A Weak God: Gnosticism for the 20th Century

Ron Rosenbaum wrote in Tablet, 29.9.17:

God in Struggle, a God not all-powerful, but one who needed us, needed our help in his wrestling with evil in the universe and thus silently sat by during the slaughter: This was, Norman Mailer told me once, “the one big idea” behind his fiction and nonfiction as well. He puts it in the mouth of every one of his protagonists from the fictional Sergius O’Shaughnessy to the real-life Gary Gilmore: God is weak and needs our help to hold off the devil. It is the groundwork of the entire literary movement now called “black humor.”

Norman Mailer always struck me as a guy who took to heart this old-ish Jewish saying:

Everyone should have two pockets, each containing a slip of paper. On one should be written: I am but dust and ashes, and on the other: The world was created for me. From time to time we must reach into one pocket, or the other. The secret of living comes from knowing when to reach into each.

Then again, Rosenbaum continues in his Tablet article:

In 2016, Haaretz reported on the finding of an expanded Hebrew version of Eli Wiesel’s Night, in which he expresses profound hatred for European nations, as here, where he describes at length his Christian-Hungarian neighbors, who joyously watched the Jews of his hometown being deported. “All the residents stood at the entrances of their homes, with faces filled with happiness at the misfortune they saw in their friends of yesterday walking and disappearing into the horizon—not for a day or two, but forever. Here I learned the true face of the Hungarian. It is the brutal face of an animal. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I were to say the Hungarians were more violent toward us than the Germans themselves. The Germans tended to shoot Jews.” When Wiesel, then a journalist in Paris, came to Francois Mauriac, a French catholic, in the late 1950s with his manuscript to ask for recommendations about getting it published, Mauriac seduced him. In effect, he offered what Wiesel might not have realized was a Faustian bargain. “Yes, I’ll translate it and get it published and make sure the world pays attention. But I will denature, defang, diminish it by turning it into a Christian allegory that exalts my version of God. Not the god Wiesel depicted as Hitler but Mauriac’s “god of love.”

About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
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