Jonah Is (Is) Swallowed Up One Last Time

Religion is remembering; calling back something we didn’t know we knew that grounds us and lends continuity and meaning to our days. (re-“again” legere – “to read”)300px-Prophet_Jonah

Violence is forgetting, denying, making discontinuous, or annihilating the past and stripping away identity and the security of the present. By stealing backstory we take away identity and belonging as well as livelihood and safety. What is left is the frighteningly transient quality of the Now, newly anchorless and meaningless, far more susceptible to manipulation and a story justifying the immediate physical violence. This can make violence longer lasting. Buildings and land can be restored, community can be eternally disrupted.

Here’s video of the Tomb of Jonah in Mosul being destroyed by ISIS last week.

I don’t pretend to know what was in that tomb physically. I read our Judeo-Christian shared story of obedience and forgiveness to be a parable; there may well have been no historical nugget whatsoever. But for generations that physical location has served as place holder for the veracity of God’s ongoing pursuit of prophets like you and me who sometimes avoid The Call and catch sail to Tarshish. That location has been placeholder for the veracity of God’s surprising providence in saving, God’s determination to come up with a Plan B to make use of us. That tomb was until a couple days ago a reminder of God’s forgiveness in the face of Ninevite (and our) repentance and humility. It’s gone.

Religious extremism is one of the more grievous dangers in our world. Closely related ideologically, Religious conservatism that fails to recognize the truth of competing narratives similarly makes an idol of self serving security and power at the expense of others’ identity, rights, and peace. They both condone violence (of differing degrees).

Across the vast eternal sea of Life in the 21st Century we need as many life lines as we can get. Many of my post-christian friends who worshiped in childhood, sang in youth group and served on mission trips have had all they can take. ISIS is simply further proof for them that religion serves merely to justify injustice and should be outgrown. They find ample evidence in the states as well.

Looking for an island of humanity amid competing religions these are brutal days of loss and grief. I am depressed and disgusted on a regular basis, wondering if my own vocation or my own sense of call can withstand such a daily onslaught of de-legitimizing headlines.

“The engulfing waters threaten me, the deep surrounds me, seaweed is wrapped around my head.”

If you are striving in your own way to provide an island of remembrance and witness – thank you. We need you now more than ever.


2 thoughts on “Jonah Is (Is) Swallowed Up One Last Time

  1. I’ve spent a good part of the morning grazing on a bushel of blogs & other commentaries which all seem to be coalescing around a common theme of how to respond to religious extremism, though the others tie it to different events: the disruption of liberal churches’ worship services by anti-abortion extremists, anti-gay extremists, the NRA gun lobby. (The latter is perhaps the most incomprehensible of all, often tied to “religious freedom” as it is.) It’s a troubling issue: will all liberals and moderates inevitably be forced to become extreme themselves in defending their own rights? And what would “moderate extremism” look like, anyway?

  2. Love the notion of moderates having rights that might be slighted in current environment. But of course much more tasteful to be fighting for somebody else’s rights.. “Extreme Moderatism” would be a political activism committed to inclusion?

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