Many people were incensed by Pat Robertson’s remark about the earthquake being a punishment for Haiti’s pact with the devil. The equation of suffering with punishment is nothing new. There is even a book in the Bible which expressly takes on this all-too-human equation and turns it upside down and inside out. Pat Robertson, it is time for you to re-read the Book of Job.
Job, an upright man, is a favorite of God’s. In a backroom deal (I always imagine them smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and shuffling cards) Satan says to his crony, “Sure Job loves you; he’s got everything anyone could want. Take it away, and he’ll curse you fast enough.” So God does just that, and then afflicts him with boils to boot, at which point Job sits down in the ash heap and makes his case against God: Why do the innocent suffer? Why do the wicked prosper? He offers himself as a case in point.
Three comforters, as they’re called, come to contend with Job. He must have done something wrong, his suffering must be a punishment, for God is all knowing and all just and all powerful. Bad things don’t happen to good people. It is not just Pat Robertson or Job’s comforters who want everything to make sense in their terms. If Job was in the ash pit today, his friends might say, “Job, you must have been thinking negative thoughts.” Or “there must be a lesson you need to learn.” Anything to protect ourselves from knowing we are not in total control.
When God shows up using the whirlwind as a megaphone, he cuts Job down to size but also excoriates the comforters for “not having spoken correctly about me as my servant Job has done.” God never answers Job’s question directly. Instead God says, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” Then God gets completely caught up in marveling at the wonders creation. “What womb brings forth the ice, who gives birth to the frost of heaven…Can the wing of the ostrich be compared with the plumage of the stork or falcon?” God gives Job a completely non-anthropocentric tour of the universe. Brief translation: “It’s not all about you.”
In a thoughtful article (see url below)* Elizabeth McAllister describes the Voudo view of the earthquake and other natural disasters as earth’s attempt to restore a balance disturbed by human beings seeking only their own interests. It could be all too easy to replace a God who metes out punishments for our transgressions with an Earth Mother who does the same. But there are subtle differences. Catastrophe is not vengeance. The innocent do suffer and deserve compassion and aid, not judgment. Balance and imbalance on this planet are an ever-shifting dynamic that we do not control (and when we try to control it for our own ends, we often wreak havoc). We would do well to seek to know that balance better, to wonder at its terrible, beautiful mystery.
On the same subject “It’s not all Pretty” from MaevenSong. Go to http://passionofmarymagdalen.com/ Click on Magdalen Rising. Look for the song link at the top of the page