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King James Bible and ‘Pop’

January 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Christianity of course plays a fundamental role in any account of western European culture.

But sometimes in this secular era it is rather hard to pin down what this specifically means: a vaguely-articulated moral framework? A built-in interest in certain ideas …. for example, sin, law, individual responsibility,¬†ever-predicted apocalypses; all come to mind as aspects of our cultural DNA that don’t seem to go away, even when the religion¬†that created them is in decline.

All in all, then, therefore, an easy thing to say, but rather hard to pin down when one seeks specific examples.

Yet sitting here, listening to Leonard Cohen, it strikes me that it is impossible to understand his art – as it is (for example) that of Bob Dylan and Nick Cave – without a deep familiarity, not only generally with the Judeo-Christian tradition, but with one specific translation of the bible (the King James) and its transmittal via one specific form of the faith (smaller, more blood-and-fire nonconfirmist sects (?and their Jewish equivalents, if such can be said to exist).

That’s pretty specific.