Friday, November 7, 2014

Exploiting Queers (Job 24;1-12)

The heteropatriarchic complex needs us to feel bad about ourselves in order to justify the psychological pain they inflict upon us. Through acts of bullying and threats of terror this unholy complex seeks to keep us in a state of confusion and uncertainty which robs us of our dignity and leaves us feeling less than complete. 

Why does the Almighty not reserve times for judgment?
   Why do those who know Him never see His days?
The wicked displace boundary markers.
   They steal a flock and provide pasture for it.
They drive away the donkeys owned by the fatherless
   and take the widow’s ox as collateral.
They push the needy off the road;
   the poor of the land are forced into hiding.
Like wild donkeys in the desert,
   the poor go out to their task of foraging for food;
   the wilderness provides nourishment for their children.
They gather their fodder in the field
   and glean the vineyards of the wicked.
Without clothing, they spend the night naked,
   having no covering against the cold.
Drenched by mountain rains,
   they huddle against the rocks, shelterless.
The fatherless infant is snatched from the breast;
   the nursing child of the poor is seized as collateral.
Without clothing, they wander about naked.
   They carry sheaves but go hungry.
They crush olives in their presses;
   they tread the winepresses, but go thirsty.
From the city, the dying groan;
   the mortally wounded cry for help,
   yet God pays no attention to their prayer.
Job 24:1-12


This passage from Job invites us to examine the exploitation and oppression of the weak and vulnerable. The folks over at Theology of Work have a good insight into Job's complaint: "People appropriate public resources for personal gain, and they steal the private property of others… They exploit the weak and powerless to gain outsized profit for themselves… The arrogant get their way at work, while the honest and humble are ground into the dirt… The poorest have no opportunity to earn a living and are reduced to scavenging and even stealing from the rich to feed their families… Others work hard, but do not earn enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor." 

What strikes me about this passage is how contemporary it sounds. The exploitation of the developing world by the more developed world, the grinding of the 99% by the 1%, the "starvation wage" of the minimum wage job, the outsized profits of corporations. These dynamics are well at work in our world today. We should also add to this list the continued bullying of queer folk by the heteropatriarchy system which favors straight people at the cost of sexual and gender minorities.

Within the matrix of this examination of power structures we begin to understand the full threat which queer people bring to the heteropatriarchy complex. An empowered and embolden queer network not only calls into question deeply held ideas of sexual relations, but also unmasks the oppressive nature of a heterosexual society which benefits from a subclass of sexual minorities. This exploitation takes on both an economical and an emotional dimension. 

The economical exploitation takes the form of blackmail. Not so much in use in countries where LGBTQIA folk have gained some legal protections, blackmail is still a weapon of exploitation in countries that have strong anti-gay sentiments and laws. The threat to expose and go public, with the promise of silence at a price, places upon certain queer communities financial strain which only benefits the exploiters. 

The toll of the emotional exploitation is great and covers a wide range of response such as fear, depression, and suicide. The heteropatriarchic complex needs us to feel bad about ourselves in order to justify the psychological pain they inflict upon us, note the titillating explanation of "dyke relationships" on the book cover. Through acts of bullying and threats of terror this unholy complex seeks to keep us in a state of confusion and uncertainty which robs us of our dignity and leaves us feeling less than complete. 

In this examination of exploitation, the book of Job raises the uneasy question of the role of God, or more precise the lack of action from God, in the midst of this oppression. From the bible we are accustomed to hearing a charge of the people forsaking God, here in Job, we hear a charge of God forsaking the people. The weak and vulnerable suffer while the exploiters and takers work with importunity. The passage ends somewhat pessimistically, "From the city, the dying groan; the mortally wounded cry for help, yet God pays no attention to their prayer."

While it is uncomfortable I think we need to live in this tension. Human society is still built upon systems which favor one group over another. God does not intervene and the exploiters seem to live a charmed life, untouched by the misery left in their wake. I offer no resolution here, for that would violate the tension which the text creates. Rather we must boldly act on the invitation to understand the power structures of the world for what they are: exploitive, oppressive, and unopposed. Then we must ask of ourselves - how do I wish to live knowing the true nature of this reality?