The meaningless suffering of Christ and Job

HT007715In order to set-up Job’s meaningless suffering, according to Žižek, we must understand Christ’s. Put otherwise, Job’s suffering is as meaningless as Christ’s death. There is no possible utilitarian calculation that succeeded. For Rene Girard, perhaps Christ’s sacrifice accomplishes nothing other than putting an end to the rotary cycle of revenge and punishment (i.e., sacrifice). Christianity is transgressive to the social order then because it breaks from scapegoat mechanisms (the desire to sacrifice an innocent victim for the purpose of social cohesion). God simply refuses violence.

For Žižek Christ’s dereliction on the cross “repeats God’s own self-abandonment required of creation” whereby God withdrew himself in order to create the world. The founding act of contraction. What comes ‘out of’ this primal chaos remains insecure and unorganized at times. For Žižek, repeating Schelling, “the passage from chaos to creation anticipates Lacan’s account of the passage from the real to the symbolic, i.e., the process of becoming a subject.” To put otherwise, the symbolic order only emerges out of the abyss (of the abyss). Madness, therefore, is part of the divine mind, part of the given order, and part of being human. But confronting life in its arbitrariness and meaninglessness, the suspension of the symbolic, is “the most horrible thing to encounter.” And its not an encounter that can last long. But in the encounter we have are given the freedom to act outside of given patterns. We can change it.

Coming full circle I repeat that “Christ traumatizes the symbolic networks of supports”; primarily the existing norm of retributive justice. But the act of the cross was still senseless. There was no guarantee on the other side. Christ’s break/suspension for the ethical/symbolic code of his society implies “a moment of utter abandonment.” But as covered above, ideology merely covers and obfuscates the real. Likewise, making sense of suffering is just another fantasy to distance ourselves from suffering. The lesson we gain from Christ and Job’s suffering “is that there is no secret and hence no answer” to “why existence is marked by suffering.”

Job’s assertion that suffering is meaningless corresponds to Christ’s because Christ’s suffering was also meaningless; meaningless in the sense that it cannot be sensibly reduced to a sacrifice in an economy of exchange


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