Book of Job

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The Book of Job

Zizek states that the Book of Job is perhaps the first example of a modern critique or ideology.

Job is a devout man and a model citizen who is suddenly struck with calamities. He is then visited by, one after the other, three theologically educated friends. These friends represent ideology at its purest. Each of them tries ti symbolize, to give some meaning to, his suffering – God may be punishing you (even if you are unaware of your sin), God may be testing you and so on.

The usual perception of Job is of a patient man who simpy endures his woes with dignity and remains faithful to God. But Job is not this quiet man who takes everything; he complains all the time. Job simply does not accept that his suffering has any meaning; he wants to assert the meaninglessness of his suffering. He doesn’t buy the idea that any divine plan can justify his suffering. And then, at the end, when God appears, He says the three friends were totally wrong and that everything Job said was right. And the moment you accept suffering as something that doesn’t have a deeper meaning, it means we can change it; fight against it. This is the zero level of the critique of ideology – when you don’t read meaning into it.

When God appears for the first time in Job, it’s a bit like a Hollywood spectacle, where He goes on to declare that He can create monsters with seven heads and so on. But all His boasting and declrations of power are actually an attempt to mask the opposite; what God demonstrates is His defeat. In this sense, Job’s suffering points towards the suffering of Christ.

We pass from Judaism to Christianity when this infinite split between Man and God – the point where Man simply cannot find meaning in his suffering – is transposed into God himself. This is how one should read Christ’s desperate cry of “Father, why have you forsaken me?” This should be read in terms of a child’s expectations vis-à-vis a father who cannot help. The reproach is against the Father’s impotence. God is not omnipotent and in this sense Christ represents both the impotence of God and the meaninglessness of his own suffering.

Theology can contribute to contemporary radicalism. This is a crucial aspect of the religious legacy which Zizek argues applies to contemporary globalization. Today’s preachers of globalization are like the three theologian friends of Job, who argue that people are suffering but that this is just a vital part of restructuring, a temporary problem in the great scheme of things and that soon life will be better. No, we should adopt a Job position and not accept any necessity or fatalism.