Taken out of order, for hopefully obvious reasons.
I’ve heard it all before, you bunch of misery-makers.
When reading the stories from the Bible it’s important to know what it is that you’re actually reading. If something presents itself as history then you should read it differently to something that presents itself as poetry. Unfortunately it’s not always obvious what bits of the Bible are, so you have to guess from clues. There are plenty of clues, for instance, that the book of Job is a pantomime. It is cosmic Punch-and-Judy. Everything is big and bold and caricatured.
For instance: You have a man whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for “enemy”, just to set up some really bad puns later. Caricature. This guy is so offensively good in all that he does that he even makes God want to show off. Caricature. God shows off so much that He gets into a bet with the Devil. Does this fit with the tenor of the rest of the Bible? No, it’s caricature. (It’s also, technically, a parable, which means that the whole God-betting-the-Devil stuff is incidental to the main point of the story.)
Then there is a series of completely overblown disasters one after another that quit coincidentally happen to wipe out everything this man has. This is Lemony Snicket stuff. It’s total pantomime. How anyone thinks this is intended to be played straight is beyond me.
And then, you get a bunch of friends who come around and decide this is the perfect time to heap judgement upon Job and tell him to repent of his sins. Caric… no, wait, because you actually do see that, all the time.
It wasn’t even that they were a bit insensitive and were saying the right thing at the wrong time. They were totally missing the point altogether. You see, the author of the book of Job is playing a classic pantomime trick here. Job’s friends’ understanding of God was that God draws a straight line between sin, judgement and disaster. As with any tragicomedy, we, the readers, know something that they don’t. We know that that Job hasn’t done anything wrong at all.
Their straight-line assumption just happens to be wrong. There is no obvious connection between conduct and disaster. There is no law of karma. God, it seems, causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Sometimes stuff just happens.
When dissster strikes, you will often find a bunch of misery-makers with straight-line assumptions. “Miserable comforters are ye all,” as the King James mildly puts it. But hopefully we, the readers, now know things that the miserable comforters don’t know - that judgement is just not that simple. Sometimes stuff just happens.
Can we leave judgement out of this for a while? Can’t we just weep with those who weep?
And lest you think I’m just talking about our folks here:
The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was “punishment from heaven” because Japanese have become greedy.