God the Capitalist Meets Job and his Violent Loss of Materialism…

God the Capitalist Meets Job and his Violent Loss of Materialism… June 22, 2012

Is not Job the narrative about the conundrum of pain, suffering and loss? Is it not a query into the permanency of suffering found within the human condition, and how ultimately this ‘thing’ is something that is part of our experience that does give answers? What if resting within this story resides an anecdote of the suffering inherent within material wealth, excess and accumulation?

When we encounter Job we are met with someone who is ‘right in the eyes of the lord’ or ‘he had it going on’ or could it also mean: ‘he was successful human being’ (whether that signifies spiritual or otherwise). So, if anything, we are initially met with the notion of success even if it refers to the ethics of being. Job was also materially successful, all of the references to cattle is a nod to financial stability. He had everything he wanted, or so he thought.

Then God’s prosecutor (this is key for those who think that God and Satan are eternally at-odds) Satan (meaning opposer, adversary or prosecutor) strikes a deal with God (In this story, God seems to be a capitalist) and the trials of Job begin. God (via Satan; via his doppelgangor; essentially God is supplying Job with the dialectic framework, which is simply put: synthesis – antithesis – new interpretation…) seems to also imply that the negation of material wealth is that which does not define an individual – hence why Job ends up alone. He loses everything, even the support of his wife. He is, for all intense purposes – alone. Is this not (also) a symbol for the ‘individual’ – the person who sustains one-self without the help of another (which is also a perverse illusion of the neo-liberal Left).

Then Job is met by his friends who think sin is the issue here. I want to use sin in the sense of lack here, something we do not have. These conversations, as Westerners tend to only be viewed as condemnatory, but this mode of discussion is common in Jewish parlance – it is dialectical, Job is not meant to simply accept what is being claimed but also counter it. Is not this also the claim of capitalist ideology and/or media-driven commodity fetishism, that what we lack can be filled by, well, anything? The object that passes our televsion screens can fulfill the void; and yet is in its entirety an illusion that drives us deeper into the violence of unending desire?

God also eventually responds, but how? Via a natural element. A whirlwind. A material object. In this moment, we encounter something radical – God is a materialist (different from material wealth). God objectifies himself in nature. In an uncontrollable, undefinable, violent object. It is this ‘thing’ God chooses to respond to Job in. God transcends his initial capitalist bargaining by denying the need for such a tool. So, in this sense, violence is a tool for Job’s self-reflection. Nature is a mirror into Job’s own sense of loss of grief  (think about this, does not nature also suffer loss?) God is ultimately aligning Job’s loss with his own loss – God becomes identity-less in the midst of Job’s own loss of identity.

Do not these friends (whether right or wrong in their synopsis) provide us with a greater option then the neo-liberal fantasy of individualism and the promise of happiness found in one’s self? (Is this not also the promise/notion behind the current interpretation of Christian salvation? That once you accept a ‘gift’ from God of ‘love’ (i.e., you lack something and once you ‘gain’ this ‘gift of love’ (commodity?) you will then attain unending happiness (i.e., your desire will be fulfilled). Maybe their presence reminds of the radical kernel hidden within neo-communism. Now, let’s be frank for a moment: Marxist communism failed miserably and the blood of history has only to prove this. I do not claim this type of communism, but rather  a simple form of it, simply defined: that which is common to one is common to all (i.e. housing, food, medical care, ‘happiness’, all are equal here).

Is this image not centered around Job being alone in his suffering? Is not also the implication of Job’s ‘returned’ blessing a restoration to individuality, well, I think we err by reading such an end to the story. For how is wealth accumulated if not via ‘other’s’? – Then is not the implication similar to the communal practice of the early church, that Jobs’ wealth is given to him by his ‘others’ – as in, implying the new Job can only now define himself by what he gains in community, and so it is not a nod back to material wealth – but more importantly – relational wealth. That what is common to him is common to all and vice versa. Maybe the story of Job is about the suffering of material wealth and the eventual losses it necessarily brings to usher in a new kind of communal expression.





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  • I would personally encourage the author of this article to write such a story about the suffering of materialism, but I do not think this is the message of Job. I do not see God’s answer as a loss of identity, but as an appeal to cosmic significance, which dwarfs any “suffering” Job might have experienced. I have no problem with retelling the story in this way, but when the article asks, “Isn’t Job about [insert phrase about materialism here]”, I have to answer almost every time, no, I don’t think it does.

  • Hi Jake. Thanks for your response. I hear your perspective, however, I want to claim that this is what the hebrew narratives are all about – perspective. not one ‘true’ interpretative perspective, but much like the parables jesus used or the author of lamentations (by employing the tool of personification) or proverbs/psalms where they use different rhetorical devices embedded with hyperbole and over-exclamation – i think they leave it open to the reader to explore the possible meanings. like one rabbinic commentary claimed that Jacob never wrestled the angel, but it was a metaphor of the transformation that one might experience when they wrestle with Torah. If anything, the above is simply a form of wrestling; not to mention the ancient jewish authors believed each verse in torah had up to 70 different interpretations/perspectives. I think we need not be afraid of perspective, but embrace all of the possibilities. truth is a kaleidoscope, rather than a whole. it is fragmented and cannot be claimed as ‘this is truth’ but rather can only be discovered in a dialectic (imo).

  • Ron Simkins

    George, I agree with so much of your challenge to our conservative and liberal stories in the modern world, and I agree with Jake that you should write it up. But, even though parables and narratives are intended to stretch us and push us to see various ways to apply them, the application still should flow from the narrative rather than be imposed on it. I would rather see you attempt to write your posted story trying to work it out in the light of Saul/Paul in the New Testament rather than Job where it seems quite a stretch. Still – thanks for the reminders and challenges that we all need to remember about our own life stories.

  • george elerick

    see. to me its not an imposition; the ideas were still present in the ancient world, they simply used different terminology – if anything, i am being too narrative oriented here. 🙂