The Book of Jonah and the Scandal of Enemy Love

I had another wonderful experience last week with Business Connect who curates the HOST gathering on Jersey island. HOST is an amazing conversation between theologians, activists, artists, pastors, teachers, and business leaders.

A highlight of HOST for me was participating in an evening of art and theological reflection with musician and theologian David Benjamin Blower, who also co-hosts the NOMAD podcast with Tim Nash.

During the evening David performed his album The Book of Jonah, a musical about the book of Jonah. (Between songs on the album N.T. Wright narrates the story and Alastair McIntosh is the voice of Jonah.)

The Book of Jonah is amazing—by turns funny and profound—and it has a companion book written by David. Sympathy for Jonah: Reflections on Humiliation, Terror and the Politics of Enemy Love is a challenging reappraisal of the book of Jonah, seeing the story as a scandalous meditation on the call to enemy-love. A taste of the book:
The grace of God is awful to us because the proper response to evil is to fear it and desire its destruction, not to love it and desire its redemption…

While the book of Jonah makes a brilliant children’s story, it is not a children’s story, nor is it a story about a whale, but about an empire. It is a tract about radical enemy love and radical non-violence. The word radical is not used lightly, since in all history no enemy has seemed less human and more evil than the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The call to loving compassion for such monsters would be distasteful to the extreme, and I repeat, it is miraculous that the book survived at all let alone was canonized as holy writ by anyone.
If you're interested in the fusion of art and theology, stream/purchase the Book of Jonah and buy the book Sympathy for Jonah.

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