Does Job play for the Bills?

A week ago, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson had a nightmare game, dropping several critical passes, most painfully a last-minute easy catch in the end zone that would have given the Bills a sorely-needed win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the locker room a short time later, a distraught Johnson did as many athletes do these days, and sent out a Tweet of his reactions, though this one got him lots of attention as it was directed at God using this language:

"I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO . . .

Johnson was widely criticized for the tone and content, though it struck me (and our own commentator Kathy, as well) that it was actually the most honest bit of God-talk I've heard in pro sports in a long time, and firmly in the biblical tradition.My colleague at PoliticsDaily, Jeff Weiss, was also intrigued, and has this exegesis of Johnson's anger and anguish:

While it ain't easy to push the idea of theodicy into a 140-character limit, that's what Johnson managed to do.Theodicy is all about how an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful deity can allow what appears to be undeserved pain. Johnson is well-known as a devout Christian of the sort who believes that God is directly in charge of everything. So it's totally consistent for him to toss a question to the Almighty after such a painful moment.In spirit and tone, you can find similar examples from Christian and Jewish religious writing and in fiction, from St. Theresa of Avila to Sholom Alechem's Tevye. But the most famous cry of its kind is surely in the Bible's Book of Job.Job is a good, successful man who gets all of his worldly goods and even his health taken away as a test from God.Johnson has his Twitter followers. Job kvetched to his homies: Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. And he complained to God. Some of his protests would work as tweets:"What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient?"[snip]The Rev. Frank Berna is the director of the graduate program in theology and ministry at La Salle University, a Catholic school in Philadelphia. He's written about the nexus of faith and sports. Johnson's tweet, he said, should not be ridiculed by anyone who respects Christian theology."I think it is a more sophisticated -- honest and realistic -- approach to prayer and a relationship with God often avoided by Christians," he said. "On the other side of praise and thanks, one can appreciate the lament 'why have you forgotten me, O God.' "

Alas, Johnson's trial are not yet at and end, as the Bills lost again yesterday to Minnesota -- despite knocking Brett Favre out of the game. Now there's another bit of divine justice to discuss another day...

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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