“Shelo lishma ba lishma” – a phrase used by Cohen toward the end, which he was reminded of by a Catholic priest who urged him to “come to services anyway, because it eventually will have meaning for you.”
The book is written by the son of a Jewish Rabbi, whose faith had become routine and mundane at best. He saw things advertised both in theory and in practice throughout Jesus-loving realms that he desired in his own faith experience. He’s also a writer in a world of “writers doing year-long experiences in order to create a book” fads. So he spends a year in new spiritual worlds. He visits protestant, Catholic, and a few…well…”other” situations.
It doesn’t take long before a Christian reader would raise alarm. “He’s not really experiencing Christianity” would be easy to say. And it’s true. I’ll even give away the ending – he doesn’t “accept Jesus” in the end. But his openness to God, and description/vantage points offer us some important images some of us may see if we look in the mirror.
There are also insights into the Jewish world that can be beneficial for anyone who wants to follow Jesus (a Jew). Including the phrase above. It basically means “even if you do something desirable for the wrong reason, you’ll eventually end up doing it with the right intentions.”
And I think the converse can be true as well, as proven by Cohen’s desire to spend the year with Jesus. If we do something desirable with right intentions, eventually we may end up doing it for the wrong reasons. May God renew our passion and desire and LIFE toward HIS Kingdom. May we see beyond ourselves, and our consumerist nature. May we belong to something else for a larger purpose than what it offers us…as we all discover the part of the “body” God has created us to be.
Altogether a great book, personalized by illustrations from Cohen’s own life and childhood. Stories that poke fun at some of the sillier things that happen in the lives of Jesus-followers (and people who claim they follow Jesus), raise important questions about what it actually means to be a Christian, and participate in the body of Christ.
I’ll end with a quote, from Cohen’s visit to “Winter Jam”, a popular concert tour fronted by Mr. Toby Mac:
(just after a preview clip for the film “Amazing Grace”) “Slavery is at an all-time high this year!” The audience, not sure how to respond to this political declaration, does what it’s been doing all night when the various bands take the stage – they cheer.”