult not to fall in love with that person.” After praising Christ’s emphasis on resurrection and rebirth, [Cohen] concluded, “When we have this notion that there is no mechanism for resurrection, there is no redemption from sin, then we are forced to embrace evil and we get the kind of activity like genocide.”

Another popular song, “Ain’t No Cure for Love,” is at first glance a simple love song. The “surface to the song,” as Cohen said, is the story of “a man who could not shake the feeling that he had lost the woman of his life and that there was no solution to this problem, and that even time was not a solution.” Beneath the surface, however, was what Cohen described as a “kind of theological or philosophical position”—namely, that “the condition that most elevates us is the condition that most annihilates us, that somehow the destruction of the ego is involved with love,” after which “you can never again feel at the center of your own drama.”

This idea, Cohen recognized, pointed toward Calvary. After all, “if the wound of Jesus comes to express his love for mankind then it will never heal.” For someone who described himself as having “no religious aptitude,” that’s quite a profound insight.

Read the whole thing.

1 Comment

  1. “Hallelujah” is another song written by Leonard Cohen, originally released in 1984. Interpretations vary but most agree it is a commentary on broken love.

    In 2006 Kelly Mooney, a Catholic musician from Rhode Island, wrote a set of lyrics adapted to Cohen’s original melody. In 2010 she secured the mechanical rights from Cohen’s publishers so that today we can now hear this most beautiful song about the greatest love story of all time.

    Thank you Leonard and Kelly.

    You can hear Kelly’s beautiful adaptation along with the lyrics at:



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