Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
4 When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
5 But if you will seek God earnestly
and plead with the Almighty,
6 if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your prosperous state.
7 Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.
8 “Ask the former generation
and find out what their ancestors learned,
9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
12 While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
14 What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider’s web.
15 They lean on the web, but it gives way;
they cling to it, but it does not hold.
16 They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;
17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.
18 But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, ‘I never saw you.’
19 Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.
20 “Surely God does not reject one who is blameless
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more.”
I, like many of you, have been listening to the news coverage of the shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, NZ. On Friday, hours before I write this, twenty-six victims were laid to rest, including three year old Mucad Ibrahim.
Bildad’s words particularly seem like disingenuous lip-service reading them in the light of this tragedy. Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? (v. 3) Suddenly this doesn’t seem such a rhetorical question. Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of an evildoer. (v. 20) Are we so sure?
What angers me the most about Islamophobia is how quickly people – supposed Christians – forget that we all worship the same Abrahamic God. God may have chosen Isaac and later Jacob for Xyrs special covenants, but both their brothers, Ishmael (a forefather of Islam’s great prophet Muhammed) and Esau (associated with Islam, but to a lesser extent), received blessings, too. It is in Genesis! We’ve seen one already, in Genesis 17 God says to Abraham: “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will makes him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.” (Gen 17:21). The blessing is less explicit with Esau, but the Bible goes out of its way to tell us of his prosperity: In Genesis 33, when Jacob and Esau meet again after many years, Esau is not only rich, but magnanimous. “I already have plenty, my brother, keep what you have for yourself,” Esau tells a deferential and nervous Jacob in Gen. 33:9. And then, all of chapter 36 is dedicated to describing the great and long line of Esau’s descendants. To make a long story short, Muslims are our brothers and sisters in an extended faith tradition. Those who claim otherwise are willfully shutting their eyes to truth of the Bible. Yes, there are some very bad people who claim Islam. But there are also some very bad people who claim Christianity.
I don’t want to white-wash the pain of the Christchurch and larger Muslim community away by saying “it’s all part of God’s greater plan.” That is cold comfort when you are mourning the loss of a father, a brother, a child. I am sure God grieves with them and with us over this tragic, needless, and hateful loss of life. So what I’ll say instead is don’t let this get swept under the rug. Let us not be like Bildad, and mumble pious false comforts, let us instead provide real solidarity and support. Islamophobia is a real problem impacting people’s daily lives in this country and around the world. In case you don’t believe me, here’s an article citing 86 (!!!) times our current president made Islamophobic statements. Are you ready to take action? Here is a thoughtful article that gives an introduction to talking, in a meaningful way, with friends or acquaintances who may make Islamophobic statements. It is of the utmost importance, I would even argue our Christian duty, to combat the hateful rhetoric that leads to attacks like the ones in Christchurch. Regardless of faith practices we need to stand with one another, protect one another. We are all God’s children, and deserve to be treated as such.