by: Lionel Blue
164 pp, £15.99 Hardback.
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewed by Linda Dangoor-Khalastchi
Lionel Blue was not your traditional Rabbi. Whenever Rabbi Blue had a lover, (Blue was gay and had the courage to "come out" publicly), he would remain faithful to his partner and not succumb to the temptation of having "extra-marital" affairs. He was, or tried to be, exclusive in sexual matters.
In the spiritual domain, on the other hand he was the reverse. Having been "married" to Judaism all his life, he, nonetheless likens the union to an "arranged marriage", because I had been born into it. I had never chosen it." Rabbi Blue had many "extra-marital" affairs of the spiritual kind, with different philosophies and religions. He had his Marxist affair at the age of 20 followed by the Quaker and the psychoanalytical affairs at Oxford. Then came the Vendantic one where he learned to meditate. There was the Buddhist affair, the Anglo-Catholic affair and finally most importantly his Christian affair where he literally identifies and falls in love with the figure of Jesus, (note that I say Jesus and not Christ). Hence the title of this funny and entertaining book. A gem of a book. A warm and courageously candid account of Rabbi Blue's personal and spiritual journey as a child in the old East End of London, through to his Oxford days, his party days, his rabbinical days etc...
Blue talks about the Holocaust and God, Judaism and Christianity, and his homosexuality. He recounts with sensitivity and humour his near-Baptism and his near-conversion to the Christian faith, as well as his days at the BBC.
Yes! You've guessed it. This book is about a search. A search for a spiritual identity. A search for a spiritual home which does not demand, "as some modern fundamentalism" seem to do covertly or overtly, "the suppression of one's inner doubts and truth, whether psychological or critical."
This marvellous humane book encourages its reader to question rather than to be self-righteous, to regard failure as a positive experience and doubt as an opportunity to finding the right path.
"My Affair with Christianity" manages to combine serious questions with a lightness of touch and much humour.
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