I’ve been reading a book called Liberating Jonah: Forming an Ethics of Reconciliation. The book has a lot less about Jonah than I had hoped, but it has lots about reconciliation, which is good too.
The starting argument of the book is that the miracle in the story of Jonah is not so much the storm or the fish but that Jonah was called to go to the Assyrians in the first place. Assyrians were the evil ones, the murdering empire bent on oppressing everyone. Yet the Bible says that God called on them to repent and would forgive even them.
The bulk of the book is an argument for the need for Americans (and Canadians and Europeans, though the book is directed towards Americans) to repent – not for disbelief in God, but for creation of oppressive structures. We have to recognize the ways in which we benefit from oppression and attempt to change that.
The book takes issue with a lot of ways people attempt false reconciliation. Doing apologies is not enough. Charity is not enough. Having white guilt or any other type of guilt is not useful. Celebrating multiculturalism is not enough. Nothing is enough unless we break down those structures of oppression.
The book has been a good one for me as I look at what I want to be doing with my life. When I grabbed the book from the library I was hoping for something academic about the origins of the book of Jonah, and instead I found another challenge to myself to get active and live out my faith – faith not in God, which I don’t believe in, but in justice, which I do believe in.
I feel weird sharing this because I don’t want to imply that I think I can actually solve the big problems or break down the structures of oppression. In some ways I feel like I should keep these thoughts to myself, less they be misunderstood or taken as bragging or posturizing. But I also feel like sharing them because nothing can be done in isolation and I want to invite my friends along. I know some of you have been on the journey for justice and making a better world for a long time, and at times I felt I was on that journey and then times where I was just focused on my own life. I want to get back on the journey. I want to hear from you, your ideas on how we break down the structures of oppression or how we benefit from others oppression. We all know we do, right? Let’s talk about it. What are sources of oppression? Where are opportunities for change? What brings you hope and what brings you despair and what can we do? Together?