July 09, 2008

The Liberal Feminist and the Book of Job

I caught a bit of the latest C-Span "In Depth", this time with pro-choice feminist Katha Pollitt. I did it in solidarity with any left-wingers who might've watched George Weigel last month.

Fortunately this wasn't too painful. No blood pressure meds were required during this airing. First and foremost, she has a sense of humor and playfulness which, like charity, covers much. All in all a very likable person.

She's a poet and a polemicist, someone with whom I obviously share few views, but I was edified by her humility in exposing herself to fellow feminist shrapnel: she had the guts to write of a failed relationship, of how she, the feminist, gave him the big office in her house. She admits she's a feminist who wants a man, saying that although it's said that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, "some fish want a bicycle".

She's a nonbeliever who respects people of faith, saying she's dismayed by the new atheists who haughtily demean the intelligence of believers.

She discussed the Book of Job (she's writing a poem about it, which looked pretty good from the brief view over her shoulder C-Span offered). I found her commentary about it interesting, because I like to see exactly what the obstacles to faith are. Her main objections were:
a) To paraphrase: "This book is God at His ugliest. God's answer to Job is 'Hey, where were you when I created the world? Huh? Huh?'".

b) The supposed happy ending - the recompense of God at the end of the book - was sorely lacking in her view. God took away Job's children earlier in the story but they were merely replaced, as if children are replaceable. She says: "God doesn't understand humans at all, as if quantity is all we care about." (Me: Breathtaking assertion; the Creator doesn't understand the created? Isn't it more likely the other way around?)
At the time Job was written, I'm sure the happy ending envisioned by the biblical author was very pleasing. I think it highly unlikely that people took the ending in Job as anything other than wonderfully satisfying, or simply as a parable that justice will be done. But God had more in store, as the New Testament attests. And God has much more in store ahead.

So I think she misses the point. The Bible was written in real-time, that is to say it was written to fill the capacities (intellectual and spiritual) of a people at that time. We tend to read the Bible solipsistically as if it were meant only for us, when of course it was meant first for a particular, concrete place and time, and secondarily for all time with the help of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church. Our God is a living God. Job does teach universal truths, such as how man judges God and God judges man and it's only when Job meets face-to-face with God that Job apprehends. It's ironic that we are so often tempted to use the Book of Job in order to judge God, when Job learned that judging God was foolish.

So she's reading it literally, in a Fundamentalist fashion. God's answer to Job was not in words - which Pollitt says, accurately, were inadequate - but in the meeting, as Peter Kreeft eloquently puts it:
The ending answers another problem in Job: Why is Job satsified even though God does not answer a single one of Job's agonized and very good questions? Job is not a meek, humble, easily satisfied man. He's from Missouri. Fr. George Rutler is right: we must not speak of the "patience of Job", but of the impatience of Job.

Job is satisfied by the only possible answer that would satisfy such a man. If God had offered words, Job would surely have questioned those words again, and the verbal batle would have gone on eternally, as it does among philosphers. Instead of answers, Job got the Answerer. Instead of words, Job got the Word. Job got what St. Thomas Aquinas asked for shortly before his death, when the Lord, speaking form the crucifix, said to him, "You have written well of me, Thomas; what will you have as a reward?" Thomas gave the world's best possible answer: "Only yourself, Lord."
Her decision against God came early. She says at the age of six she was viewing a sunset with her friend and she knew, contrary to her friend, that God had nothing to do with the sunset.

And they say believers have simplistic views that were merely inherited from their parents!?

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