The blurbs on the back cover describe Shalom Auslander’s recent memoir Foreskin’s Lament as angry, funny, irreverent, and bitingly hilarious. This is all true. But at its core Lament is a pithy chronicle of the effect of unremitting law in combination with violent abuse – especially as it applies to our relationship with our fathers and our concept of God. The book details specific instances of Auslander’s embattled childhood in a conservative Jewish home in Monsey, New York where he attended a strict yeshiva run by Pharisaical and often violent rabbis. The central and recurring theme is Auslander’s hatred of God as it is reinforced by his religious upbringing and his own father’s abusive nature.

Recalling the first time he heard the phrase “Our Father Who is in Heaven”, he writes, “I shuddered. There’s another one? In heaven? THAT’S God? Did he stumble around in His underwear? How big was his fist?… Here are a few more quotes:

I believe in a personal God; everything I do, He takes personally. Things don’t just happen.

My relationship with God has been an endless cycle not of the celebrated “faith followed by doubt,” but of appeasement followed by revolt; placation followed by indifference; please, please, please followed by [expletive] it, [expletive] you, [expletive] off.

The people who raised me will say that I am not religious. They are mistaken. What I am not is observant. But I am painfully, cripplingly, incurably, miserably religious.

I believe in God.
It’s been a real problem for me.
I have very little sympathy for Veal.

Speaking of Veal, Auslander creates an analogy between his life and that of a boxed-up veal being told about an Almighty Cow in the sky; commanding that the veal stay in his place.

What makes Auslander’s case so powerful is that unlike many contemporary well-educated thinkers, he has not refused to believe in this horrific God of his youth. He is eternally tormented by Him – both above and below the level of consciousness.

As a Christian you just want to reach out to this man with the soothing balm of the Gospel; which, alone, has the power to break us of our bitterness and hatred. Indeed, this post barely scratches the surface of all the insights to be gained from Auslander’s book. I can’t recommend it enough.