When I was in college, I was taking classes at Peirce Community College in Woodland Hills. I had been a student at CSUN but wanted to move to San Diego, attend UCSD. Community college offered my best chance to transfer. Following my general education requirements, I took a sociology course. The professor was an engaging, clearly intelligent individual who had a lot of insight into people. This was especially crucial in order to maintain interest from the students, as it was a three-hour Monday night class. She often deviated from the text and told stories of what she loved about traveling, how she always avoided the touristy parts of town and instead found neighborhoods to wander and kids with whom she could sit in the street and play. That, she believed, was how you got to know a culture. I couldn’t take notes fast enough.
One night, a student brought up gay people and how they are often maligned, much like blacks were in the 60s. Since our professor was black, the student wondered what she thought about the comparison. This was around the time I’d been considering embracing that part of my identity, so I too was curious. The professor, though, smiled in that way people do when she’s been asked a common question, the answer to which was far simpler than people realized. If only people would just think a little more.
“They are not the same, actually. You’re born black, white, what have you. You don’t have to have sex. Therefore, you don’t have to be gay.” She let that sink in before she considered her next topic, standing there in front of the class with her hands clasped.
I raised my hand and she nodded to me. “But is that practical, people not having sex?”
“No, it’s not.” To her, you chose your sexuality in ways you couldn’t choose your race.
The discussion moved to a different topic, and as I sat there, annoyed that I hadn’t challenged her further, I looked around, for people had been taking notes. These people, who had come to class looking to understand people would perhaps leave with her understanding of being gay—that people had a choice, that people were only gay when (if?) they were having sex. But perhaps like everyone else in the class, I shut off because she spoke with authority and seemed to know what she was talking about.
I wished I would have challenged her logic. How did she know? Was she gay? I could have assured her that people didn’t choose to be gay; rather, they chose to accept it. But she probably would have shook her head—clearly I hadn’t read all that she had (or perhaps as little)—her degree privileged her opinion. Maybe I’m not giving her enough credit. Still, looking back on that night, I can’t get over how comforted she looked in believing what she was talking about. I probably never occurred to her that her opinion was not grounded in the truth (even if she thought it was).
The Book of Job is built on this notion: what happens when people who think they know what they are talking about but really they are putting forward emphatic ideas that happen to be false.
The Book of Job tells the story of what happens when God brags to Satan about what a stellar, upstanding human being Job is. Could anything turn him from God? God was willing to find out, as Satan suggested (1:11), for he had the utmost faith in Job. So Satan, acting with God’s blessing, strips the well-to-do Job of his possessions. When he is still with God, Satan ups the ante and suggests that if you messed with Job’s body, that would turn Job. Go ahead, give it your best shot, God tells Satan (2:5).
And while Job suffers, the thoughts from his close friends are more painful than his ailments.
(To be continued)