Little David, play on your harp

Easter and Passover overlap as they should this year. It’s a time of year, beginning on Lent and ending on Easter, when my favorite radio shows play the glorious gospel music of the black vocal groups of the 1950’s such as Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers. Listening to the Soul Stirrers this morning brought to mind a couple of my favorite of William Buckley’s columns, derived from his 1972 trip to Israel (collected in Inveighing We Will Go and accessible via the Hillsdale College online archive of Buckley’s published writings). In the last paragraph of the columns, Buckley refers to Israel as “the home of shrines”:

The Western Wall, where they come to weep. The pilgrims from every country in the world. I saw yesterday two dozen American Negro women, at the subterranean cave in the Church of the Nativity. Their preacher spontaneously delivered a little homily, and led them, then, into song. I remembered Whittaker Chambers’ words about the rise of the spiritual among the Negro people — “the most God-obsessed (and man-despised) since the ancient Hebrews. Grief, like a tuning fork, gave the tone, and the Sorrow Songs were uttered.” There, at Bethlehem, holding each other’s hands, they sang “Little David, play on your harp,” and one senses why the term Judaeo-Christian came to be hyphenated.


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