Cruelty in the Mind of God

[1] In the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, Luke 6:27-35 reads as follows:

27 This is what I say to all who will listen to me – Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. 28 Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel [πονηρούς] to you. 31 Treat others just as you want to be treated. 32 If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. 33 If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them. 35 But love your enemies and be good to them . . . . He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel [έπηρεαζόντων].





[2] The instances of human trespass or conflict abound in our history, and none of these trespasses are ever theoretical but are rather grounded in human experience. Consider historical episodes of Lutherans in the sixteenth century who drowned Anabaptists over disagreement on infant baptism, or ethno-religious conflicts in the Balkans, Ireland, and other areas on the globe. In short, religious violence and commensurate conflicts have lasting affects that become interwoven in the present, sometimes with deadly consequences. Where conflict transformation and reconciliation do take place and justice is restored from a broken past, we find human communities and constellations of individuals and institutions that have something to teach about the nature of forgiveness and healing in the present.


[3] Cruelty in the mind of God is a topic for our consideration. Cruelties attributed to the divine, are part and parcel to the protracted struggle within the human relation to divinity. The theodical inquiry of the lone voice – “Why me God?” – is uttered each time with new import from the interiority of the Self, seeking to understand when life becomes a tempest and the furniture of our minds is scattered. Evident since the youth of religious intuition, up through the morally raucous divinities residing on Mt. Olympus, and into the heart of our sacred texts today: This struggle of whether God is cruel, or can be cruel, manifests in the human cry at the heart of injustice in the world, and question of theodicy itself.


[4] My topic title, Cruelty in the Mind of God, is in fact an adaptation of Mark Juergensmeyer’s popular text, Terror in the Mind of God, a text I recommend to you if you haven’t read it. Juergensmeyer’s text assesses how patterns of terrorist behavior are constructed through a hermeneutic rubric of cosmic war, where the supposed metaphysical cosmic struggle is superimposed on the mundane nature of daily human life to tragic effect, and where human communities are infected with commensurate stigmatizations of the ‘other.’ The ‘other’ – as the axis of all “evil” to the prevailing cosmic plan – is perhaps best demonstrated in Rene Girard’s human subject who finds him- or herself in the cross-hairs of a majority opinion. You wake up one day and your head is on the block; this is when the other becomes a stranger, infidel, or foreigner; in short, a scapegoat for all of society’s woes. For Juergensmeyer, the metaphysical confused with the mundane, and the stigmatization of other human beings, are at their ground the result of human beings frenetically seeking to render life meaningful in a cloaked denial of meaningless death. This fear of death that distorts the world, Juergensmeyer believes, is closely approximated and indeed grounded upon Freud’s interpretation of the thanatos or “death” instinct.


[5] A discussion on cruelty is in fact different than Juergensmeyer’s, albeit not entirely. The project to understand the nature of the human trespass as cruelty is today part of an inter-disciplinary and international project that took flight though the auspices of the World Council of Churches in 2006 with a consultation in Switzerland on the phenomena of cruelty in conflict transformation. Thirty scholars from across the globe met together for a week to discuss cruelty in the world from Apartheid to the casteless Dalit – or broken – of the Indian caste system. This inter-disciplinary effort attempts to dive underneath Freud’s thanatos or death instinct – where Juergensmeyer begins, in fact – to what Freud himself identified as the “convolutions of cruelty” in the world. Noted psychologist, Thomas Parisi, argues that in fact Freud’s thanatos instinct was a term used to cobble these “convolutions of cruelty,” as he called them, that resisted any specific identification, somewhat like dark matter or until recently the terrain of the deepest bodies of water on this planet.


[6] In this paper I will: first, suggest that cruelty is a new topos for theological consideration. This suggestion arises from what western theologians and philosophers have both written and concealed in their writing about cruelty in the history of theological discourse. Next, I will assess one exegetical consideration of what may be termed “original cruelty,” located in the complaint of Job that there is cruelty in the mind of God that is subsequently directed by God on Job. Third, I will clarify how cruelty has an aesthetic quality of ugliness that repels human thought, as an excess in human life and relation. Finally, I will consider how cruelty is manifest through what is identified as a ‘death zone’ in human society.



A New Topos for Theological Consideration and a Brief History of Talking Around Cruelty:


[7] If Cruelty is a new theological topos for consideration, then by topos is not meant a topic for reflection. Rather, I mean topos from the Greek etymological sense of “cleared ground” for thought, where theological endeavors engage human experience and language. Why must cruelty be a topic of consideration for theologians? After all, isn’t it the case that sin and evil suffice for understanding cruelty? Not quite. From classic western philosophical, theological and etymological resource material, cruelty is a concept theologians have been referring to for millennia, without clarification. Philosophers, theologians, and writers of poetry and prose have noted cruelty as a kind of anomalous, excessive and raw barbarism, and then briskly turned away from further clarification in a pattern of disgust. Here is the rub: In the long arch of three millennia as human beings we have not defined our experience of cruelty. The trail would end here, and there would be no surprise, if it were not the case that we keep talking and writing about it. In fact, follow the etymological trail and conceptually cruelty has been conceived in a strikingly similar pattern up to our present time: “He was cruel, she was cruel, what a cold thing to do to them, that was particularly ugly behavior.” From the Greeks to the contemporary world, the concept remains.


[8] The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, was the first to shed light on this puzzle around cruelty. Nietzsche believed that the “actual and decisive eras of history which determined the character of humankind” – as he writes – were flush with cruelty.[1] For Nietzsche, cruelty is a saturated aspect of human trespass, the evidence of which is emblazoned in the manifoldness of human history, literature, politics, and daily human experience. But cruelty is unpredictable and imprudent to the vitality of human communities, or to civilization itself. Rather whimsically, Nietzsche believes that the Ideals of civilization serve to buffer against uncontrolled cruelty. What civilization could not portend is how these Ideals can also be conduits for cruel human conduct. So, for instance, for Nietzsche cruelty becomes concealed under the constructed calculability and prudence of human civilization, where the Ideal of the day – such as ambiguous freedom, unquestioned loyalty and uncritical patriotism – has enabled the perpetration of untold cruelties. For Nietzsche, the instinct to turn from an awareness of the visage of cruelty takes place precisely where the “precision, calm, and purity of the lines [of the Ideal] raise us above the mere contents” of the narrative and inform us of a less threatening interpretation of human nature. According to Nietzsche, civilization is analogous to the clean marble columns and portico represented in the Delphic Apollo in Greece. Delphi calls those who enter to “Know Themselves” through self-actualization; for Nietzsche, cruelty is evident in human beings just like the small fractures and protruding veins of that polished Delphic marble, an unmistakable part of the frame even where we choose not to recognize this as such.[2]


[9] Nietzsche is intentionally given to hyperbole, but his point is well made. We conceal cruelty in terms like “justice” sometimes where we indeed seek “sanctioned revenge,” or we face a history of entitlements through a rhetoric of inclusion that follows a policy of exclusion. Which is to say – cruelty is not only cold and raw, but deceptive. We are deceived when we seek revenge but call it justice, or in short rationalize behavior in the veil of prudence where human communities are simultaneously devastated.


[10] If we could take a moment to assess some references to cruelty, and adjoin the contributions toward understanding cruelty given to us in the long arch of classic texts to meaning and truth, then how would cruelty appear for us? The Proverbs (11:17) assert that “the merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Aquinas wrote that cruelty is bloody and “raw, like uncooked meat”; Seneca took cruelty for rationalized “insanity”; Spinoza wrote provocatively that cruelty is “what we do to those we love”; Hannah Arendt said that without mutual respect, “conflicts between groups . . . take on terribly cruel forms”;[3] Richard Rorty, the popular philosopher, wrote a book on cruelty without delineating the term; and Annette Baier, in her essay with cruelty in the title proper, Moralism and Cruelty, writes that she will leave aside “the tricky question of just what should count as cruelty.”[4]


[11] Current scholarly efforts and other nods to the vague but recurring concept of cruelty are not a recent occurrence. For instance, Todorov recalls the conquest of Tenochtitlan by Spanish conquistadors where 70 million Native Americans lost their lives between 1500 and 1600 as a constellation of events that can be considered “cruel.” In a separate work, he reflects upon those marked for death in Auschwitz who refrained from telling the new arrivals about the gas chambers: “The inmates agree not to reveal the truth,” he writes, “it would only have made their deaths more cruel;” what makes these diverse accounts of death, and potential death, “cruel?”[5] Pierre de Senarclen writes that “toward the mid-1990s, we count more than fifty new armed conflicts, essentially civil wars. Certain of these conflicts – in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, or Algeria – astonish by their violence and cruelty, by the extent of the destruction . . . .”[6] What about their astonishing nature makes these events so cruel? In her book, The Reproduction of Evil, Sue Grand writes that “with or without the conscious intent to destroy, generation after generation, mankind has turned against itself in cruelty.” We can learn from this parade of authors that cruelty is subtle, raw or uncooked, tricky or deceptive, excessive, harmful, and can even be what we do to those who are closest to us. What we may discern further from these writers is how we identify cruelty and then allows its visage to pass us by without further clarification.


[12] Job did not flinch when facing the visage of cruelty. The well-known narrative of Job represents for readers the human subject par excellance caught up in the tempest of cruelty. No other narrative – apart from the fratricide of the first-born boys of Adam and Eve – identifies cruelty in the force of an accusation aimed directly at God in Job 30:21. Job says to God, “You have become cruel to me.”[7] What is Job experiencing that he identifies as cruelty? When we unlock responses to this question, we will be able to respond to the inquiry of ‘What cruelty is.’



Understanding Cruelty and Job:


[13] In the Narrative of Job, above all Job values justice. In particular, Job values divine justice, where God punishes wickedness and blesses the good (4:1-14:22), and whereafter the wicked suffer and perish because they are against God (15:1-21:34). Here is the thrust of the Job narrative: Job is righteous (1:1-5), but through a divine test Job loses the symbols of his righteousness. His family and possessions are annihilated in a single day (1:13-22), he is afflicted bodily with disease (2:7b-10), his friends question his character, and he is turned into an object – and we will talk about objectification in a moment – into an object of scorn (30:9-13). Whereas elders, chiefs, and princes once revered and envied Job (29:8-10). Even Job’s spouse determines that it is better if he simply, “Curse God and die” (2:9). Not a good way to start the day.


[14] Job valued the balance of divine justice, even throughout the whirlwind of calamity that enveloped his life. So, it is not surprising for us as readers that Job turns to God for an accounting of divine injustice. His question is not imprecise – “God, what have you done to me?” His inquiry is surgical – “Why have you become cruel to me?” The Hebrew transliteration for cruelty here is Akzar, and the phraseology means that God has not merely ‘become’ cruel; rather, the entire relationship of divine justice between Job and God has been ‘fiercely turned-around’ through a concentration of focused neglect by the one in power.[8] We may assert that Job’s original value of divine justice is ‘fiercely turned-around,’ but in truth everything else in his life has also been spun around – in the German connotation of spinning toward madness, or zu spinnen – the spinning of Job is devastating his own intra-personal interiority.


[15] Friendships, family, spouse, possessions, the world, his body – this cruelty (as Job identifies it) has also fiercely turned-around his value of justice and thereby impacted his entire life. Along with his understanding of God, the three intra-personal, inter-personal, and socio-institutional spheres of Job’s life are affected by cruelty. Cruelty encounters Job’s house as a whirlwind, where the furniture of his life is upended. Consider the heurism of fracture that Nietzsche saw in the Delphic columns once more – in the Narrative of Cain and Abel – where God forcefully tells Cain after the latter’s deception and murder of his brother that Abel’s “blood is crying to me from the ground.” But in the Job Narrative (16:18), Job implores the earth, “Do not cover my blood,” where the memory of the cruelty that spins his life will become an outcry of injustice “that finds no resting place.”


[16] Thus far, from Job’s account, cruelty includes neglect, the misuse of power, an indiscriminate fierce turning-around of human value and human life, and the fact that cruelty encounters all spheres of his life from intra-personal and inter-personal, to the socio-institutional spheres.


[17] But these aspects of cruelty are already clear in Job’s statement to God – “You have become cruel to me.” Job in fact draws this conclusion about cruelty based on particular recurring central themes that run up and through the previous thirty chapters of his life. We can locate a few of these central themes evident throughout the course of the narrative, which also affect all three spheres of intra-personal, inter-personal, and socio-institutional existence.


[18] These central themes are: a) first, Job undergoes repetitive traumas. He is traumatized (6:1-7:21), – “Ah, could my anguish but be measured and my calamity laid with it in the scales, they would outweigh the sands of the sea!”; b) the narrative likewise consistently employs the images of excision, such as cutting, tearing, and piercing – “The arrows of the Almighty pierce me” (6:4), and his friend rebukes Job – “You are tearing yourself in anger” (18:4). It is interesting to note that in many texts and experiences the images of excision, when speaking and writing about cruelty, are usually evident in tearing, piercing, cutting, shredding, or biting, from the bitten apple to the pierced side of Jesus. Along with trauma and excision, c) a third theme emerges, which is that Job has consistently become an enigma. He has not become an enemy to himself, but rather ‘other’ to both himself, his familial and social relationships, and his former public responsibilities and offices. The tempestuel turning-around of Job to the enigmatic, where “now they sing of me in mockery [where] I am become a byword” encounters his whole life. Finally, d) it goes almost without saying that this turning-around in Job’s life, and at the core of his values, leaves him in a perpetual state of internal struggle without a means of release. It is in this perpetual nature, that struggle and trauma often coincide, bodily and socially evident in the narrative through boils and destruction to Job’s body.[9]


[19] From Job we receive a succinct interpretation of cruelty in this narrative. Cruelty is an excess that involves neglect, the misuse of power, an indiscriminate fierce turning-around of deeply held human value and human life through deception. Cruelty in this narrative likewise involves central themes of trauma, excision, the enigmatic, and perpetual struggle without a means of release. All of these central themes impinge upon Job, and the constellation of these draw him to the conclusion that God has become cruel to him.


[20] Now, why have we not read and interpreted cruelty through this narrative, even though it is clearly before us? For that matter, why have theologians and philosophers repeatedly glazed over cruelty, and why do we hear this word even today without much thought to clarification? I want to offer two possible responses to these questions.



Cruelty as an Encounter with Ugliness:


[21] A first response is that cruelty, as rawness, or an excess, is normatively repulsive; it is aesthetically repelling; it is ugly. It is difficult to look at. Both perpetrator and victim are encountered by cruelty where the common integrity of human life, and life itself, are affected. Media stories that sensationalize human suffering in the name of newsworthiness, The Dutch Reformed Church’s theological justification for Apartheid, the sexual exploitation of women in the Philippines that is cloistered in a rationale of permissibility, child abuse, patriarchal entitlements, the supposed beloved ideals of yesterday – these can be implicated by cruelty as an excess, and an excess that affects humanity in widely divergent ways. The excess of cruelty is typified under the crust of the rationalized “ideal,” such as the ideal for Freedom, or Patriarchy, or Obedience.


[22] With regard to the Ideal of Obedience and cruelty, and to explicate this point about the rationalized Ideal, consider the narrative of Abraham and Isaac, expertly illustrated in Rembrandt’s famous painting. Abraham faces a monstrous imperative from God – He can either obey God and sacrifice Isaac, or disobey God and not sacrifice Isaac: Either way, Abraham will lose the promise of his progeny. Rembrandt recognizes the effect this monstrous imperative has not only on Abraham’s intra-personal life, but certainly upon the interpersonal and social spheres that include Isaac and future progeny.


[23] Rembrandt depicts Isaac as the sacrificial lamb, whose chest is exposed and vulnerable to his father’s knife. Abraham’s enormous left hand covers his son’s face as a shield that serves to distance both father and son from their intimate relation and from the oncoming excessive trespass or act of excision, which also conceals from the spectator a fundamental element of the human drama unfolding; Isaac’s response, his thoughts and feelings of either betrayal, struggle or traumatized silence, the forthcoming excision, his identity evaporating into the enigmatic – all of this is concealed under the heavy brush strokes of Abraham’s palm. And yet, it is in Abraham’s eyes and the turn of his shoulders where Rembrandt directs the spectator: there is no doubt, left unchecked the father is going to slaughter the son. The determined, furrowed stare that renders Isaac’s flesh opaque coupled with the forward twisting thrust of his massive torso bears witness to the fact that Abraham is indeed already plunging the knife downward toward his son’s neck when the angel grabs his wrist and abruptly halts him. What Rembrandt freezes on canvas is obedience exceeding into the cruel loss of human relation, of promise altogether. Abraham is obedient, but obedience can be cruel. These conflicting qualities drive the spectator to the limit of both obedience and paternal cruelty.


[24] Ideals become harbingers for cruelty when they rationalize human irrationality, and thereby render excess somehow normative. And these normative and rationalized excesses are integral to many of our core narratives to meaning and truth.


[25] Consider the ethno-religious ideal of winning righteousness from the divine creator at the price of killing fellow human beings, or the pursuit of the contemporary ideal of divinely inspired ambiguous freedom at the price of death and war, or the ideal of institutional justice and mercy that serves as a foil for state-sanctioned revenge. Or, return once more and consider the ideal of Job as the Faithful Servant. The long-held and popularized ideal of Job as Faithful Servant has concealed – as Nietzsche said we have a penchant for doing – the Job who queries after cruelty in his life and the world. The ideal itself concealed the very item Nietzsche warned us about: The Ideal of Faithful Servant conceals not Job’s complaint, but his accusation of God – “You have become cruel to me.” How have we missed the centrality of this accusation within the Job narrative? Because the implications of such accusations for divine justice, for theodicy itself, make the quest for understanding cruelty repulsive to us. The accusation of God’s cruelty has gone unseen because it offers ugly implications, such as the projection of cruelty in the mind of God, and thus remains buried under the aesthetically triumphant crust of the ideal for millennia – thus, enter Job, the exemplar of the Ideal of Faithful Servitude. But didn’t God nearly destroy Job? And what did Job think of God for doing that? Job’s ability to identify what is happening to him is one of the fundamental lessons of this narrative, but cruelty is difficult to face, and is subsequently buried under the crust of the Ideal.


[26] The second response why we have perhaps not read cruelty clearly into the Job narrative has larger implications, and has directly to do with which ending of this narrative we like best. The fact is, two eschatologies are at work in the narrative of Job, representative respectively at the first shorter redacted ending of Job, and likewise the second longer redacted ending of Job.


[27] In the second redacted ending of Job, the reader learns that Job is a faithful servant. What was irrational is made rational, and the narrative bears this out for the reader. Job receives his life back in unspoiled form – his friends, family, belongings, social and economic status, his bodily vigor, all return. This second ending is not aesthetically displeasing (that is., ugly) and offers an eschatological perspective on the nature of hope. Despite all former excess, Job is ultimately restored.


[28] And yet, the first and earlier redacted ending of the Job narrative challenges the reader to interpret eschatological hope anew. In the first redacted ending, none of the tangible restorative elements take place. Job is left destitute. The end of the narrative reads like a closing veil, where Job is left alone with God, repenting in dust and ashes. The curtain closes, where the interiority of Job and the quiet dynamics of reconciliation are obscured in an eternally recurring checkmate. What does this relationship mean? How does the reader interpret an eschatological moment of hope therein? How shall humanity respond to excessive ugliness in our communities and in the world? What news will public theology bring to bear on cruelty in a world grown impatient with theological platitudes on reconciliation? In the second redacted ending of Job, the irrational is made rational through the Ideal of the Faithful Servant. In the first redacted ending, the irrational remains. Which ending is more representative of how we experience life? As a good friend of mine in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church told me recently, in a conversation about the first redacted ending “That’ll preach!” he said. It will preach because there is a kernel of truth for us in the integrity of Job to identify his life and the cruelty taking place in and through him, without letting the visage slip by.


Institutional Cruelty as a “Death Zone”


[29] Finally, I want to tell you something more of this international and inter-disciplinary consultation through the World Council of Churches on the phenomenology of cruelty and conflict transformation. Drawing from their own experiences, contexts, and fields, members of the consultation wrote a few items about the apparent uniform effects of cruelty on societies around the world, worth noting here:


[30] First, cruelty “causes suffering and pain beyond that associated with ordinary evil, even when such evil is itself an ordinary experience (e.g., slaves revolting against their masters became commonplace). Typically, the pain and the related suffering – both of which can be physical, psychological and/or spiritual – are inflicted upon the victim and are extremely intense (e.g., torture), frequent (e.g., occupation), prolonged (e.g., colonialist exploitation) and destructive (e.g., genocide).


[31] Second, the infliction of pain is often intentional, calculated, indifferent, and may even be a means of delight. Cruelty can be hidden in rationalizations, cultural myths and justifications that betray truth and a common humanity (e.g., the theological rationalizations of Apartheid by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa).


[32] Third, cruelty in society reveals a disparity of power that exists between the perpetrator and the victim. The perpetrator seeks for and gathers as great a power as possible over the victim. In this way, cruelty can become a systemic means for the institutionalization of the maximal disparity of power between the perpetrator and the victim (e.g., such as the conflict that has abated in Northern Ireland).


[33] Fourth, cruelty leads to dehumanization. The perpetrator denies the humanity of the victim, so that the victim may become unable to perceive his or her own humanity. The victim is subjected to a process of objectification that allows the perpetrator to take possession of the victim, to fully objectify the otherness of the victim. (such as sex trafficking in the Philippines or Porto Alegre of young girls).


[34] It is in light of this last identification of objectification that I want to make some closing remarks on interpreting cruelty. Cruelty has everything to do with the objectification of the other. In fact, Job’s exclamation that God has become cruel swings on the fulcrum of a statement directly beforehand – Job says that God is standing back and only looking at him, without the arm extended in assistance. Objectification, when it is institutionalized, leads to what Etienne Balibar, in his essay Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty, calls a “death zone.” In a radically globalizing world, this phrase “death zone” gains some traction in our understanding of cruelty today. Balibar writes that “what some Latin American sociologists provocatively call población chatarra, [or] ‘garbage humans,’ [are those human beings who are] ‘thrown’ away, out of the global city,” from this-side-of-the-border to across-the-border.[10] Those humans who are abstracted and externalized from this-side of peace, discover themselves, as Balibar continues, “in the face of a cumulative effect of different forms of extreme violence or cruelty which are displayed in what I call the ‘death zones’ of humanity . . . .”[11]


[35] Consider what we said before about cruelty appearing in the crust of the rational. In “death zones” of violence and cruelty, Balibar writes that what we encounter appears to be “an absolute triumph of irrationality.”[12] Of course, the irrationality of “death zones” in human life and relation can be traced prior to their macro-cosmic and geopolitical manifestations. Balibar’s insightful location of “cruelty” in the global and geopolitical environs also suggests that “death zones” begin deeper-down in the local or regional narratives that form injustices; these injustices turn rationality upside-down after which “irrationality” does appear to triumph. ((We encounter the irrationality of “death zones” in our narratives to meaning and truth. Consider Cain who kills Abel to win God’s favor, only to lose God’s favor because he killed Abel)).


[36] We have considered in this paper the topos of cruelty, its historically denied and ill-defined yet constant status through the history of western thought, the aesthetics of cruelty as ugly and repelling to thought, and exegetical considerations of cruelty from Job who sees cruelty in the mind of God. These led us to final comments about cruelty as a “death zone” in the socio-institutional sphere. The labors of reconciliation through, in and after an exploration of cruelty stand as a separate assessment. However, our first task is to understand how cruelty – from intra-personal to institutional forms – influences human life and relation in manifold contexts.




[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Morgenröthe I: 18:



[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Homer’s Wettkampf,” Fünf Vorreden zu fünf ungeschriebene Büchern, Werke Historische-Kritische Ausgabe III:2 (Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1994). See also Daniel Breazeale, trans. & ed., Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's.


[3] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (New York: Meridian Books, 1958), 13.


[4] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2.2.159. See also 2.2.30, “Properly speaking, a man does not pity himself, but suffers in himself, as when we suffer cruel treatment in ourselves.”; Seneca, De Clementia ii, See Calvin’s Commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia, ed. Ford Lewis Battles and André Malan Hugo, (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1969); Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, 8, 14-17; Annette C. Baier, “Moralism and Cruelty: Reflections on Hume and Kant,” Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy, v. 103, Gerald Dworkin, ed., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 437.


[5] Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of the Americas, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982), 133, 143, 171, and Facing the Extreme, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), 214.


[6] Etienne Balibar, University of Lausanne, “Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty,” L’humanitaire en catastrophe (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1999), 20.


[7] Job 30: 21.


[8] The phraseology of Proverbs 27:4 likewise utilizes the image of turning, or the transmogrification of a former relation.


[9] 6:1-7:21 – Trauma is as an “anguish” that is immeasurable; 6:4, 18:4 – Pierced by the “arrows of the almighty,” and Job “tearing at himself in anger”; 30: 9-13 – Enigma, or what Job becomes when he is made a “mockery” or a “byword” by those he once loved; Objectification – Once respected, Job becomes a site of scorn; 30:20, “I cry to you but you do not answer me; you stand off and look at me.”


[10] Etienne Balibar, “Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty: Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence,” Constellations Volume 8, No 1, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001), 15-29.


[11] Balibar, “Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty: Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence,” 24. “This [geopolitics], among other reasons, is what leads me to discuss these issues in terms of ‘topography, by which I understand at the same time a concrete, spatial, geographical, or geopolitical perspective.” [Italics mine].


[12] Balibar, “Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty: Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence,” 24-5.


© February 2009
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
 Volume 9, Issue 2