“Give Me Christ Or Give Me Hiroshima …”

“Give Me Christ Or Give Me Hiroshima …” August 6, 2012

That line, from Leonard Cohen’s haunting song, “The Future,” has been replaying in my mind this day, the Feast of the Transfiguration. This morning my pastor contrasted the brilliant appearance of Jesus on Mount Tabor with the flash of atomic light at Hiroshima. On Mount Tabor, our Lord was bathed in a dazzling white light as Moses and Elijah alighted and ministered to him. At 8:15 am on August 6, 1945, the people of Hiroshima saw a similar manifestation of blinding light. Like Peter, James, and John, they were terrified. But Mount Tabor was a vision of God’s holiness, of his radiant joy and all-consuming peace. Hiroshima was something else altogether. Within moments 80,000 civilians were dead. Another 60,000 would die in the following months.

Today, we have a choice between the divine light of Mount Tabor or the satanic light of Hiroshima. One leads us into a deeper communion with the Trinity and ever-greater love for our brothers and sisters: “[But] if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). The other leads us into the profound and perhaps inescapable darkness of idolatry and violence. Our choice, quite simply, is Christ or Hiroshima. If we choose the latter, then Cohen’s words will no doubt ring true: “I’ve seen the future, baby; it is murder.”

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  • When I say that I like this, that is because I like that you have presented it, and so thoughtfully. This has been on my mind all day, although not articulated as you have. Thank you.

  • Great meditation, Mark. I love that song too…

  • Mark —
    Are you familiar with this classic by The Louvin Brothers?:

    • Mark Gordon

      Rodak, thanks for this. I mean it. I grew up with this kind of gospel music, but by the time I came along it was always bent to serve American nationalism. And a couple of things strike me as discordant in the song. First, the fear running behind it is what might happen to ‘us,’ not what we might bring upon ‘others.’ Second, the notion that simply be ready to ‘meet Jesus’ is sufficient for warding off that fear. I prefer JFK’s reminder that “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Thanks again.

      • It is fairly simple-minded fare, but an interesting glimpse into a world and mind-set with which I have very little first-hand experience. It almost evokes Christ-as-Hiroshima.

  • Frank M.

    I’ve long held a special liking for Todd Rundgren’s Hiroshima, for the way it uses grungy music to perfect effect:

    Under the rising sun dirty yellow children play
    And in the red pagoda mamasan is praying
    Blood wasted saving face, ancestors are looking on
    As they wave their silver samurai underneath the big gun

    Hiroshima, no one could imagine
    Not the victors nor the victims
    Pitiful survivors nor the pawn of a man
    who had the button under his hand
    No one would believe it

    God, God is on our side, he placed the power in our hands
    To teach the yellow peril, this is Christian mercy
    Harry, Harry give ’em hell, give ’em hell one more time again
    We’ll show those axis powers how to make an oven [fry them]

    Hiroshima, Nagasaki
    Don’t you ever forget, don’t you ever * forget

    (*: Some versions have an expletive here)

  • Julia Smucker

    Oh, wow. I had not made that connection, but … wow. What a stark juxtaposition. And, I will even say, a rare “true dichotomy” – a case in which we truly must choose either/or.

    • Mark Gordon

      Well, at least you’re not either/or about both/and. 🙂