Jonah at Gitmo

The readings for the first Wednesday in Lent focus on Jonah. I have The Inclusive Bible which comes in 4 volumes. I finally found the book of Jonah in the Prophets volume. And rightly so. Jonah was prophet. He initially tried to shirk his calling and ended up in the belly of the whale. He was well aware that he might have to pay the price for proclaiming the word of God.
Johan finally enters the sinful city of Nineveh. He simply said, “Only forty more days and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.” To his utter amazement, the people and their rulers heeded the word of God and repented. They came to their senses. They prayed and fasted. They repented.
Fast forward to America in 2008. Imagine what would happen if Jonah walked onto the Mall in Washington and proclaimed, “Only forty more days and America will be destroyed.”
Homeland Security would spring into action. Jonah would be branded a terrorist. He would be captured by government officials in the middle of night and taken to a friendly foreign country for interrogation. If not forthcoming with a confession, he would probably be waterboarded. Eventually, he would end up at Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) without habeas corpus or due process to await trial by a military tribunal.
Meanwhile back in the nation’s capitol, it would be business as usual. A bellicose commander-in-chief would be encouraging Congress would to approve yet another bloated military budget while cutting human services. The military-industrial-congressional complex would prevail. America would continue to dominate and oppress the rest of the world to secure oil and other valuable resources.
Just image how the picture would differ if the nation and its leaders had heeded Jonah’s warning and Jesus’ words on Jonah. We keep asking for signs that God blesses America above every other nation. Jesus does not buy into out rampant nationalism. Jesus suffered a fate worse than Jonah. He was seized in the middle of the night because he was a threat to national security. He was delivered to a kangaroo court and crucified like a common criminal.Yet, being the prophet he was, He fearlessly issued a stern warning.
Today, He will not give us the sign we are seeking. He will only talk about Jonah the prophet and the sign of Jonah—repentance. Conversion. A change of heart. Jesus is calling America to convert, to change, to repent. Suppose the people would take this to heart. (Obama’s success in the current campaign indicates that people are looking for a vision, hope for the future.) Suppose, just suppose, our leaders would heed the warning. What would happen?
America would turn toward the Prince of Peace and trust in the God of Peace. The military budget would shrink from 52% of the national budget to the 10% that is really needed for self-defense. The needs of citizens would be met. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizenship—assures what every American needs in order to participate fully in the democratic process—food, clothing, education, shelter, and medical care. (Hungry, homeless people just find it difficult to participate in our democracy.) America would significantly increase its foreign aid to alleviate human misery from less than 1/5 of 1% to a much larger amount which would alleviate suffering and disease. Leaders would put away their swords, dismantle their nukes, and sit down at the table with others to resolve differences.
We are Jonah and Jesus today. We need to proclaim, “In forty days America will be destroyed if we do not repent.” The reality is that America is destroying itself, self-destructing before our eyes. Our goal is not too preserve imperial America. Our goal is to usher in the reign of the God of Peace.

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