Conflicting Moral Imaginations: Job, His Friends, and Suffering, Part 5

In response to this understanding, then, we must think about how the book of Job might challenge and transform our cultural and social structures in response to suffering. Walter Brueggemann becomes a very helpful conversation partner exactly at this point. If Job’s experience of suffering and moral response is carried out in our world, we will need to be attentive to the cries and laments of those who suffer all around us.

As those who are oppressed under brutal dictatorships share their testimonies, we as Christians are called to listen. As those who have experienced traumatic attacks begin to bear witness to the brutality, we who have some measure of power are called to respond.

Brueggemann suggests, that we often use theodicy as a tool of those with a vested interest in the status quo.[1] However, when we truly hear the testimonies and cries of those who are suffering, we will also hear the not-so-subtle voice of God calling us to alleviate suffering.

If we take suffering to be something that confers wisdom, strength, or character on those who are suffering, we are tempted to see ourselves as free us from having to respond. However, if like Job we see come to understand suffering as meaningless, our moral imagination won’t be able to accept any amount of suffering as acceptable. This does not necessarily lead to the disregard for life caricatured in the popular figure of the “Joker.” Combined with an interest in hearing the witness and testimony of the sufferer, it leads to an appropriate response to act.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, “Theodicy in a Social Dimension,” JSOT 33 (1985): p. 7