Franklin Foer became the editor of The New Republic in March, and this already seems to be good news for people who seek lively and opinionated coverage of religion. Only a few weeks after publishing a lengthy cover-story attack on Richard John Neuhaus, it has now published a lengthy cover-story attack on Harold Bloom.
Like the article on Neuhaus, the essay on Bloom feels too ad hominem. James Wood, a New Republic senior editor, describes Bloom as “addicted to continuous [book] publication,” which means “Bloom must fatten his thesis” in his latest book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.
Still, Wood offers much legitimate criticism of how Bloom mixes his literary criticism of the New Testament with his quirky theological tastes as a Gnostic Jew:
Since he has no interest in the tradition of Jewish or Christian theology, he never quotes from it. Since he disdains much of the New Testament, he would rather confess his bewilderment than examine its sources. He gestures constantly toward the majesty and vividness of J’s portrait of Yahweh, but he rarely quotes from it, referring us instead to The Book of J. His chapter on Paul, who is supposedly Bloom’s arch-antagonist, runs barely to two thousand words, and maunders amid idle speculation …
What a strange parochialism, that imagines everywhere only a literary mode of being! (And what strange literary taste, that gets itself so much more excited by the Book of Mormon than the New Testament.) Why is Bloom so sure that the “warfare” between the two books is aesthetic and not theological? … Does Bloom really think that Paul and John sat down to write thinking to themselves, “Well, it is time to take on that immense literary rival, the Yahwist”? The curious effect of Bloom’s theological blindness is that his book reduces theology to aesthetics and simultaneously inflates aesthetics to theology: there is no greater religion here than the religion of art, and in the warfare of the religion of art Yahweh is just “greater.”
Wood mentions in passing that he grew up in an evangelical home, where he was “tortured … with a song whose vilely mnemonic refrain was ‘Your way, not my way, Yahweh.’” The wording does indeed sound agonizing.
Might any GetReligion reader point us toward the melody?