Love is not a victory march — unless you’re Marvin Olasky

Love is not a victory march — unless you’re Marvin Olasky January 11, 2013

I’m not yet ready to forgive Hemant Mehta Jessica Bluemke at The Friendly Atheist for sharing this story: “Christian Writer Ruins the Best Song Ever.”

Go ahead and follow that link, but be warned: Once you have read right-wing Calvinist lyrics, you cannot un-read them.

The best song ever Hemant Jessica refers to is one that I’d put on my own short-list of contenders for that title: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Cohen wrote more than 80 verses to the song, which was initially rejected by his record label, but has since been recorded more than 300 times by artists all over the world.

Marvin Olasky is a far better poet than Leonard Cohen … said Marvin Olasky.

Alan Light, author of the book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah, offers an appreciation of the song for the BBC, saying of Cohen’s beautiful words and music, “It can fit into weddings and funerals. It can be there in the greatest moment of celebration or for funerals or in moments of tragedy. It’s still seen as kind of a sacred pop song, a modern hymn.”

Amanda Palmer said of “Hallelujah,” “If you were to tell me that playing this song as a cover is totally cliche, I’d tell you so is breathing.”

But here is one thing that no one has ever said about this song: “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if the lyrics were re-written by a right-wing Calvinist from the Bush administration?”

Yet still, somehow, Marvin Olasky seems to think this was something the world needed, and so he has presented what he humbly refers to as his “improved lyrics.”

He said that. “Improved.” Marvin Olasky thinks he improved Leonard Cohen’s lyrics.

Hemant has posted Olasky’s “improvements,” go ahead and click over to read them.

This is not what an improvement looks like. It’s not just that Olasky’s rendition is didactic — a poem replaced by a catechism — but also the horrifying substance of Olasky’s prosaic sermonizing. “But God has said, your child will pay / And from your lips He’ll draw the Hallelujah.” That’s Dobson & Huckabee after Newtown all over again — you sinned, so God will keep killing your children until you praise Him for it.


“Improved.” Remember that. Remember that’s what he bragged he did. Remember that the next time you see Marvin Olasky offering his political commentary or his revisionist history. Use that to gauge his reliability, wisdom, intelligence, prudence and honesty.

And if Olasky gets anywhere near “Joan of Arc,” or “Suzanne,” or “Everybody Knows,” or “Famous Blue Raincoat,” the authorities should press charges.

Olasky’s pompous embarrassment is good news for at least one person — Bono no longer has to worry about his “spoken-word” recording of the song being the worst thing ever done to it.

OK, to rid your mind of Olasky’s ignorant vandalism, here’s the man himself, Leonard Cohen, doing another of his songs that needs no “improvement”:


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