‘But it is you, my equal …’ Reacting to the conviction of Jan Joosten

Last week began with the shocking news of the conviction in France of Professor Jan Joosten on charges of possession of child abuse images. The details of the case, particularly its extent, were awful, almost awful beyond expression. The news particularly affects fellow members of the professional academic Biblical Studies societies of which he was a member and who were acquainted with him, including myself. It is with my fellow members in mind that I am writing these reflections, in the hope of providing some shred of support.

The immediate outpouring of reactions through social media was understandably raw, and prompts some reflections on how we can make sense of that, and thus have compassion for ourselves and one another in such circumstances. This in turn leads us to explore where can find resources within the Bible to help us in the processing of our reactions. And finally I will offer some thoughts on the implications for the reception of Joosten’s academic work.

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Feelings for Vengeance

Much of my time over the last month has been spent marking assignments. A significant number of students chose to study Psalm 137. Popularised (in part) for anyone over 40-ish by Boney M.’s ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ (1978), the psalm is, in equal measure, notorious for its closing verses, which some lectionaries deem unfit for public use: Continue reading “Feelings for Vengeance”Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mudslinging at God

A friend recently wrote on his blog: “I cannot pray at the moment. I’m struggling to believe.”

My first reaction on reading this was to marvel at his bravery in making such an honest assertion, knowing that to some it would doubtless be shocking. That’s not the sort of thing that church leaders are meant to say, is it? But it stands as testament to just how bad the situation must be that it is necessary to take the risk of voicing such feelings, knowing that they are impossible to hide and that putting on a brave face is not only disingenuous but likely also to lead to further hurt.

And so my next response, which is the one that lingers, is a profound sense of sadness and compassion for him, as it is for anyone who finds themselves in such a situation. The sense of being cut off from our source of life, our source of comfort, is disturbing to a deep level, shaking the foundations of life lived in relationship with God. If God seems unreachably distant, to whom else can we turn? There is no substitute.

My friend is not the first person I have heard of to go through such an experience. Continue reading “Mudslinging at God”Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail