Last year a gray whale was spotted off the coast of Herzliya in Israel. As in the days of Jonah. Actually, we need to turn the clock back a little further. According to Arthur Max of the Associated Press, the gray whale was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic already in the eighteenth century. This whale, therefore, had to travel north of Canada from the Pacific Ocean through channels that are normally frozen. Global warming has opened these passageways and plankton last seen in the north Atlantic 800,000 years ago have begun to reappear. If Jonah was smart, he’d have stayed in that whale and would’ve just kept going.
Big business stands to lose the most from cleaning up the environment. It cuts into the bottom line. Happily, if brainlessly, joining the laissez-faire coven are many of the “Religious Right” who see destruction of the environment as part of God’s plan. So much for “and behold, it was very good.” When free market economists first met the conservative evangelicals it seemed that they had little in common beyond similar haircuts and a desire to turn time back to the 1950s. Since then they’ve joined to become a very powerful force in American politics, preventing any headway to improving the globe for others, even if it isn’t a personal concern of theirs. So much for “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Each year in my Prophets class I have students that are far more concerned that a literal Jonah was swallowed by a literal whale rather than hearing the message Jonah proclaimed: repent or face destruction. If we turn the thermostat up a few degrees more each year maybe Jesus will finally jump on that white stallion and split the Mount of Olives. You can’t quite see the Mediterranean from there, but if you could you might spot a lonely gray whale. You don’t need to look for the little man inside. That whale is the sign of Jonah.