New Orleans The Interfaith Workers’ Justice network was having a summit at Tulane University in New Orleans and its director, Kim Bobo, and communications guy, Danny Postel, invited us to come down for the plenary Saturday night. The summit had included a number of worker center and day labor activists and old friends like Jim Sessions, who I expected to see, and Michael Kerr, recently of SEIU and now a DOL honcho, who I was pleasantly surprised to see. My companera and I got there a little late so we ended up with front row seats for quite a few rousing speeches, the most interesting being a sermon from sister Bobo based on the story of Jonah, the whale, and the call to Nineveh.
The childhood memory of Jonah inside the belly of a big fish, presumably a whale, if one wants to invest a lot of credibility in the allegory, she supplanted with the rest of the tale of Jonah being called to leave his normal business and to be a prophet to the 100,000 plus people of Nineveh that either they shaped up and abandoned their sinning or God was going to wipe them out. She talked about him whining as he was sent to sail to Nineveh because this was a job he didn’t want to do. She told of him sulking after God decided to give the folks in Nineveh another chance because it hurt his own credibility as a prophet.
Skillfully once she had us listening to this crazy story, she caught us on the hook of her modernizing Jonah and making him into a reluctant warrior. She then placed that reluctance in the breasts of the audience, who might complain that they just wanted to work for a living or minister to a quite congregation or run a small local union out of the stress of the struggle, but instead all of them had been “called to Nineveh,” and whether they liked it or not, they had important and necessary jobs to do. Bobo was also not afraid to bring out the hard times from missing paychecks to reluctant funders to immigration raids and jail times.
There couldn’t have been too many people who didn’t find that Kim’s sermon (how could I call this a speech?), hit home in a way that surprised all of us sinners in the workers’ justice chapel to both find some meaning in a book seldom read and a story often told, as we realized that indeed, all of us had also been called to Nineveh.