Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Note: The Book of Job

Preface from Renee...Catreona had wanted to post this on Sunday, but I went and put the young Howard Dean graphic up in an Open Thread before she got the chance. Since she hasn't posted it yet, I've decided that I will. It gives me the opportunity to address something that I'm sure many Dean supporters think of when someone mentions the Book of Job: Dean's supposed "gaffe" in referring to Job as his favorite book of the New Testament. Check out the comment in What Howard Dean Got Right:

The Book of Job is the best part of the Bible, regardless of which Testament it's in.
Okay, sure, the most cringe-worthy moment in the campaign (including for my money The Scream [that wasn't]) had to be when Dean listened to one too many advisers telling him a Democrat must speak in tongues to get votes in Dixie. Among the awkward moments that followed was one where Dean said Job was his favorite chapter in the New Testament, instead of Version 1.0.

But hey, new or old, Job is not only the most profound discussion of God's mystery in the good book, but couldn't be more relevant given the sanctimonious preaching of the Religious Right and their lackeys in the Bush Administration. People who think God is a Peeping Tom worried about how and with whom we're having sex need to review the Whirlwind's admonition to Job that humans stop arrogantly assuming they can get into His head.

And by the way, I "gaffe" way more than Howard Dean does--I'll bet a lot of us do. At last week's Democracy Bond event, when I was sitting at the table at the front of the room with the other bloggers, Mary Jo Kilroy stopped by the table to say hello to Demetrius and myself. So far that day, I'd been feeling a little out of my league among bloggers who knew more about what was going on in Ohio politics, but here it appeared that most of the people at the table did not recognize our Franklin County Commissioner (who is running against Deb Pryce for Congress). So, after chatting for a bit, I go to introduce her, saying "This is Mary Jo Pryce..." Before I even realized that the wrong word had come out, Mary Jo was laughing and saying "No, no, no--NOT Pryce! I'm running against her!" or something along those lines.

Of *course* I knew that. In fact, when I began the sentence of introduction, I had a brief moment of panic when I couldn't remember the name of her opponent, but apparently it came to me in the middle of saying Mary Jo Kilroy's name.

Similarly, there is no doubt that Howard Dean knew that Job was in the Old Testament rather than the New Testament. *Minutes* later, after thinking through his response to that reporter, he went back to him and made the correction. But it's funnier, apparently, to keep picking on Dean for not knowing his Bible.

Every quarter that I teach Introductory Psychology, at some point I have students take the "Densa Quiz". It has a number of questions that people typically get wrong, not because they are ignorant, but because they don't listen/read very carefully, or because they pay attention to the general gist of the question without tuning in to the specific details. Here is one most students miss *every time*--even the ones who have described themselves as Christians and work with church youth groups in their spare time:

How many animals of each sex did Moses take on the ark?

Invariably, the vast majority will respond "Two." I will pause, ask, "Are you sure?" and they will say "Yes." I will then say, "Let's try this again...How many animals of each sex did Moses take on the ark?" Then the lightbulb goes on. Should I be horrified that some of these people are leading church youth groups, given their obvious cluelessness about the Bible? Of course not. That's just how the human mind works sometimes. But I *am* pretty disappointed that some people couldn't bring themselves to stop chortling over another "gaffe that wasn't". And now, here's Catreona's post from Sunday:

crossposted at Disabled Americans for Democracy

It's been a long time since I last read The Book of Job. Rereading it this weekend for a course (the Hadley School for the Blind's Old Testament Poetry and Prophecy), I was surprised to note its strong Social Justice content. There is strong emphasis on care for the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, dealing justly with the widowed and fatherless, as well as the fate awaiting the wicked.

This emphasis is somewhat surprising since, according to received wisdom, Job was written before the full development of Israelite religion, ca. 1400 B.C., the approximate date of the Pentateuch (the first five books, Genesis through Deuteronomy), an possibly earlier, during the time of the patriarchs themselves. Thus, Job shows that the strong sense of Social Justice evident in later Israelite and then Christian thought was already firmly established, even before the full formation of the Jewish national identity. Thus, one might conclude that for the People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Moslems), justice and social responsibility would be thoroughly ingrained,, second nature, and that among them violence and oppression would be the exception rather than the rule.

Unfortunately though, as ably demonstrated by our current president, being a Christian, at least in one's own eyes, is totally consistent with greed, oppression and the grinding down of the poor.

One is irresistibly reminded of Our Lord's words in Matthew 7:21-27:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

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