When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath. What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? – (Job 7:13-19 -NRSV)
A response to the post: If God is Love, Why Should We Care About His Fury?
In response to a study of the book The Fury of God., I decided to take it upon myself to answer the questions at the end of post. I have not posted in some time so readers of my blog might find a new post refreshing. I thought this topic was just the right subject to jump start a conversation on religion and theology.
I had the privilege of working a secular job with the author Pastor Jeremy Lundmark and have been to his church a few times in the past. I have been meaning to stop in and have him sign my book some Sunday. However, had I told him ahead of time, he may have interrupted his current thematic sermon and substituted one of Hell, fire, brimstone, and repentance. So such a visit would surly have to be a surprise. It was also a privilege to read his first book and I am sure he is very proud of his accomplishment for it is a topic that is not mentioned often in evangelical circles.
I am an agnostic who came out of evangelical fundamentalism. I like to be up front about my religious views at the start because I have always believed that to appear to be something outwardly you are not inwardly is simply a deception. I also realize that the book Pastor Jeremy wrote was to believers and not to be taken as an apologetic text.
In the first paragraph of his post Pastor Jeremy mentions an interesting parable found in Luke 7:40-43. In short a rich guy loaned money to some deadbeats (who probably said they would pay him back Friday when they got their checks) but came up short. The rich guy then says “Ahhhh just forget it.” (Maybe after he added up court costs). It is pointed out that the deadbeat who borrowed the most possibly appreciated the dept forgiveness more. And so the idea of the power of the Cross is raised. Which to me is quite simply the group symbol of transcendence of sacrifice to appease collective guilt. In many cultures this is and has been done many different ways. Including blood letting in many forms.
At the time Pastor Jeremy posted his first study on his book The Fury of God. I happened to be reading an older book about the same length entitled Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker. It was quite an amazing read and discussed man’s (and women’s) issues with guilt, meaning in life, and transcendence. The strange twist to it all, that Becker points out, is by trying to resolve these issues we bring about certain evils in the world. One of man’s (and women’s) biggest fear is that he knows he is dust and fears extinction with insignificance. We would like to know our lives counted for something in the larger scheme of things and would like to leave some meaningful trace which in turn brings about not only fear of death but of eternal destruction.1 So we cling to culture, ritual, sacrifice, power figures, and symbols to allow ourselves to transcend beyond the grave. Becker writes: “By preforming prescribed rites the communicant unites himself with Christ-the sacrifice-who is God, and in this way the worshiper accrues to himself a mystical body or soul which has immortal life.”2
The current popular Christian message of love and life seems seems to cloak the circle of death. We kill and chew to fill our stomachs and so also will we die and be chewed up. Ministers die of cancer just as much as the unbelieving. And just maybe we are simply all Jobs in this life. Judaism handles the fury of the deity in a much different way. Having a much different concept of the origin of evil, and different theological beliefs of the role of the Satan, they believe that all things both good and bad come from the Deity. Below is the confessional as death nears.
“My God and God of my ancestors, accept my prayer; do not ignore my supplication. Forgive me for all the sins which I have committed in my lifetime. I am abashed and ashamed of the wicked deeds and sins which I have committed. Accept, I pray You, my pain and suffering as atonement, and forgive my wrongdoing, for I have truly sinned against You . May it be Your will, O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that I sin no more. With Your great mercy cleanse me of my sins, but not through suffering and disease. Send full healing to me and to all who are stricken. I acknowledge before You, O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that my life and my recovery depend upon You. May it be Your will to heal me. Yet if you have decreed that I shall die of this affliction, may my death atone for all the sins and transgressions which I have committed before You. Shelter me in the shadow of Your wings and grant me a share in the eternal life. Parent of orphans and guardian of the bereaved, protect my beloved family with whose soul my own soul is bound. Into Your hand I commit my soul. You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. The Lord is God. The Lord is God. The Lord is God”3
Above the dying takes not only his own guilt and sickness, but also that of the society, He sacrifices his own self for perceived transgressions. This sense of guilt is at times felt while one still standing upright on a battle field or in a cemetery. One may say “How grateful am I, that I alone am still among the living, standing upright among these corpses.” or “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:16 -NRSV) I have studied the wrath and fury of both God and his people. And also gods and followers of other cultures and belief systems. I find it somewhat humorous that Zeus laments being blamed for all the miseries of men.
“Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves – in their depravity – design
griefs greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
So did Aigisthos act when he transgressed
the boundaries that fate and reason set” 4
In the end it appears that everything may simply be as written in the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes where there writer comes to the conclusion that all is vanity. And possibly we here, who are still above the ground, can help clean up some of God’s messes through the use of our own might and will power, doing good for goodness sake. I appreciate each day as a new day and maybe the last. And everyone I see here I currently view as walking corpses. It may sound pessimistic, but each moment spent is considered borrowed quality time. And like Job I say daily to the deity, if such a being exists, “Let me alone, for my days are a breath.”
- Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil (New York, Free Press, 1975), 5.
- Becker, Escape from Evil, 21.
- A Rabbi’s Manual, J. Harlow (New York, The Rabbinical Assembly: 1965) 96-97
- Homer, Odyssey32-35, Mandelbaum translation.