Jonah and the Fish, English: Folio from a Jami al-Tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles), [Wikipedia Commons]

based on the book of Jonah

There was once a great city called Ninevah. Because of its greatness its people had become prideful and lazy. They squandered their natural resources, diverted rivers for their own use without thought for the lands downstream, built factories that belched dark soot into the skies, dumped their waste into the oceans, chopped down whole forests and dug away whole mountain tops. They took advantage of people less powerful than them to do the work that they did not want to do. All so that they could have what they wanted cheaper and faster.

And the Lord came to a man named Jonah and said, "Jonah, somebody's got to convince these people that they can't go on like this. The earth and waters and skies are polluted. My other creatures are disappearing. At this rate, the world will be ruined and death will come down on everyone like acid rain. Somebody's got to stop this and it might as well start with you."

But Jonah thought to himself, "This is such a hard task to undertake. The world is so big and the problems are so great. No one else seems to care, why me? What can one man do anyway? Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act." Tomorrow became today and Jonah said, "Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act."

Meanwhile, the problems in Ninevah had gotten so bad that Jonah had to leave the great city to move to a safer, cleaner, nicer suburb called Tarshish. Tarshish had nice Spanish architecture, tree-lined streets and neat green lawns and for a while it seemed like Jonah could forget his troubles.

But the people continued with their ways, and soon Tarshish too became polluted and crime-ridden. As the problems in Tarshish became more apparent, Jonah's neighbors cried in distress, "Why is this happening to our nice community?" And each one of them sought to lessen their fears in their own ways, buying guns and fences and security systems, air purifiers and bottled water. They bought more and more things and still the problems got worse and worse. Each day Jonah said, "Let me sleep on it and perhaps tomorrow I will act." Then one day the community leader asked Jonah, "Jonah, why aren't you buying duct tape and gas masks like everybody else? Is there something that you know that we don't?"

Roused from his apathy and looking around the ruin that he could not escape, Jonah got very depressed. And he said, "I do not want to live in this world that has so much violence and greed! Where people act without caring how they affect others!" Concerned by his outburst, his neighbors checked Jonah into the mental ward of Moby Dick hospital and Jonah stayed there for three days and three nights.

Deep within the bowels of the hospital, in a windowless room, Jonah reflected on how God had called him to act and he had not, how his world was getting worse and there was no place to hide from it, and how he would never know what life could be like unless he tried to do something about it. And he vowed to God and to himself that he would do what he could to save the world.

So Jonah went back to the great city of Ninevah, and he started to work. He taught others about ecological diversity, global economics, and class and race disparity. And he found others who shared his views. And they worked together, educating, protesting, lobbying. Slowly, the laws and practices of the people of Ninevah started to change. They recycled. They took public transportation. They looked for locally grown organic foods. Slowly, even their elected officials started to take notice...occasionally. The minimum wage and funding to public schools were increased, and social security was saved. It was still not a perfect world by far. Many people still paid no attention, making it all that much harder for those who did. Jonah saw this and grumbled to himself about it.

One day, a man drove up in a gas-guzzling sports car and threw some trash out of his window, right in front of Jonah. "Young man!" Jonah sputtered in disbelief, "don't you realize that everything you polute comes back to haunt you? We are all interconnected in this world and..." The young man interrupted Jonah saying, "Oh please old man, that's just a fish story that you over-reacting alarmist liberals tell us in order to get us to pay higher taxes. You've been saying these things for years and yet there is no crisis. Ninevah is still here." And Jonah said, "Ninevah is still here because some of us have worked to prevent its demise. You too must work with us and..." The young man snorted, "whatever" and zoomed away, leaving skid-marks and a fog of acrid exhaust.

Then Jonah became very angry. He said, "Lord, is this not what I said in the beginning?! After all this work, there are still stupid, selfish people who don't understand! They pollute the environment and cause misery to others and yet still they prosper! And they won't even acknowledge what we're doing for them by our sacrifices! Why, oh Lord, should I have to work so hard while they laugh? Why did you create people who would destroy your creation? There is no justice! If you were just, these people would not exist and the spotted owls and us good guys could live in peace! I'm telling you, I don't want to live in this world that has so much violence and greed! Where people act without caring how they affect others!"

And Jonah's anger made him very hot and uncomfortable, even more uncomfortable than the heat from the global warming. So God caused a bush to grow up in front of Jonah and shade him from the sun. As its flowers burst forth, the blossoms were so beautiful and fragrant and pleasing that Jonah temporarily forgot his self-righteous anger and was very happy. But the next day God caused a worm to attack the bush and the flowers withered and Jonah was once again displeased and hot with anger.

God said, "Why are you so angry that I killed the bush?" And Jonah said, "Because it was beautiful and pleasing! You are simply unfair Lord. The good perish while the wicked are rewarded and I don't want to live in this world with your injustice." Then God said, "You are this concerned about a bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow and which lived only one day. Should I not have at least the same concern for my people whom I created and for whom I have labored for so long? Don't they deserve the same opportunity to bloom? Would you only love that which is pleasing to you?"

Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 07:09
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative