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I Hate the Book of Job

There’s a reason, other than sloth, that this blog has been neglected. See, I had already mentally written my next post – it was going to tell you all about this huge opportunity that fell into my lap out of the clear blue sky, an opportunity that would have given me a far broader audience and broader canvas – one that would ultimately allow me to have a national impact. Best of all,  I would have had a job that would have actually paid me a living wage to write this stuff. It seemed the culmination of everything I had ever done, and, for a brief moment, it brought into focus the idea of a life that make use of my talents and would have been fun, meaningful, and fraught with purpose.

As you can probably tell by now, it was not to be. After a slew of interviews that I thought went well and weeks of waiting, I got one of those “thanks but no thanks” phone calls, and it’s not going to happen.

God and I haven’t really made peace with that.

For the past few years, the Cornell family has been wrung through the ringer in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when Mrs. Cornell and I tied the knot back in 1994. We’ve been yanked every which way – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually – and none of it seems to make any sense. We keep looking for the pony in the pile of horse crap, and it’s just not there. So I turned to the one scriptural source that’s supposed to explain why bad things happen to good people – the Book of Job.

Big, big mistake.

The one lesson that everyone seems to glean from Job is that people don’t necessarily deserve the garbage that’s dumped on their heads in the course of their mortality. What they fail to mention is that the God of the Book of Job is an arrogant, obnoxious twit who maliciously tinkers with people’s lives in order to win a bar bet with Satan.

If I’ve misstated the book’s central thesis, I’m open to other interpretations.

The book begins with Satan showing up at God’s house, and God asking his ol’ pal the Prince of Darkness for the news of the day. Ummmm, does this bother anyone else? Isn’t Satan supposed to be the embodiment of evil in the universe, cast out of heaven for rebellion? I can’t seem to get God to pay attention to my job interviews, yet he apparently has an open door policy with the Fount of All Wickedness.

Already, things seem askew.

So God, presumably over brunch or some such, says to the devil, “Hey, check out that Job dude! He loves me! Isn’t he awesome?” And the devil – who makes a whole lot more sense than God does in this particular tale – points out that this Job guy might not love God so much if someone were to slaughter his ten children, destroy his livelihood, ransack his wealth, and generally destroy everything that made his life worthwhile.

So what does God say? “All right, try it. Let’s see!”

How on earth does one reconcile this with the idea that God is kind, merciful, and loving? Furthermore, how does one reconcile it with the idea that he’s omniscient? He already knows what Job’s going to do, but he’s willing to step out of the way and let Satan mutilate Job’s life to… what? Prove a point to Satan? Is God that insecure?

So Satan, with God’s blessing, proceeds to wreak havoc, and… guess what? Job doesn’t curse God. So Satan says, “Well, what if I give him lots of boils and make him stew in his own filth?” God, apparently still really concerned that Satan might win this little wager, gives the green light to the boil plan.

Job still won’t curse God. Instead, he just curses the day he was born and wishes he were dead.

Put this in human terms. I love my wife more than anyone else alive. But, yes, I would love her a lot less if she killed my kids, ran off with everything I owned, and somehow deliberately infected me with the Bubonic Plague. And you know what? I probably wouldn’t have nice things to say about her. What’s more, I probably would have a hard time with anyone making the case that my wife, in this fictional kid-killing, mange-producing scenario, actually loved me, especially if she were doing all this to settle a bet with a demon she met on the Internet.

Why shouldn’t Job curse God? God, in this story, is a full-on jerk.

Everyone cites the end of the story, where Job gets back all his stuff – and more! He even gets ten new and better kids to replace those lousy dead ones – all presumably produced from the womb of the same wife. (Twenty kids! Isn’t God really punishing Mrs. Job?) So the moral of the story is – wade through the crap, and then, someday, God will make up for it. Except that’s not what God himself says in the story. Indeed, the award of the replacement kids and extra cows is given as arbitrarily as the boils were applied earlier on. When asked to explain his inscrutable – and unspeakably cruel – purposes in this whole nightmare, God shows up in a cloud and pretty much berates Job for asking questions. I created the universe, he says, and you didn’t, so who are you to ask why I decided to give you boils?

Yikes.

There are some marvelous isolated passages in the Book of Job, and the Savior himself quotes from it, so it’s hard to reject the whole thing outright. But it’s so woefully incongruous with what we learn of the Lord elsewhere that I refuse to believe that God really operates this way. The alternative is to presume that God really is this arbitrary and flighty, in the which case he is not a God in whom I can place any faith, let alone love.

As you can tell, I’ve had better days.

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