Friday, February 03, 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

“The narrative [Genesis 34, the rape of Dinah] refuses to speak monologically about the brothers’ response. It gives voice to Jacob’s perspective, who condemns them in both Gen 34:30 and 49:5–7. However, it does not allow this voice to triumph over the brothers, who are given the last word in the narrative (but not the last word in the book). When confronted by their father in 34:30, they ask, 'Should he make a whore out of our sister?' (34:31). Neither the narrator nor Jacob is able to answer this question directly. It lingers for readers to wrestle with, unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. It is wrong to slaughter the innocent, but it is also wrong to pretend that Shechem is guiltless. Amid the limited world that characters in Genesis inhabit, the brothers’ desire for justice (punishing Shechem) ironically leads to injustice (punishing all the other inhabitants of his city as well). Characters inhabit a broken world, where the right course of action with anger is not always apparent or even possible. Genesis does not place a veneer over the difficulties of the moral life or present a world in which moral perfection is still possible. In the cursed land outside Eden, humans often face few possibilities and must deal with anger’s deadly force even when all options are morally troublesome.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 161

<idle musing>
This brought to mind an old (2006!) post from Bonhoeffer's Ethics:

But even in a given place, responsible action cannot always immediately do what is ultimately right. It has to proceed step-by-step, ask what is possible, and entrust the ultimate step, and thus the ultimate responsibility, to another hand.

“God became human. That is why responsible action has to weigh, judge, and evaluate the matter within the human domain…However, because it was God who became human, responsible action, although conscious of the human character of its decision, must completely surrender to God both the judgment on this action and its consequences.”—Bonhoeffer Ethics, pages 224-225

The Bible is realistic—and includes the supernatural, which is also realistic—despite our Western attempts to exclude it!
</idle musing>

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