Job's comi-cosmic epiphany

ckellerIn one of the more creative approaches to theodicy I have recently viewed appears in Catherine Keller’s chapter “Recesses of the Deep” in her book Face of the Deep. A key tool to her reading of Job seems to involve the literary genre of comedy (specifically found in folk culture) delineated by Bakhtin; strategies including parody, irony and satire. In this light Job is the ‘fool’ who defies God by employing humor, specifically mockery while putting God ‘on trial’. Job challenges creation. He calls upon chaos to defeat order. God answers by giving Job what he asks for, the chaos of life. Rather than give Job a direct answer, “God changes the subject” through demonstrations of chaotic whirlwinds. In a twist of tragedy, the joke is on Job.

But what is YHWH’s point? “You are ignorant and mortal, human, so shut up”? Or rather: “Be still and see all this!”? To me they should like the fulminations of an artist whose morals have been questioned while her creations get ignored

In other words, it’s not a show of omnipotent bully power to put Job in his right place (how it has been favorably interpreted by imperialists). Rather, God is asking Job to take a second look at all of creation and move beyond his theological anthropomorophism that ignores nonhuman nature. In fact, Job is inundated with reference to animals that have typically been ignored and erased by theologians attending to the text of Job. To this Keller asks, “Might our indifference [to animals] reflect the cultivated distaste for the chaos of creation?” Perhaps, Keller suggests, the presence of animals in the text of Job are there to resist human dominance and control of creation. This does not set well on the conscious of those who have come to understand the task of God’s human creatures to ‘subdue’ the earth. But Keller points back to that passage in Genesis and takes us one verse further in order to disclose what it is that we have dominion over: frankly, ‘vegetarian domination’. In other words, “we are given what the rest of the animals get.”

Like Moby Dick Leviathan makes a mockery of the whaling industry… But in this deft parody of the ancient work trade and business class, the windy vortex mocks teh powers of global commericalization; it puts in question the assumption of the exploitability of the wild life of the world – the “subdue and have dominion” project. The chaos monster does not seek vengeance but respect for its domain

While Keller admits that the answer to Job’s question “is still bowin’ in the wind” she nonetheless directs us to the interconnectivity and value of all creation. Our human status implies a responsibility in caring for the earth, not abusing it. Perhaps Keller’s most insightful point from Job is,

It is not up to God to right our moral wrongs, to fix our injustices and correct our oppressions. That doesn’t happen. To depend on God to intervene, to justify “himself,” to operate as the just patriarch is to abdicate our own moral responsibility on earth

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