Moral order in When Bad Things Happen to Good People

For Kushner, the most important thing to continue to believe about the world is that it is orderly, and in particular that it has a moral order. He is willing to acknowledge that some chaos and randomness exists in the world, but he labels it as evil. He is willing to let go of the idea that good people have good lives and bad people have bad lives. But he must believe that there is such a thing as Good, and that it matters whether we are good. For him, this will-to-goodness must come from something greater than ourselves. Good can't just be something that we dreamed up, backed only by our whim and taste.

To me, the most telling word in the entire book is "livable". By using this word the way he does, Kushner is saying that there are some notions he simply cannot accept, and that if he were forced to accept them, he could not go on living. "Livable" is usually coupled with words like "just" or "fair", and "unlivable" with "chaotic".

"The misfortunes of good people are not only a problem to the people who suffer and to their families. They are a problem to everyone who wants to live in a just and fair and livable world." [pages 6-7]

Summarizing the views of Job's friends: "We can only assume that nobody is perfect, and that God knows what he is doing. If we don't assume that, the world becomes chaotic and unlivable." [page 34-35]

"One of the things that makes the world livable is the fact that the laws of nature are precise and reliable, and always work the same way." [page 57]

"The special prayer known as the Mourner's Kaddish is not about death, but about life, and it praises God for having created a basically good and livable world." [page 139]

"And chaos is evil; not wrong, not malevolent, but evil nonetheless, because by causing tragedies at random, it prevents people from believing in God's goodness." [page 53]