Reading Leviticus is painful, I keep finding myself up in arms over and over again because of God’s seeming lack of fairness. Some people get away with horrendous sins, other are stoned outside the camp for breaking Sabbath laws. Women are treated terribly if they’re ever mentioned, Canaanites are run out of their land in what could be called genocide, God kills 14,700 people because they were grumbling over the plight of wandering in the desert, not to mention choseness itself and its inherent unfairness.
I was griping about this to Rabbi Yehoshua and as per usual, he nodded his head with grace and let me complete my “it’s just not fair” speech. He encouraged me to think about the concept of fairness and where it comes from, its cultural shape and influence. He also reminded me that just like we challenge God on the fairness of our law, so we have to challenge and account for our own fallibility in tandem.
I spent the week thinking about fairness and picking it apart until I saw it a little more clearly. I realized that I have created fairness and justice to be one in the same and see them as foundational ingredients of true goodness, essentially that good could only be good if it was fair, when that might not be true.
Maybe fairness at its end is the soccer mom, the one who wants a trophy for every child no matter their skill or effort. The mom who can’t handle the pain of disappointment in her child and so with the fight of justice within her she tries to the artificially level the field and ultimately her child suffers for it. The truth is, it’s not all the same and I don’t know if that’s the nature of the fall or the reality of creation and differing people with differing skills. In order to be unique from one another don’t we need to have varying levels of giftedness in one area or another? What art would be exquisite if it all was, what voice would be spectacular if they all were, what mountain would be towering were it not for the valley?
So as a product of this culture it may be that I am imposing something that has been imposed on me, that life should be fair, that goodness is to be fair, that we all deserve a trophy.
Rabbi Yehoshua pointed out, that when we really study who God actually is we see that fairness is not one of his attributes. Compassionate righteousness are his defining qualities, though they may at times feel like contradictory impulses, it is the tension of real goodness in a fallen world. If all we’re looking for is compassion alone we can take it to an extreme and there we have fairness, which can sometimes be the worst thing for us. Potentially part of it is due to the fall and part of it because people are different, but maybe when we obsess over fairness what we're actually wanting is sameness.
Christian theologians explain that even if we were to have no scriptures to reference, we would know of God’s existence from the stars above and the law within. So, how do we factor our own inner voice into an understanding of God, when his unfairness feels so wrong? When everything in us is crying out that life isn’t right and that it should be, what does that say about God and the way life was meant to be, about the internal and universal desire for justice in the afterlife because God and fate was biased.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and Trever was laughing in his sleep, (super creepy). I wasn’t sleeping well that night and he kept talking in his sleep on and off throughout the night and it was just so human. I was lying there thinking how funny it is when our minds do weird things without our control. It’s like a glitch in the program, system failure, and it’s a reminder that our bodies are just a very complicated system of connecting wires and signals. It’s an exposure of our fallibility and our limited ability to understand, because all we know and our internal impulses were really just put there for us anyways.
I know the world isn't the way it was meant to be, I know partiality feels wrong and thus so does choseness, I know I was created by the being I'm judging, and yet I know it's just not fair. I realized that as much as I don’t like this bit of God and his Old Testament behavior my belief doesn’t change the truth. We can relate to God how we want to, but we shouldn’t confuse that with who He is; In some absolute way God is who He is and He has given us some ways to understand Him, but it’s limited. So we listen to our internal morality, wrestle with the scriptural text, all the while understanding that whatever He is, He has told us He is compassionately righteous and that is goodness in full. I’m continuing to untangle these characteristics and their correlation to life and its bells curve of bias, and yet I’m attempting to trust that God in all His unfairness is still, in some unknowable form of wisdom, good.