Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

The Impatience of Job

September 30, 2018

My plan to post daily, clearly didn’t work out. Nevertheless, we plod on.

Job, a long, often boring book. An often a misunderstood book. Sometime people talk about the book of Job as if it contains the answer to the problem of evil. If you read the book, it doesn’t. Evil and suffering are not explained. People talk about the patience of Job. However, I don’t think Job is particularly patient.

Job is a man who loses everything. His friends come to comfort him- and they do for a while. But eventually the friends can’t help themselves, they decide to explain Job’s situation to him. They explain why all the bad things happened to Job. It’s quite simple, Job sinned. ( FYI, they are using the idea of sin in a particular way. Sin in this context is not a state of being, it’s not a moral failure. here sin is a breaking of a particular set of rules.) Job professes his innocence. The friends continue to tell Job that he has sinned and needs to confess and repent. Job maintains that he hasn’t sinner and so has nothing to confess. This dialogue goes on for a very long time.

At the beginning of the book, Job just wants to die. He doesn’t understand why God has done (or allowed) tragedy to strike him. Job isn’t interested in understanding, he simply, desperately wants his suffering to end. But over time, Job’s perspective changes. He decides he doesn’t want to die. What he eventually wants is a chance to make his case before God and he wants God to explain God’s actions. In this request, demand even, Job is persistent. He is however, not particularly patient. Patient is defined  by as “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

For example, in chapter 19 Job answers his friend Bildad, saying, ” If indeed you magnify yourselves against me, and make my humiliation an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net around me. Even when I cry out, ‘Violence!’ I am not answered; I call aloud but there is no justice. He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped my glory from me, and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, he has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me, and counts me as his adversary.”

Job continues in this vein for 18 more verses. Not very patient.

What Job is, is persistent. He says, “Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contended with me in the greatness of his power? No’ but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.” (23:2-7)

Job is persistent even though he is afraid. “But he stands alone and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in the darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” (23:13-17)

Job maintains, in the face of the wisdom of the time, that he is innocent and is being treated unfairly. He tells his friends and he tells God. Even though he is afraid, Job maintains his innocent. He expects God to hear and to respond, even though Job is “terrified at his presence”

While Job is hardly an example of patience. Job is a model of persistence. And he stands in a long tradition of people who, in essence, stand up to God and demand God pay attention to what is going on.

What do you think about this? Do we dare call God out over injustice? Should we?


More on resistance

August 11, 2018

Yesterday I wrote about grounding our actions, especially social justice actions in faith. My friend Leslie commented, “A challenge because there are large groups who align with a faith or use faith as an reason for egregious behavior.”

And yes, she is correct. How can we know if we are truly centered in God’s will or simply kidding ourselves and using faith to justify the ideas and beliefs we already have?

It is a tough question. You can find well respected and/or popular religious figures on all sides of any issue.

One of the first things I was going to say was that we should be in conversation with people who think differently than we do. People who will challenge us. But for most of us, myself included, our religious homes don’t include a wide variety of beliefs or political views. All of us tend to hang out with folks who have similar values. There’s not much point in pretending otherwise.

Speaking as a Christian, I can read the Bible. But so do six day creationist and complementarians to name a couple of examples. Frustratingly it is possible for people to disagree about Biblical interpretation each having prayerfully and thoughtfully engaged the text.

We could add that if our actions promote justice and peace maybe that means we have properly aligned ourselves. Brain science tells us how incredible easy it is for us to convince ourselves that our motives are pure.

Are we loving? Surely that is a good criteria? I know people who think the loving thing to do is to tell LGBTQ folks they are going to hell. They sincerely believe that and feel that for the good of the other’s soul that they need to speak this “truth”. A lot of damage has been done by people who believe they are “speaking the truth in love.”

This isn’t easy, is it?  And Leslie’s comment needs to be taken seriously. Let’s hope that Ginger Gaines-Cirelli the author of Sacred Resistance will help me out with this question as I keep reading.

Today the only answer I have is humility. We need to consider carefully, prayerfully that we might be wrong and be open to change. Which, if we are honest, is hugely difficult. That’s what I’ve got tonight. I’d love to know if you have a better answer.




%d bloggers like this: