Jonah, the whale, the Ninevites, and the far right

From June 8, 2020

There’s a story in the bible about this guy named Jonah. You’ve likely heard of him. And, you’ve likely heard of his encounter with a whale, or big fish, or the Loch Ness Monster. Whatever. This story is largely immaterial; it’s a preamble, like The Hobbit is to Lord of the Rings. However, unlike LOTR, most people never get to the important part of Jonah.

The whole whale incident was because Jonah was very reluctant to go and preach hell and damnation to the people of Nineveh. After he was thrown into the sea by frightened fishermen, swallowed by something, then spat out onto a beach smelling of dead fish, he had a change of heart, and went off to preach.

After he got done doing his Jonathan Edwards bit, lo and behold, the Ninevites repented! You’d think Jonah would have a bit of job satisfaction, or even pride at his powerful delivery, but no–he was torqued. He had really been looking forward to God smiting those guys, and after all he went through, he was ready for some real fire and brimstone. But, God forgave them, because after all, they repented.


Lately I’ve been reading and listening to some of the far right political nonsense, and the attitude started reminding me of the Jonah story. I’m not correlating liberals with Nineveh, or anything like that, and definitely not suggesting that the far right have been asked by God to preach whatever they’re preaching. What I’m noticing is the tribalistic attitude. With Jonah, it was him and God against the Ninevites (whether they repented or not); with the far right, it’s them and God against the liberals/Democrats, whether they’re right or not.

It’s pure tribalism. If a Democrat did anything that a Republican would have done a couple of years ago, it’s still socialist evil. It doesn’t matter that Bush, Bush, or Reagan did or said the same thing. If a Democrat says it, it’s evil, and they need to be destroyed. It seems that Democrats could even agree with the Republicans, but somehow they’d still be wrong.


I know that you’re already out there thinking, “Democrats do the same thing!” and, yes, they do. Tribalism runs both ways, and it’s always wrong (at least the attitude). Tribalism is nothing more than a big ad hominem–judging the man rather than the argument.

However, most liberals I know would gladly agree with a conservative–even a far-right conservative–should they be on the same side of any issue. I’ve even spoken positively about Trump the 2 or 3 times he did something I could support. It’s not common, but he has made a couple of good calls in the last 3 years. And, there are quite a number of Republicans who have said and done good things, and that needs to be celebrated.

The far-right media, however–Fox, Breitbart, and dozens of youtube nutjobs–have created such a divisive situation that for a Republican to ever agree with a liberal (heaven forbid Obama!) would be tantamount to treason. The result is the same kind of tribalistic attitude that our friend Jonah had about the Ninevites.


If we are ever going to get back to working together, we (all of us) need to stop demonizing those different from us. At least listen to what they’re saying and judge the words, not your emotions. Don’t be like Jonah. No one wants to hang around with someone who smells like dead fish.

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