The Hopeful Midwife, pt 3

So what does the book of Job have to do with being a midwife? It is my contention that there is a pattern in the book of Job which repeats itself throughout the biblical text, and that this pattern is one which has important implications for the "hope" aspect of midwivery. If you are not a Christian, please bear with me as I take a look at this pattern. I feel confident there will be a payoff worthy of your time investment.

As Carl Jung has so passionately expressed, the book of Job can be frustrating, and ultimately indicting. If I were writing a theodicy (a defense of God), I would point out that the book has a similar structure to other works around that time period (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, or Ahiqar to name a couple), thereby rendering the frame tale (where God and Satan make a bet at the beginning, and then where God "replaces" Job’s family and riches) more literary convention than conveyor of theological implications.

I’m more interested, however, in pointing out that the book of Job is a refutation of Deuteronomistic theology, which put in simple terms, means that God punishes you for doing bad things, and rewards you for doing good things. Job’s friends are assuming that Job must have sinned gravely for such tragedy to have befallen him. As readers, we are informed that Job is innocent.

Job says in 31:35, "I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me." The Almighty answers, "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?" (Job 38:4). His answer is unsatisfactory, it is not an answer—only another question whose implications highlight the insignificance of Job, an answer which belittles Job’s suffering. Deuteronomistic theology has been debunked, but nothing has replaced it. Job’s question is left hanging, the problem of evil has been raised by Job and avoided by God.

To draw a rough analogy, Job’s friends represent the desire to seek truth and origin, Job is the first postmodernist (the first one to raise a red flag and wave it wildly), and God is the unapproachable Real, the territory that can't be mapped. There is a pattern here of man asking why of God, and of God seemingly avoiding the question.

This pattern is repeated in the New Testament. Consider Luke 13:1-5:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! ... Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!"

Here again we find pointless suffering: murder and accidental death. The tendency to rationalize is met with an emphatic no: for Christ there is no Deuteronomistic theology, no cosmic balance sheet maintaining a karmic economy.

In John, the pattern is repeated:

As [Christ] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus (9:1-3).

Christ’s disciples are trying to make sense of this man’s suffering by applying Deuteronomistic theology. Christ debunks their theology, but does not seem to replace it.

One last repetition of the pattern occurs at the climax of the Christian narrative. After having been betrayed, arrested, beaten, brutally whipped, and forced to carry his own cross before being affixed to it with nails, Christ calls out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). Here is the same Christ who so emphatically denied that suffering had any connection with the sufferer, screaming with his last breath the same why muttered by Job. At first blush, it appears again that no answer is given.

Christ, however, is constantly invoking the texts that have come before him. After his resurrection, Christ tells his disciples that "[this] is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 44). It is not without warrant, then, that we reconsider Christ’s words on the cross, and not surprising that we find them to be a direct quotation of Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (1). What message does this psalm convey that it should be invoked during Christ’s darkest hour? The psalm continues:

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer… [They] have pierced my hands and my feet… They divide my garments among them / and cast lots for my clothing… But you, O LORD, be not far off…praise him! … For he has not despised or disdained / the suffering of the afflicted one; / he has not hidden his face from him / but has listened to his cry for help. (2-24)

Given the lack of answer from God, the piercing of feet and hands, and the divvying up of garments, Christ’s crucifixion clearly enters into a conversation with Psalm 22. The psalmist insists that even though God refuses to answer, God has not hidden his face. In re-reading the crucifixion, one notes that "darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two" (Luke 23:44-45). While no explicit answer was given to Christ, a theophany (where God appears) occurred—God blocked out the sun and tore the temple curtain, the curtain that had effectively become a partition separating God from man. Where Christ asks why, God answers who.

In fact, upon re-reading Job, the same mysterious exchange occurs: Job asks why, God answers, "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?" (Job 38:4). The implicit statement in God’s response is God is the one who created the earth. God has answered with who. The encounter with the man born blind in John can be read similarly. Christ’s disciples ask why and Christ answers: "[This] happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (9:3). Christ answers, more or less, with who.

Anyone want to take a stab at why this might be relevant to midwivery?