Job's Objectified Body


Today, I am moved into writing about Job - the central figure in the Old Testament Book of Job. He was a wealthy man who had lost everything. He was inflicted with such devastation that his body was not only covered with terrible skin sores, but it was also objectified, and those who knew him could not help themselves in ridiculing him. I write about Job partly because of our present predicament under our pandemic, but more so about the objectification of his body. Job’s body was so destroyed and degraded to the extent that there was no difference between his body and the dirt upon which he spent his days. In spite of dire his suffering, he looks to a tree as a symbol of his hope in his eventual vindication by God. In Job 14:7, he says, At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” Job is not talking about grafting; I am not sure if it was an agricultural technique back then. Rather, Job is referring to a new growth, new life that emerges out of an old, dead life. In Job 19:26, he continues: And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” If, indeed, new life is possible, he says, then even in his weakened, destroyed, objectified body he shall see God; his very eyes shall see God. Job concludes with these words: How my heart yearns within me.” Job is hopeful, for his heart yearns for a kind of vindication which only God can offer. This is the yearning that I feel within me as I reflect on the present circumstances of our world. I yearn for a hopeful future, one where the anxieties of the world are overcome, where an awakened life is ever possible and, where we can at the barest minimum, recognize and affirm the dignity of EVERY human being. I believe that the point of life is that life can sprout from a tree that has been cut - literally. For wherein lies human hope if we’re only defined by dead trees, or traces of old habits that refuse to die, even in the face of a pandemic. I am sure many of you have recently heard about Ahmad Arbery, an African American man whose life was cut short by a father and son who suspected him of being a thief. You and I are familiar with the way in which the African American body - the Black body - has been objectified, castigated, ridiculed, demeaned, and trampled upon. For that reason, some people feel empowered to take the lives of African Americans while hoping there wouldn’t be any consequences. Yes, some may say, that there’s Black-on-Black crime; I agree, and there’s no excuse for that. In fact, there’s no excuse for Black-on-Black violence, White-on-White violence, Black-on-White violence or White-on-Black violence. However, in as much as there’s no place or excuse for any type of violence perpetrated on anyone, the motivation underlying a particular type of violence shouldn’t be lost on us.  I am not speaking as an African American, but simply as a decent human being like yourself. Our feelings may be akin to the feelings of Job. Our hearts yearn within us. For how can we explain how an African American man - one who simply goes for a jog, did not offend anyone, did not invite any trouble - gets shot by a father and a son? How do we explain how this father and son felt Ahmad Arbery didn’t deserve to be? I can only surmise that when they saw him alone - when they saw the body with which he jogged, the body they derided and scorned - they simply couldn’t contain their anger towards the man whose Black body was a little too much for them. And thinking that no one was watching, they attacked him, pulled a gun and shot him dead. Why? To add insult to injury, the local authorities who have been sworn to protect EVERYONE attempted to cover the details up on behalf of the suspects. They, too, we can argue, share in the sentiments of this father and son - for to cover-up is an homage they all pay to the tribe. The honest truth is that the African American experience often feels desperate and dire; you have to live it to believe it. The reality is that you don’t have to be guilty or not guilty, you only need to wear the objectified body - like Job. As difficult as it may sound, I share this honest truth as your Pastor, because I also carry the same objectified Black body which Ahmad had, and I can never tell when or how I may also fall victim to similar treatment. That is a fear that I carry with me. A few weeks ago, I wrote - precisely because of the way COVID-19 has exposed our collective vulnerability - that maybe this is the time to rethink some of the biases we carry with us, and then vow to rephrase our narrative and approach to all people. We simply cannot carry on with life as if nothing ever happened. To do so would mean we haven’t learnt any lesson from this trauma. Am I feeling hopeless? Absolutely not. There is a hope that burns within, and that hope feels like a tree that can sprout again. I believe, ever strongly, that the hope which burns within the heart of many well-meaning people is their belief in life, a renewed life that touches every soul with the promise of dignity, of respect, and of honor. Job lost children, property, and a lot more. His body was destroyed. But if there ever was any hope for a tree that has been cut, then “Hope springs eternal in every human breast,” so says Alexander Pope in his poem Essay on Man. I haven’t given up on the dream of a dignified future and life, and neither should you. In my relatively young life, I have come to learn that you are as young as hope, or as old as hopelessness. You are as young as the faith you have, or as old as your own doubts. I choose to be young - faithful and hopeful in any human Body - whether objectified or not. ~Manny

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