“A Disquiet Follows My Soul” Episode
This week wasn’t quite as stellar an episode as last week’s, but it continues the thread of the fallout from the discovery of the destroyed Earth. With all hope lost, the crew has moved from shock to blame.
As the natural course of human (or at least Western) reasoning goes, the top two targets for blame are the government and God. Vice President Zarek quickly takes the opportunity to destroy the reputations of Adama and Roslin. Rather than applauding their vision and leadership through a troubling past (which happened to end badly, though they couldn’t have predicted the outcome), Zarek claims that the actions of the these two titans were motivated by greed and a desire for control. In the final moments of the episode, he and Gaeda make an alliance to do whatever it takes to bring change to the government. Will they in fact protect the people from the Cylons? Or is it just an exchange of one power-hungry leader for another? And the cycle of government blame continues…
Blaming God for the woes of the world isn’t new either. In fact, this tendency dates back to the book of Job, argued to be one of the earliest books written in the Old Testament. As Gaius Baltar addresses the crew of Galactica, his words echo the arguments of Job and his well-meaning friends.
“What have you done to deserve this? What sins have you committed?” - Baltar
Job’s friends argued that he must have done something wrong for God to bring down the kind of punishment and suffering he brought into Job’s life. We still find this kind of God-in-a-box reasoning alive and well today. You suffer because you’ve sinned, you are blessed because you have been good. But unlike Job’s friends, Baltar wasn’t arguing that they were guilty, he was using their innocence as a springboard to call into question God’s character.
“We have done nothing wrong.” - Baltar’s followers
Like the colonists on BSG, Job’s resolute belief and assertion that he had done nothing wrong really complicated the issue. I recently read a fantastic summary of the book of Job in Philip Yancey’s book, The Bible Jesus Read. I wish I could quote the whole chapter here. He puts the dilemma quite simply: “God’s justice has collided head-on with Job’s innocence. Nothing makes sense anymore.” How can God be just and, at the same time, allow calamity to strike a righteous man? According to Baltar and the colonists, no one has done anything evil enough to deserve the string of injustices they have endured. Thus, an explanation is necessary to maintain faith.
“Maybe we’re the ones who have been wronged, maybe God owes us an explanation!” - Baltar
This seemingly heretical statement most certainly mirrors Job’s final response to his suffering. After asking for death and not receiving it, after asking for an arbiter or mediator and not receiving one, Job gets to the heart of the matter. As Yancey states in his book, “Finally in desperation, Job reduces his demands to one request, which he sticks to until the end. He asks for a personal explanation from God himself. He wants a day in court, a chance to hear God testify on his own behalf against what looms as a gross injustice.”
Of course, this request sends Job’s friends into a tailspin, as Baltar’s words probably did many Evangelical Christians watching Galactica this week. After all, who are we to call God on the carpet? What right do we have to demand an explanation from the Almighty Creator of the Universe? But Job continues to ask the question, as I believe Baltar will continue to ask on BSG. It is good to ask God the questions we have for him. God is big enough to answer them in ways we can understand.
The interesting thing about the book of Job is that God never really tells him the backstory: that a wager was made, and that God had staked his own reputation and the credibility of the entire human race on whether Job would remain faithful or not. He only gives Job the answers he really desires to hear. The sheer knowledge that God still lives and rules the universe is quite enough to satisfy Job.
Philip Yancey makes the case that the book of Job is less about suffering than it is about faith. He turns the argument around and shows us that God wasn’t really the one on trial, Job was. What would Job do? How would he respond? What would he do with his suffering and the dogmatic teachings of his friends when God’s character was called into question?
I think, instinctively, we the audience of BSG have a firm handle on this notion, as would have the Hebrew readers of Job 2,000 years ago. After all, we aren’t necessarily thinking, “What will God say to the colonists? How will he explain himself to Baltar?” Rather, we are waiting to see how the leaders of the nation, the crew of Galactica, and the colonists themselves will react to the crisis of faith. Will they abandon their new belief in a loving God? Will the indiscernible and depressing circumstances swallow up their shallow faith?
To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed. - George MacDonald.