Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nothing Runs Like a Queer (Jonah 1:1-3)

     The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me." However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord's presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the Lord's presence.
Jonah 1:1-3 (HCSB)

Exploring the image above we can begin to dissect hatred toward those who are sexually or gender diverse. The queer (I am assuming a male) is portrayed in stylized stereotype with limp wrists, a more effeminate prancing, and clothes that are form fitting. His head is turned to those who are chasing him. Apparently only queers run in this fashion - that is the sting of the tag line. For those outside the US this image is a parody of a well known farm and lawn equipment manufacturer whose tag line is "Nothing runs like a John Deere."

Those chasing the queer are more masculine looking. Their clothes look more acceptable, even jean like, their bodies a bit more muscular, their shoes present as more sturdy. Most importantly they carry weapons - apparently a viral male is never without a weapon. The image also heightens another quality of homophobia - the straight boys are numerous while the queer is solitary. 

The image is inflammatory. It provokes homophobic anger by promoting that might and right are on the side of anti-gay attitudes. It also promotes a sense of isolation for the queer youth who might be looking for community with other sexually and gender diverse persons. It builds on stereotypes between the feminine and the masculine indicating that queers are less than or other than because "nothing" runs like a queer. The image is demeaning and seeks to rob les-bi-trans-gay-asexual-intersexed-queer identifying persons of our dignity and humanity. 

This is the horn of the dilemma for Jonah. As a prophet of the God of Israel he is called upon to "cry against" the city of Nineveh - the dark heart of the Assyrian Empire. But he does not. Instead he seeks to run in the opposite direction to the other end of the world. Tarshish was a settlement in what is now the cost of Spain, the last known town before entering the Atlantic Ocean and the end of the world. Jonah's actions leaves us a little perplexed. God is ready to condemn Nineveh. It seems that Jonah would jump on the bandwagon even as we would jump at the chance to condemn whomever produced the image above. So why did he run?

Jonah's motivation comes to light toward the end of his story. After waiting on God to make good on the edict of judgement, Jonah cries out: "O God! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshis at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing" (4:2). Jonah's concern is that to speak God's protest against Nineveh is also to invoke God's grace and forgiveness should Nineveh heed the protest. 

To forgive someone the wrongs they have done to us is to restore that person to community, whether that community be a family, a circle of friends, or the relationship between you and the person. Forgiveness also requires that the one forgiving relinquish the desire of revenge and risk the chance that the perpetrator will get away without being held accountable for his/her actions. These are high stakes not only for God's prophet but also for us. 

There is more to Jonah's story, but let us pause here. Are we who are "faggots" and "dykes" and "trannies" and allies willing to pay the price of restoring our detractors to community? Can we, or more personal, can I forgive the person who developed the tag line "nothing runs like a queer"?

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