With all of the prayers being sent towards the people suffering in Oklahoma today, I want to bring a different perspective and message to my commentary. It is such an unfortunate and profoundly painful time for the citizens just to my west, and I realize their lives are what really matters, so in the spirit of that, I hope my contribution to the media that will be sifting through the ashes of this disaster is one of acceptance and healing. The point that I would like to bring to the table is concerning a post I saw today comparing the Biblical story of Job with the OKC (Oklahoma City) tragedy I read the post as a criticism of The Book of Job (or as I will forevermore refer to it as The Song of Job because of its poetic form and nature). I loosely knew the story of Job, but I decided to take a closer look. My goal was to see if the post, and the comments posted by others were of any value and attempting to add to understanding for healing, or were the statements without foundation. Needless to say, my research filled me with inspiration to express.
The post read “Job’s story sums it up. God gives satan permission to try to hurt your children with tornadoes.” Like I said, I believe this to be a cynical criticism of The Song of Job as a response to all of the social media’s many posts about prayer and God. It does seem as though many of the concerned religious across the world are telling these afflicted that they are praying for the safety and recovery of the survivors, as well as the lost lives with souls now held the judgement of their almighty gods. I think the people, religious or not, that are actually piling into vehicles right now should be the ones that we celebrate rather than the praying millions. I cannot be among the people that travel to help the afflicted because of events in my life, and therefore choose to act with a different goal. I hope my roll will be to help those moving forward to understand the event without needing a religious message that could be misleading and potentially harmful. Further more, I share in the criticism by the post of the message contained within The Song of Job, just as I criticize the thought that imaginary messages are helping the people that have no food or water this very moment. I understand the need to “send positive vibes” towards the suffering of others. That too can psychologically have a healing effect on the injured. I am sure the voices of consolation are received the best they can be. I can only imagine how awesome it must be to know that everybody recognizes how much your world exploding has affected you, and that others wish it wouldn’t have happened (sarcastic face). In all seriousness, to tell someone this was God’s will and that there should be some kind of appreciation for the event itself is cruel in my opinion. I prefer this insight into what happened.
I have many family members that live in Oklahoma, and indeed even have family that survived the 1999 storms Everyone knows that it is considered the heart of Tornado Ally, and for those that don’t, you do now. These storms are a way of life in that area, and indeed to the north of that area as well. So, to say that vicious tornadoes are unavoidable in the area is the understatement of the day. So with that little piece of evidence the entire thought process that it is a god punishing or manipulating people is completely ousted because of the evidence for the fact that anything that lives there will have this to deal with, and if you catch anybody spouting dogmatic rationalization I believe you should initiate criticism immediately. That shit is not helping anyone. These people lived in the middle of Tornado Ally, that is why their lives are destroyed. Not saying that it is explicitly their fault, as we cannot always choose where our family lives and where we grow up. Yet, the first thing to do is accept the truth. Living in a place like that is dangerous because of this type of event. Another major point to accept is that no matter where you live things will go terribly wrong for many people at an extreme rate, and at an acute level across the globe. This is one of the points echoed in The Song of Job, as chapter 12:14-25 shows Job recognizing this fact of life, and he announces it during the height of his suffering. This is the first major point that lead me to my conclusion, that I will get to shortly. There is nothing that singles anyone out for suffering. If you put yourself in harms way you can expect a like event. Similarly, standing in the middle of an interstate clogged with speeding cars is a recipe to be struck by one.
That being said, there is no guarantee that doing anything is recipe for survival or destruction There is no safe place, ultimately. There are some places that are obviously more safe than others, but oblivion roams the universe like rouge black holes, and when it is time for you to be struck there is likely no avoiding it. So how does one cope when life itself, in this case Mother Nature, is behind the disturbance It all comes down to moving forward and handling the pain and suffering, striving towards a true recovery.
Sticking with the comparison with The Song of Job, I think that the misunderstanding, once again, comes from the well defined agent finding instincts used by the brain laid out by modern neuroscience, and illustrated in this book of The Bible. Therefore “this is a topic of vigorous and hotly debated research—there is no doubt at all that normal human beings do not have to be taught how to conceive of the world as containing lots of agents who, like themselves, have beliefs and desires, as well as beliefs and desires about the beliefs and desires of others,” (Dennett 111) and on and on. The tangled webs we weave down these paths of thinking are not just limited to people and other animals. This search for agents extends into the world of rock and weather. The very geology that structures our version of reality. In The Song of Job this is presented in Job 36:26 through 37:24. The character of Elihu stresses to Job during this part that the world is full of many things that he cannot and will never understand. The loss of trust in the will of God is a source of wickedness. Shortly after that, God steps in personally to reiterate this by speaking “from the whirlwind” calling upon a “behemoth” and the “Leviathan” as more things that Job will never understand or control. This climax of the song turns Job’s mind in the right direction as he repents his questioning, and God gives him much love and tribute from the friends that spent most of the song being wrong about the will of God.
There is the telling of a fundamental truth and like some mythological stories, has a has a happy ending. Which is already lost to many of my suffering Oklahoma neighbors in the form of unrecovered loved ones. I took a minute to write this comment on the post that gave me inspiration:
“When you move human beings into a flat part of the country that should be used for crops alone you might lose your life to tornadoes. You hear the same things over and over again. Families that live on coastlines call for prayers when hurricanes and tsunami hit. People that live on fault lines are always confused about god’s will after an earthquake. A person prays to or blames god while staying with an abusive spouse when the choice is theirs. I heard a story just recently of a religious person that went through half a dozen surgeries for weight loss, and then didn’t change their behavior. Instead they told fellow coworkers that they were putting it in god’s hands, and of course the end result is that this person is now larger than they were two years ago when the surgeries took place. Even the common, modern view that has now re-evolved within the religious community puts the choice back in the hands of people to do the right thing. To this I can agree, although it is important to remember this is an intrinsic value, incapable of being given by any divine consciousness. We are responsible for keeping our families safe from the elements (including other human and beasts of our quaint little rock), keeping our selves safe from blind faith, and keeping our peers reminded of the truth. Putting faith into dogma puts you and your loved ones at risk, please remember that truth.”
The conclusion and simple truth is: what doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. To the survivors of the OKC storms I make this plea. Decide what to do next, not with guilt and dogma, but with wisdom at your side. Nothing is testing you. There is no evidence that this is God’s plan for making you stronger by stealing your lives. This is your chance to give to yourself dignity, to surround yourselves with intelligent decisions, and to heal without pathology. If you decide to rebuild, there will be more storms coming in the future. I am not criticizing rebuilding. I, similarly, would not be willing to leave my current location based on circumstantial factors, but all I can offer is hope for your safety At the same time, good for you, those who chose to move away from Tornado Ally in order to protect your life by using reason. I also have faith in the incoming force of humanity to help survivors willing to help themselves make the best of the inexorable responsibility of surviving disasters—the future To my religious friends that have been praying: cash, services, and goods will be the reason my western neighbors recover and thrive, so please remember to send those things as much as possible in between moments of prayer.
Special thanks to Will Allen Kern for his permission.
“The Book of Job.” The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Ed. John MacArthur. Nashville, London, Vancouver, Melbourne. Word Bibles, 1997. 697-740. Print.
Dennett, Daniel C. “Chapter 4, Section 3.” Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Viking, 2006. 108-115. Print.