Summary: For Black History Month: We will not be fully redeemed until both black and white understand the elements of self-hatred that are in us and see that we have a Redeemer who will remove those feelings.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC February 2, 1986
When you read the book of Job and read it carefully, when you really let it sink in to you what happened to this suffering man and what he had to say about it, you cannot help concluding that what is most frightening about Job is his spiritual condition. As bad as the loss of health might be, as horrible as the fate that befell his family was, still it is Job's state of mind that scares us the most. As gruesome as his physical condition is when you picture in your mind's eye this poor man scratching at his sores with a piece of broken pottery, as extreme as his losses seem to us, still there is nothing that can compare with the agony that Job feels, the agony that he feels compelled to share with the world.
And you see, it is not only that he contemplates suicide, it is not only that he wishes he had never been born, it is also that he chooses to stand and shake his fist at God. Who can imagine anyone with such daring as that, who can envision anyone who has so taken leave of his senses that he would dare to stand and cry out that he was not to blame, that he would throw himself open to the Almighty and take his chances. It takes your breath away, the way this Job dares to confront the Lord God himself and virtually to dare God to take away his life. After all, he had lost everything else; why not lose life itself, if only to prove that you do not feel that such treatment as this was deserved?
But to me not even that drives home the hopelessness, the desperation of Job's plight quite like something else does. There is another element of Job's psychology that worries me even more than his reckless abandon before the very face of God. And that is that he believes himself to be hated by everybody, he believes that no one loves him, he is confident that all, all consider him an alien, an outcast, a loathsome thing. He believes that no one cares, no one loves him. And why? Because he no longer cares for himself. Job does not love himself.
“My brothers hold aloof from me, My friends are utterly estranged from me; My kinsmen and intimates fall away; my retainers have forgotten me, My slave-girls treat me as a stranger, I have become an alien in their eyes. My intimate companions loathe me, And those whom I love have turned against me. “
The words of a man in profound spiritual trouble, the mutterings of one driven almost mad by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and the worst of it is that mingled together here like a virulent poison are feelings of self-hatred and feelings of alienation, feelings of being right when all the world is wrong, but feelings also of being wrong, wrong in such a deep way that nothing will ever correct it. Job the sufferer has become Job the agonized, Job for whom there seems to be no earthly hope. For when circumstances have dealt a terrible blow, and others treat you as if you did not exist, then all too often you turn on yourself, you hate yourself as you hate others, and there is no turning back. No hope.
May I suggest to you on this first Sunday in Black History Month that all that comes close, dangerously close, to a description of the history of racism in these not-so-United States? Would it come as a shock to recognize that in racism, white racism and in black racism as well, there is more than a little self-hatred, all mixed and mingled with prejudice and fear and anger at someone else? Nothing is more damaging, more powerful, or more apparent than this truth: that too many of us today, black and white alike, are victims. We are victims of a racial climate, victims of an atmosphere which has taught us to be suspicious of one another, to wonder about one another. And as we are suspicious of one another we betray our own personal insecurities. We are saying, in effect, I don't like me and therefore I am afraid of you because you may show me up, you threaten me. Hear Job again, and hear ourselves, hear our culture, in Job's plaintive cry:
“My brothers hold aloof from me, My friends are utterly estranged from me; My kinsmen and my intimates fall away. I have become an alien in their eyes … My intimate companions loathe me, and those whom I love have turned against me. “
Racism is not only hatred and fear of the other person who is different; it is a hatred and fear of ourselves, and it leads us to the spiritual dregs, it leads us to the point where we feel that we are no good, no good at all.