Sunday, April 25, 2021

Climate and theology, Jonah 3

 I wonder if it is time to bend my theological comments if any toward a recognition of the disaster we are in the midst of.

I know I have friends who are refusing to hear, yes, even religious friends, looking for the Deus ex machina to fix the problem. Dim wicks who can barely see past the end of their noses.

I watched Greta Thunberg's 3 hour documentary on the climate. It is right up to date. I watched it on PBS but it is available here also and probably lots of other places. It's definitely worth the time to watch. 

Now - what to do. That's a different problem. It's more what to undo. But theologically, some of us must first get our heads out of the sand. Particularly the religious who are too afraid to face reality, like the Chinese government who cannot tell the truth because they need to save face. The second coming will not fix this. Those who are denying climate change likely overlap with coronavirus deniers, the vaccine hesitant, and those who still claim that the US election was fraudulent. It won't do, folks. You will be devoured along with the rest of us by the 'fire from his mouth'. (Psalms 18 et al.)

What did Jesus say? The only sign for this evil and adulterous generation is the sign of Jonah. And this has nothing to do with the fish story. We are Nineveh - we need to change our behaviour and stop denying reality for a starter. 

Arise - walk to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against her,
for their evil has come up in my face.

We can also consider ourselves Jonah, the one who refuses to preach that there is a problem.  But he changes - well, at least a smidgen. Yet 40 days (an indeterminate time) and Nineveh will be changed. (Note I did not interpret that as 'destroyed'. I could have used overturned but for some reason I didn't. I could not have used destroyed because that I have used for a different root. Destroyed is the traditional gloss.) 

And Nineveh turned from its wickedness, from the king to the cattle. And they even stopped eating and drinking. 

As some of us have done for Covid-19, we turned our lives to help stop the virus. It turns out that too few of us have done this so our action is moot as to its effectiveness for herd immunity. The same political issue happens here as in all crises - a few, sometimes a large few, do the work, but everyone has to, not just a few. And maybe it's good that we are failing so that we do not restart the destructive paths we have been on. You will get this from the film: 2020 saw a 7% reduction in emissions over 2019. We need to do this every year for the next 10 years to get to a control point that will begin to hold the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

How long is the gap between human turnaround and God sighing. Well, folks, God sighs (that's my word for nkm, which some translate as repent, a word I don't use). What might God's sigh be composed of - signs of hope? 

  • China and Poland closing coal facilities, 
  • Alberta closing down the oil sands,
  • Brazil removing its knee from the rainforest that makes the earth unable to breathe.
  • politicians to stop lying,
  • all of us changing our clothing and purchasing habits, 
  • and our diets, 
  • and carbon capture being scaled up, 
  • and cattle burping less. (Lots of cattle in Jonah, not to mention the children...)
No - we don't have to 'go back to church' to reinforce our prejudices. Nineveh didn't promise much. If church is even to continue, we need to become the church, a caring body that is no longer taking refuge in its sin. It's the king, the secular leader (clearly anticipating the one who removed his garment and washed the feet of his disciples) who says - Who knows. This God may turn and sigh, and turn from his fierce anger and we will not perish ... (immediately).

Turn false interpretations upside down. Let priests indeed be clothed with righteousness. And let's get on with doing something good in that good temple we have been entrusted with. (The patient among us can also reread early Genesis beginning here. It's a very gentle presentation that extends our vision past the end of the nose.)

Jonah 3 Fn Min Max Syll
וַיְהִ֧י דְבַר־יְהוָ֛ה אֶל־יוֹנָ֖ה שֵׁנִ֥ית לֵאמֹֽר 1 And the word of Yahweh happened to Jonah a second time, saying, 3c 3g 13
ק֛וּם לֵ֥ךְ אֶל־נִֽינְוֵ֖ה הָעִ֣יר הַגְּדוֹלָ֑ה
וִּקְרָ֤א אֵלֶ֙יהָ֙ אֶת־הַקְּרִיאָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י דֹּבֵ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ
2 Arise, walk to Nineveh, the great city,
and call out to her the call that I was speaking to you.
d 3d 4C 10
19
וַיָּ֣קָם יוֹנָ֗ה וַיֵּ֛לֶךְ אֶל־נִֽינְוֶ֖ה כִּדְבַ֣ר יְהוָ֑ה
וְנִֽינְוֵ֗ה הָיְתָ֤ה עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים מַהֲלַ֖ךְ שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת יָמִֽים
3 And Jonah arose and walked to Nineveh according to the word of Yahweh.
Now Nineveh happened to be a great city of the gods, a walk of three days.
3d 4C 15
20
וַיָּ֤חֶל יוֹנָה֙ לָב֣וֹא בָעִ֔יר מַהֲלַ֖ךְ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֑ד
וַיִּקְרָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר ע֚וֹד אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְנִֽינְוֵ֖ה נֶהְפָּֽכֶת
4 And Jonah let himself come into the city one day's walk,
and he called out and he said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be changed.
3e 4C 15
17
וַֽיַּאֲמִ֛ינוּ אַנְשֵׁ֥י נִֽינְוֵ֖ה בֵּֽאלֹהִ֑ים
וַיִּקְרְאוּ־צוֹם֙ וַיִּלְבְּשׁ֣וּ שַׂקִּ֔ים מִגְּדוֹלָ֖ם וְעַד־קְטַנָּֽם
5 And the men of Nineveh believed in God,
and they called a fast, and they clothed themselves with sackcloth from the greatest of them and to the least of them.
3d 4B 12
19
וַיִּגַּ֤ע הַדָּבָר֙ אֶל־מֶ֣לֶך נִֽינְוֵ֔ה וַיָּ֙קָם֙ מִכִּסְא֔וֹ וַיַּעֲבֵ֥ר אַדַּרְתּ֖וֹ מֵֽעָלָ֑יו
וַיְכַ֣ס שַׂ֔ק וַיֵּ֖שֶׁב עַל־הָאֵֽפֶר
6 And the word touched the king of Nineveh and he arose from his throne and transferred his majesty from him,
and he covered in sackcloth and sat on the ashes.
3e 4C 27
10
וַיַּזְעֵ֗ק וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ בְּנִֽינְוֵ֔ה מִטַּ֧עַם הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ וּגְדֹלָ֖יו לֵאמֹ֑ר
הָאָדָ֨ם וְהַבְּהֵמָ֜ה הַבָּקָ֣ר וְהַצֹּ֗אן אַֽל־יִטְעֲמוּ֙ מְא֔וּמָה אַ֨ל־יִרְע֔וּ וּמַ֖יִם אַל־יִשְׁתּֽוּ
7 And he appealed and he said, In Nineveh from the taste of the king, and his great ones, saying,
The human and the cattle, the herd and the flock, let none taste anything whatever, let none pasture, and water let none imbibe.
3c 4B 20
28
וְיִתְכַּסּ֣וּ שַׂקִּ֗ים הָֽאָדָם֙ וְהַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וְיִקְרְא֥וּ אֶל־אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּחָזְקָ֑ה
וְיָשֻׁ֗בוּ אִ֚ישׁ מִדַּרְכּ֣וֹ הָֽרָעָ֔ה וּמִן־הֶחָמָ֖ס אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּכַפֵּיהֶֽם
8 But let them be covered in sackcloth, the human and the cattle, and call out to God resolutely,
and let each turn from its evil way and from the violence that is in their palms.
3e 4C 24
22
מִֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יָשׁ֔וּב וְנִחַ֖ם הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים
וְשָׁ֛ב מֵחֲר֥וֹן אַפּ֖וֹ וְלֹ֥א נֹאבֵֽד
9 Who knows. This God may turn and sigh,
and turn from his fierce anger and we will not perish.
3d 4B 12
11
וַיַּ֤רְא הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶֽת־מַ֣עֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם כִּי־שָׁ֖בוּ מִדַּרְכָּ֣ם הָרָעָ֑ה
וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים עַל־הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר לַעֲשׂוֹת־לָהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א עָשָֽׂה
10 And this God saw their deeds, that they turned from their evil ways,
and this God sighed over the evil that he designated to do to them and he did not do it.
3d 4C 19
25
For a short cantata on Jonah, listen to this music derived from the accents of the Hebrew Bible with a nod or two to Gershwin. Looking for a sponsor to get this performed and make it go viral! ($20K should do it.) Get the message out that God has given us humans the task of controlling our waste products. ($40K and we can perform Unleashing Leviathan as well. Pace those who say that the dragons are dealt with in Gen 1.)

You religious who are looking for a bit of comfort  - by all means read Psalm 18. Concentrate on verses 5 to 16. And then imagine you are one of David's enemies. Conspiracy theorists are not on a friendly basis with the Most High. Business as usual will not fly.


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