As I scroll through my newsfeed in social media, I am often struck by this pervasive attitude that people that are poor, hungry, unemployed, homeless, or running for their lives from some violent situation here or abroad, somehow deserve what is happening to them. Headlines that imply a woman should have expected her boyfriend and her children to be murdered; because she left “him.” (A quick Google search results in a sickening number of domestic violence cases in the US). People seeking safety criminalized without consideration for what they felt was horrible enough they had to leave. (Immigration and asylum is easily one of the hottest topics in the country just now). People who don’t have jobs, or homes, are somehow beyond help. (Several posts I’ve made about work programs and tiny housing projects have received feedback that these folks can’t be helped). People who are sick, well, we just can’t afford it. People fighting for health coverage for their sick children. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, it seems that the heat in our country over protecting the unborn cools rather quickly once that embryo breeches the womb. After that, mum and child are apparently on their own. Why do we act this way toward fellow human beings? What side of whatever fence we are own, why do we continue to kick the wounded?
In John 9:1-3 there is a short story. It goes like this: “Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.’”
One of the things that drew me to the Book of Job is the battle of wits between Job and his visitors. With increasing volume and verbosity, his visitors try to get him to admit that all the destruction that had been piled upon him was due to some sin he had committed, or some important task he had left undone. At one point, his visitors try to get him to admit that all his do-gooding was merely an effort to glean the favor of El Shaddai, and he was being punished for his insincerity. “What sin have you committed?”
I began to realize, as I studied this unique book, that part of the fervor expressed by Job’s visitors was very egocentric in nature and not due to a deep concern for Job’s soul. They knew Job to be an upright and devote man. If such horrible things could happen to him, what fate might await them. As the censure escalates you can almost envision the mental tally each man is building regarding his own actions and how each might be interpreted. Should they expect judgement from heaven suddenly and without warning?
Humanity does not fare well in arbitrary circumstances. Many of us demand form of the universe, predictability, reliance on things learned and experienced; we expect to be safe if we follow the rules. As long as we are safe and secure, we can hold fast to the delusion that the problems of others are a direct result of some breach of conduct – and not of our concern. Or worse, whatever calamity we face must be due to someone else’s failure – certainly not our own.
This is the attitude that causes me the most pain. This unrelenting push to blame the troubles of life on someone or something else. Everything from refusing food, shelter, and healthcare to poor, working poor, and homeless, to decrying from a pulpit that we are all going to die in a hurricane because we allow people of the same sex to love and commit to one another. Are we really that insecure? It certainly appears that way. We even apply it to woman who, after years of keeping abuse to themselves are finally stepping forward and telling the world that they will no longer act like property. How difficult can it be to understand that we need to reach a point in evolution where a man does not see it as his right to perpetrate his blood line with any likely female within reach. Especially when he has no intention of hanging out to help care for that offspring.
My beloved country has exploded into a feeding frenzy of finger-pointing and blame letting. We expend vast oceans of energy trying to prove which side is the less informed, which side is the most violent, which side is responsible for problems in our country, perceived or otherwise. Most of all, we have become quite adept and the ancient skill of victim blaming. In Luke 6:41, Jesus responds to questioning with this, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” (NET) Why indeed. Job would feel very much at home.
The good thing about Job is that he does not remain on his ash heap, pushing back and arguing with folk that are proving with every stanza they have no intention of listening to him. Job turns to God and demands to be taught, to understand, to learn what it is he must do to move forward. I believe he gets his answer and that answer is every bit as actionable today as it was centuries ago. Within that answer is an expression of God’s displeasure with Job’s visitors. Apparently, He is not into blame gaming or into folks who believe they must defend the actions of the universe by finding nonexistent sins.
Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering is now in its final editorial stages. The book was written with the understanding that the message within the passage is useful to anyone, whether a believer, a non-believer, the curious, or the academic. I hope you will join me in my exploration of the tale of Job and the message the author shared.