Thursday, June 16, 2011

The book of Job: Writing about lamentations, misery, and woe

Admittedly, the Book of Job is one of the greatest explorations of spirituality and misery. It has it all: the abundance of bad stuff, the confusion, the paralysis of action, the hatred of life, the easy answers from comforting friends who judge one's life by their own spiritual standards. I suspect this is why most Christian novelists don't explore misery. Grief, yes.  Melancholy, yes. But not misery. Misery, is a combination of utter upheaval and terrible devastation. Misery loves company and all its griefs come in great company.

Like Job's Comforters, they are uncomfortable with misery. The author of Job delved into it. The conversation goes on and on, and most of the conversation is about the hurt caused by the kneejerk advice givers and their platitudes.

Ever wonder why the play has never been done? As far as I know, it hasn't been done. The Book of Job would make a great play, a great cinematic play. But Christians would be tempted to tamper. If there is anything worse than Christian non-fiction writing about grief, it's Christian fiction about grief....and they would not see the issues underlying the arguments and conversations going on in the play.

Why not? Because many American Christians have a tendency to judge. In addition, "misery" is calamitous. Job and his wife have not only lost the children they have loved -- leaving Job's wife suicidal and Job himself in a state of perplexity-- but they have lost their comfortably hopeful doctrine of God and their wealth. They have lost their reputation among their friends (after all, if something so bad has happened...and all at the same time...then there's got to be something supernatural about it.) They are silenced utterly and completely because the very spirituality that should help them will challenge them.

American Christians are very like that...and worse. They deal with the misery of others by spouting their doctrines. Whether the doctrine is about "get over it quickly" or "God's will" or "it must be your fault for not being frugal or careful or whatever," the upshot is a coldness and an aversion to misery.

I tend to write about misery. I explore it. I drag the reader page by page through something that they cannot easily snap out of. Why do I do this? I suppose because I understand the stasis of misery and I want to show others. That's the main reason anyway....and that is not the best reason to write, is it? Because certain things are still not comprehensible to many American matter how well one explains it. It's incomprehensible because the American Christian spirit is a hard one at times and refuses to judge itself and to see itself as Job's comforters. It's incomprehensible to them because the heart of the many American Christian likes diversion...and Pascal is right about the desire to fly to diversion in order that we may not experience how truly sad life is.  In short, many American Christians are not quite convinced that the world is a sad, bad, place ruled by the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. They do not hate the world as much as Jesus did, as much as Paul urges. They do not aim for poverty of spirit and humility because poverty of spirit is often found only in realizing one's weakness....and many Americans don't generally encounter situations where their weakness is overwhelming. Hence, they are judgmental of the weakness of others.   (Note, I say "many Americans" not "most" or "all.")

It's not so much that it's bad to want a good middle-classed life. It's that the worship of this "good life" idol makes its worshipers do all the things required of its god: which is... we avoid art that makes us look at the glittering gold-plated Christian American Dream and to see that it's nothing but a false god.

Job encountered misery, lost his preconceptions of God, and got closer to God. I want to write stories that will help open the hearts of American making them see what humility and poverty of spirit looks like. Hopefully, my new story, A Cry for Hire, does a good job showing stasis and misery. Hopefully Constant Tower shows them as well.

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