Dr. Howard Dean & The book of Jobgreenspun.com : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread
While reading the NY Times this morning I couldn't resist sharing William Safire's column with the AME Today BB. The column discusses Democratic Presidential contender Howard Dean and his understanding of the Book of Job. The timing of this issue about Dean and the Book of Job is rather remarkable since the AME Church School will be studying the Book of Job during the month of January 2004. I have already instructed my church school staff, faculty and students to read this Biblical and literary masterpiece in its entirety. Regrettably, Dr. Dean was not in my church school on yesterday because he may have avoided some of the exegetical problems Safire cites in the column. The full column is provided below. QED
OP-ED COLUMNIST Job and Dean By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: January 5, 2004
WASHINGTON — "Who is this that darkeneth knowledge by words without counsel?"
So thundered God in the Hebrew Bible to his servant Job. That upright and blameless man had dared to challenge the Lord's unfairness in stripping him of his wealth and killing his children.
Last week, some five or six millennia later, "words without counsel" by Howard Dean were heard about the most controversial book in all theology.
As he heads into what H. L. Mencken called the "Bible Belt," the candidate moved to plug an apparent hole in his résumé about an interest in religion. After hearing Dean's observation beginning "If you know much about the Bible — which I do," a reporter asked about his favorite New Testament book. Dean named Job, adding, "But I don't like the way it ends . . . in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different . . . there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."
The candidate returned an hour later to confess error: Job was in the Old Testament, not the New. Beyond that slip, his recollection of "one book where there's a more optimistic ending" is muddled; the Book of Job in the Old Testament has an upbeat ending, with God doubling Job's former wealth and giving him new children for having sustained his piety through all his trials.
"Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where . . . Job ends up completely destitute and ruined," said Dean in his correction. That's accurate, though there's no other Job book in Scripture with an optimistic ending other than the familiar one. I think he means that some scholars believe that the Old Testament Book of Job that we know was amended by later rabbis fearful of portraying God as unjust.
"Many people believe," concluded Dean, presumably among them, "that the original ending was about the power of God, and the power of God was almighty and all knowing, and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."
He's right about the existence of that interpretation. A decade ago, in "The First Dissident," a book about the politics of the Book of Job, I reported the belief that a "Hollywood ending" had possibly been tacked on.
Despite his fuzziness, Dean is on to something. The moral excitement in the Book of Job is the sufferer's outrage at God's refusal to do justice. We are told at the outset that this pious, wealthy and powerful man is the subject of a wager between God and the Satan about whether Job's piety was merely the result of his prosperity. When afflicted, Job scandalizes his comforters by damning the day that he was born, calling for a redeemer who could take God to court on a charge of moral mismanagement.
God hears this incessant dissidence and, in the Voice from the Whirlwind, blows Job's whining away in the longest direct quotation of the Lord in Scripture, beginning "Who is this that darkeneth knowledge." In magnificent imagery and biting sarcasm, God answers Job's challenge by rebuking him for presuming to question the wisdom of the Creator of the Universe.
Where does that amazing diatribe leave sufferers seeking solace, or victims seeking retributive justice? Holocaust witness Elie Wiesel has written that he was dismayed by this non-response. The author Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "I read the Book of Job last night — I don't think God comes well out of it." Others say the book proves that suffering is no evidence of sin, and may even be a blessing in disguise — that it is beyond human understanding to know God's ways or discern his ultimate purpose.
Job, having succeeded in making direct contact with his Creator, reacts to God's awesome rebuke by putting his hand over his mouth and accepting the limits of his knowledge. In the ending that some find incongruous, he is forgiven and rewarded.
Dean, under Democratic fire for shooting from the lip, says, "I'm feeling a little more Job-like recently." He identifies with the Gentile from the Land of Uz, now called Iraq, because he feels he is being unjustly punished for standing up to authority. How's that for chutzpah?
-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004
"The candidate returned an hour later to confess error: Job was in the Old Testament, not the New. Beyond that slip, his recollection of "one book where there's a more optimistic ending" is muddled; the Book of Job in the Old Testament has an upbeat ending, with God doubling Job's former wealth and giving him new children for having sustained his piety through all his trials. "
"Dean, under Democratic fire for shooting from the lip, says, "I'm feeling a little more Job-like recently." He identifies with the Gentile from the Land of Uz, now called Iraq, because he feels he is being unjustly punished for standing up to authority. How's that for chutzpah? "
As if he didn't put his foot in his mouth already with the Southerners. I forget the offensive language he used towards them to supposedly ingratiate himself with that group. Chutzpah? Is that what they call it now? Old school folk call it "stupid."
-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004
The book of Job has always been paradoxical to me, because it is hard in my flesh mind to understand why a righteous God would allow a righteous man to suffer at the behest of the evil one. Yes the book is full of great preaching fodder, but theologically it does cause us to step back and look at God. The fact that God is a mystery is made clear to me in Job. If (although I am not as theologically astute as many of you) we might say that in Job we meet a God who allows exceptional suffering in order to enlarge his communion with God then many of us wonder why? Why such pain, why such loss? Yet I also understand how many of the African American Christians have come to accept Job as a book of optimism because they understand the concept of unwarranted suffering and have experienced it for many many years and in spite of the suffering and the persecution and the devastation, from forces outside and from forces within, there is this beautiful kernel of hope that we cling to and it is knowing that God is in control, God has not given our life over to the evil one and we are not our own. Our suffering and our success are rooted in God. No one promised Jesus a rose garden, and no one has promised us a rose garden, be careful of the thorns, and rather than complain about the thorns we need to be mindful that God is in control of everything always and our sufferings major though they may appear to us are nothing compared to what God has given unto us. So we Christians (especially African American Christians) live with the hope that current suffering yields future rewards. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004
As I read the book of John I came away with the impression of Jesus as a man who said "I am God. Having said that, here's the Truth."
Some believed Him, and others didn't. Whatever the case, in the book of John Jesus presents Himself as the King, the Boss, the One who calls the shots. If we can't, don't, or won't understand it, that doesn't mean His statements aren't true. It just means we have more growing to do, and might even have to wait until Heaven to understand.
In Job we see God is the King, the Boss, the One who calls the shots. God did what He did. Job didn't understand it, and we might not today. One thing we can say though that since God is God, what He did must have been right. Just because we don't understand it doesn't change the rightness of what he did.
-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004
Howard Dean's initial peroration on (what he thinks are) the "books" of Job display his ignorance of Holy Scripture. For that there is a remedy: study. However, his reaction when caught in this stupid blunder displays his arrogance and lack of humility before the Lord. I do not know what the remedy is for this second problem.
-- Anonymous, January 07, 2004
What I love about the book of Job: The whole book and the last part, when God speaks and Job replies. The key to Job (I think) is his response at the end to who God really is (the revelation of God that God gives him.) He KNOWS, and he says he knows--in those wonderful words--who God is. He has what is called a "real experience" with God. Not what he intellectually knew before, or what he thought before. The secret to Job is that he accepts who God really is after God speaks to him, and by revelation or prophecy he then expresses God's plan for the world-the Redeemer ("I know my Redeemer liveth..."). This is what allows him to respond and ask for God's forgiveness, essentially, by saying "I did not know of what I spoke." Whether God restores him or not is probably not then a concern. The book would actually be the same. Job "gets it;" he has a real experience with God, and this real experience has wiped out all other considerations. (One national writer said the book of Job portrays an "unforgiving Old Testament deity." I think in light of the concept of the Redeemer and who God really is, in control, that that would actually be a wrong interpretation.) I think Job never knew why he had suffered "down here," not like we understand the book, but he came ultimately to the correct conclusion that "God is in control, we have a Redeemer, and I will stand at the latter day and be bodily resurrected." In the end, Job found out that God was this wonderful, huge being who is in control of everything and who provided a world and a Redeemer for us, and it was a great effort, and that he was huger than anything our minds could grasp, and that he was FOR us. (That he accepts and loves us.) I could go on and on....obviously! What I do not understand is why God "did" it to Job, except that evil exists and bad things happen to all, and this is one man's story and how he sought God? That he was righteous and sought God? That's all I can think right now. Thanks for the forum, enjoyed the comments above.
-- Anonymous, January 08, 2004
Howard Dean is not only a Job-like figure as he compared himself to the Scripture, albeit naming the wrong Testament as his story. That's no big deal, a man in his 50's with as much on his plate as Dean has does have a right to make a mistake now and then. He is only human as are all the rest of us.
but I see Dean as also a Christ-like figure in that his own followers tend to doubt him, to question him, to become easily ashamed and worried by his behavior, as did Jesus's disciples frequently. Many walked away from Jesus when he said something that did not fit their preformed concept of what kind of Redeemer God would send to them.
Howard Dean is on a difficult road, one full of ups and downs, great numbers of people accepting his message, but then many rejecting him because of his tendency to say what comes to him without pausing to assess the possible reactions from the listeners. He is now enduring the humiliation of being the butt of late night talk show jokes on the thin basis of his acting out the football coach, Rah, Rah, Rah, for his young supporters after his loss in the Iowa caucuses. Christ endured humiliation and the hurt of rejection, but that did not a thing to negate the true meaning of his message.
The same I believe is true for Howard Dean. I look forward to him and his message and I call on his followers to accept his faults as does God accept our own.
Thank you for listening. Kathy
-- Anonymous, January 22, 2004