J. Jonah Jameson, ‘ex-gay’ therapy scams, and biblical illiteracy

This is good news:

The fight against “ex-gay” conversion therapy continued in New Jersey today, where former patients of a group that promised to convert people from gay to straight filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Four young men and two of their parents filed the lawsuit against the founder of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), Arthur Goldberg, and a counselor for the group, Alan Downing, alleging that the group violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming that they could “cure” gay people of their homosexuality.

Happy to hear about the lawsuit. Confounded to learn about the name of this group: “JONAH.”

What on earth are these people thinking? Have they never read the book of Jonah?

Just in case you couldn’t figure out that Peter Parker’s boss at The Daily Bugle is the bad guy, look at his mustache. And if that’s too subtle, consider that he was named “Jonah.”

Here’s a link to the entire book of Jonah.

That’s it — 48 verses in total. That’s the whole book. You can read the whole thing in 15 minutes, tops.

And if you do read the book of Jonah, here’s what you’ll notice: Jonah is the Bad Guy. He’s always wrong. He is, unfailingly, a jerk. He is the butt of every joke because he deserves to be. Jonah is an object of ridicule and withering scorn. His story comes to a miserable end because he did everything he could do to earn such an ending.

This isn’t subtle — it’s the whole point of the story and it’s reinforced at every point in the story.

And yet, people like these folks in Jersey continue to name things after Jonah as though he’s some kind of biblical hero. People continue to name their children after Jonah. What is the thinking there? “We were going to name him Daniel, but then we decided we really didn’t like our son very much, so we went with Jonah.”

Stan Lee seems like he actually read and understood the book of Jonah. When Lee used the name Jonah — for J. Jonah Jameson — it was because he wanted you to know that this was a character you weren’t supposed to like.

There’s a long list of names that you just shouldn’t use for sympathetic characters: Ahab, Jezebel, Humbert, Brutus, Iago, Vlad, Moriarty, Cruella … and Jonah.

Those are also all names to avoid if you’re starting some kind of religious charity scam.

The hucksters leeching money by fostering and then offering to “treat” discontent with sexuality identity knew enough not to name their operation “AHAB” (Alternative Healing for Any Body) or “MANASSEH” (Making Anyone New And Sexually Super by Extreme Healing), because they’d presumably read the scriptures and realized that Ahab and Manasseh are held up as icons of evil. But the scriptures also present Jonah as an icon — not so much of evil as of a petty, sour, resentful and pompous foolishness.

That probably makes “JONAH” an appropriate name for this New Jersey clinic, but you’d think they wouldn’t want to brag about that.


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  • LL

    It’s almost as if you’re suggesting that many people read the Bible, but don’t really understand it. They read the words, but don’t comprehend them, or the context, at least. 

    And that can’t be right, because people who’ve read the Bible kinda brag about that a lot, seem to take a lot of pride in the fact that they’ve read the Bible, cover to cover. So I guess I should no longer be impressed by that (not that I was all that impressed anyway). 

  • Quibble

    I think that’s the wrong perspective, at least when it comes to children’s names.  If you name a kid Jonah, it’s going to be the book their most interested in getting to and, presumably, the one they are most interested in understanding.  And, as you’ve pointed out so well in the past, it’s a story about God’s love, even for sinners, even when an outsider might not understand where the mercy born of that love is coming from. Why not make sure that’s the lesson they get, and are reminded of. 

  • One child’s take on the lessons learned from Jonah: “People make whales sick.”

  • Tricksterson

    That’s unfair to JJJ.  Yes, as originally created by Lee and Ditko he’s a caricature but as time passes he becomes more three dimensional.  he’s a cheapskate but he protects his people.  In the first movie he’s willing to face death from the Green Goblin rather than give up Peter Parker and in the later comics this is indeed part of his peronality.  He hates Spiderman with an irrational passion but this doesn’t extend to other superheroes and he a champion of fair treatment for mutnats.

  •  Well, even the Biblical Jonah did God’s work, however begrudgingly. But the point is that he misunderstood the nature of Nineveh’s people and slandered them when he ought to have been redeeming them… It’s a fair comparison, I think. ;)

  • Presumably, their idea is that gay people are like Jonah in that they are arrogant and obstinate and will only yield to God’s will after they get… eaten… by… a… whale…

    Anyway, it’s the usual “People who do not believe what we believe really know we’re right but are just too stubborn to admit it.” thing. The irony is, of course, delicious.

  • I don’t know how Christianity got so far off its mark of caring about the little guy and the ones who face more struggles. Jesus was the first activist, you know…

    It reminds me of this video I recently came across– it’s a
    cute little song about how Jesus and his followers actually Occupy Jerusalem.


    Anyways, here it is: http://youtu.be/a6akkb_afqs


    it has a point. 

  • It may be that they actually did read for context. They consider themselves Jonah, called to proclaim to Ninevah God’s message so that they can “straighten up” and get right with God at last. Maybe it’s out of humility, or a ostentatious show of claimed humility, that they identified with a prophet who himself had to be taught a lesson.

    But it’s still going to get them associated with a prideful fool who would rather run away to sea than do his duty, and who gets angry that God is more merciful than he is.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s a long list of names that you just shouldn’t use for sympathetic
    characters: […] Jezebel […] Vlad

    I know a fictional Jezebel who is quite sympathetic. Though to be fair, it’s a self-chosen name, and I don’t think Jez is very self-sympathetic, or indeed self-liking at all. And Vlad is rather too popular a name in Slavic-speaking locales for the Impaler to be the only one remembered for it, kind of like how one shouldn’t omit Thomas from one’s baby name list just because of Voldemort.

  • Didn’t sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries call any item of bad luck a “Jonah”?

  • Jurgan

    Agreed.  Jonah is a bold crusader for civil rights and against government overreach (he once publicly protested against security cameras being installed on streets by the police).  I have to think  he’d be an opponent to the war on terror and a supporter of gay rights, though I don’t know if the comics have ever really addressed those issues with him.

  • Vermic

    According to their website (bolding mine):

    JONAH’s legal name is simply “JONAH,” chosen to symbolize the reluctant Biblical prophet Jonah who carried a message of healing to the people of Nineveh. JONAH’s initial thrust, as reflected in the original meaning of its acronym (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), was to work with those with unwanted same-sex attractions by providing the community with educational outreach services, including counseling referrals, for affected individuals and their families.

    However, numerous individuals sought out JONAH to provide advice and services concerning several other issues of sexual confusion. Therefore, our scope of services has been broadened to now include issues involving other sexual conflicts (e.g. sexual promiscuity, pornography, sexual abuse, pedophilia or pederasty, compulsive masturbation, fetishes, transvestitism, incest, prostitution, emotional dependency, sexual addictions, etc.). In light of this demand, the Board of Directors determined that a more encompassing meaning was required for our acronym, one that is reflective of this broader scope and thus chose “Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.”

    So, yeah.  Also:

    JONAH believes that homosexuality is a learned behavior and that anyone can choose to disengage from their same-sex sexual fantasies, arousals, behavior and identity – if motivated and supported in that process. We also believe that with appropriate assistance, same-sex attractions can be reduced or eliminated followed by the subsequent development of one’s innate opposite-sex attractions.

  • “There’s a long list of names that you just shouldn’t use for sympathetic
    characters: Ahab, Jezebel, Humbert, Brutus, Iago, Vlad, Moriarty,
    Cruella … and Jonah.”

    I don’t think that any one person – whether real or fictional – should be allowed to ruin a name for all future characters. Admittedly this is an ideal and some names really are ruined by their most famous bearers. Though you could deal with that by making the name one of their problems.

    However I don’t think Jonah and it’s variants are really ruined because if it is then what about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Salk didn’t he make it worthy again?

    Also the sympathetic use of Jonah among Christians may date back to early Christian art where Jonah was used as symbol for Jesus because of his three days in the great fish (early Christians were code obsessed for obvious reasons) – this positive connatation probably became part of the culture.

    None of which explains why it was used here, of course.

  • Amaryllis

     There’s a long list of names that you just shouldn’t use for sympathetic characters: […] Jezebel […] VladThe
    Evangelical novelist Grace Livingston Hill once named  a character
    “Jessie Belle,”  apparently just so that the girl’s good-Christian
    grandmother could keep calling her “Jezebel” in faux-naive confusion.Jessie
    Belle is indeed the villainness of the piece, but, as so often happens
    in “Christian fiction,” her misdeeds are more silly than sinful.As
    for “Vlad,” Steven Brust would probably disagree with Fred on that
    one… okay, Vlad Taltos does have that whole
    mobster-assassin thing going on, but no one could call him unsympathetic
    anyway. (And I say that as one who, as a general rule, has no interest
    in the whole “Godfather” genre.)

  • Hypocee

    Everybody’s gotten more 3-dimensional as the medium evolved, folks; he’s referring to the JJJ Stan Lee wrote.

  • quinfirefrorefiddle

    The pastor I know who named his kid Jonah I believe did it because the story reinforces again and again that no matter what Jonah did, he could still do God’s work, and God loved him throughout.  It’s a very Lutheran theme.  And given the stories this guy posts about conversations he has with his son about faith, I’m pretty sure this kid is going to be my bishop one day.  So I think it’s a great kid’s name.  (Also, very easy Halloween costumes!)

  • Ironically, Jonah was also the most successful prophet.  Most of the other prophets, even the “superstar” ones like Elijah spent most of their time warning people who wouldn’t listen.  But Jonah warned Ninevah, and the whole city repented.  I think that the message of Jonah is “it is the message, not he who preaches it.”

  • vsm

    What’s wrong with Brutus, a name shared by two great republicans unwilling to compromise their political principles for anything or anyone, family and benefactors included?

  • I think the biggest example of names to avoid (as opposed to Names To Run Away From Really Fast) from more recent times would be the rather obvious Adolf.  Don’t see many little Adolfs running around these days, do you?

  • Paul Durant

    And Vlad is rather too popular a name in Slavic-speaking locales for the Impaler to be the only one remembered for it, kind of like how one shouldn’t omit Thomas from one’s baby name list just because of Voldemort.

    You know, I was going to pipe up here and agree, and say something like “people in Germany still get named Adolf because that’s still a name for dudes”, but I looked it up and Jonah is actually a really uncommon name. According to the popular baby name rankings, Jonah at #113 is 17 spaces down on the boy’s list from where “Neveah” is at #96 on the girl’s list, and Neveah is just “Heaven” backwards. So, yeah, I learned something today.

  • LoneWolf343

     Even “Adolf?”

  • Jonah is a man who flees from God’s plan for his life yet is constantly pursued and blessed by God despite his disobedience. 

    That sounds to me like something every Christian can identify with. Otherwise all we are teaching is moralism (Do good things and God will bless you!) The book of Jonah and the whole Bible flips this kind of religiousness on it’s head by saying that God blesses people who don’t deserve it and moving towards even the people who try moving away from him. Jonah’s story ends open ended – the jury is still out and we don’t know if he ever learned or not!

    You spent a lot of time smearing Jonah’s name and calling him the villain while  God considered him someone worth pursuing and extending the privilege to him of being one of his instruments. I’m glad that when I am stubborn and try to flee God’s presence that he doesn’t just dismiss me a villain but that he comes after me. It is a joy to know that I can be a screw up, like Jonah, yet God is still delighted to use me!

  • as well as the alternate name for that big dumb guy who’s always trying to beat up Popeye (to no avail).

  • Jurgan

    The story I referenced was written by Stan Lee, albeit not until the series had been running for several years.

  • Jurgan

    I saw a speech from an educational researcher named Adolph Brown.  I think he was on a presidential committee as well.

  • konrad_arflane

    “people in Germany still get named Adolf because that’s still a name for dudes”

    I doubt they do. I found a list of the 500 most popular first names in Germany in 2011, and Adolf isn’t on it. So…

    Anyway, my dad once told me a joke that circulated when in his youth in post-WWII Austria: A man comes into the census office and says: “Hello, I’d like to change my name, please.” The clerk says “I see”, and asks him for his current name. “Adolf Scheisskopf” [lit. “shit-head”], says the man. The clerk looks a little flustered and says “Ahem. Well yes, I can see how you might want to change that. What would you like to be called instead?”

    “Heinrich”, says the man.

  • Jurgan

    Good point.  It’s a bit lazy to conflate “makes bad decisions” with “villain.”  He’s a screw-up and a coward, but I wouldn’t call him a villain.

  • The_L1985

    “A message of healing?”  How is “y’all are all gonna die in 40 days” a message of healing?!

  • The_L1985

     Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look…Perhaps strike “Brutus” from thy baby book?

  • Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

    The Bible isn’t a collection of stories of people who always made right decisions and were brave and had their acts together and are therefore Christians. What kind of Gospel is that?

    Ephesians 2 describes the kind of person Jonah acted like “disobediant, following the course of the world “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

    That’s the Gospel. We Christians, like Jonah, are trophies of grace – not merit.

  • I wouldn’t be at all surprised that Brust chose the name “Vlad” because of the sinister connotations, at least to his target market of English-speakers. Given who the most famous Vlad is to many of us, it’s a name that would stick in one’s mind. And, really, Taltos is only sympathetic (at least for the first few books) because he’s the perspective character who does a good job of painting everyone else as worse. (Imagine one of the early “mobster” books from the perspective of one of the fellow Jhereg he’s having a turf war with. Vlad could be easily repainted as some power-hungry, knife-happy monster who doesn’t care how much chaos he causes and how many bodies he has to step over on his way to the top.) Brust doesn’t so much counter Fred’s point as take advantage of it, to build upon it further.

    That said, bah, you beat me to it! I’m reading the Vlad Taltos books for the first time and am tearing through them at a pretty good clip (compared to my normal reading pace of late), so the reference was right at the front of my brain until I ran through the comments section.

  •  “Initial thrust”?

  • I finally found it! This is the Onion article that parodies all the They Doth Protest Way Too Damn Much folks who go on and on and on about Teh Gay:


  • Vlad Taltos does have that whole mobster-assassin thing going on, but no one could call him unsympathetic anyway.

    “As I told you once before, Vladimir, killing people for money is no way for a man to earn a living.”

  • For what it’s worth, I’m a Jew. I do not agree with the opinions I’m writing here, but I can give you some potential context as to what they might have been thinking.It’s worth noting that Jews read the book of Jonah on the Yom Kippur afternoon service; we read it right after the Torah reading … which, by tradition, is Leviticus Chapter 18, verse 1-30. (It’s a long list of who not to have sex with.) The Haftarah reading–the bit after, selected from the prophets–is usually selected as a sort of underscoring or counterpoint to the Torah reading. So if we just read about not having sex, then Jonah, the Accidental Prophet, must ALSO be talking about sex.

    Now, add that to the fact that not just the PEOPLE of Nineveh repented, but also the animals wore sackcloth & ashes, and we start realizing what (a traditional source) might think was the problem in Nineveh: sex. Evil evil sex. Bestiality (verse 23)! Homosexuality (verse 22)! And the people repented, and were saved from doom!I think the JONAH people are hoping that they can be the voice that helps Ninevites repent.

  • Tricksterson

    Oy, I love Noish-pa!  That was who you are quoting right?

  • Sigaloenta

     I mean, I can see why, between The Cato Institute and the Hunger Games, I would think twice about someone who named their kid “Cato”, but Brutus or Cassius seems like a perfectly, er, honorable name to me. More honorable than something like Octavian, anyway.

  • Carstonio

    That doesn’t make sense. Even if one buys the claim that homosexual behavior and identity are learned, fantasies and arousals of any type aren’t. JONAH apparently imagines a gay version of Dumbledore’s Army, kids learning homosexuality in defiant secrecy. (And yes, I know that Rowling identifies the headmaster as gay, even though this is never stated or implied in any of the books.)

  •  Yup. The scene I’m thinking of is actually from an earlier book, where he says, basically “So, um, this thing you do? This killing people? It’s actually not such a good thing, really.” And he’s like “Wait. What? You mean I’m the bad guy?!? When did that happen?”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Never stated I’ll give you, but if Grindelwald had been Gertrude instead of Gellert, literally every word the same except Grindelwald’s pronouns and first name and with Rowling silent outside the books on Dumbledore’s sexuality, everyone would be dead certain that young!Dumbledore and young!Grindelwald had been carrying on a torrid affair. We tend to assume that m/f relationships are, were, will be, or contain a party hoping it will be romantic and/or sexual; we tend to assume that m/m and f/f relationships are purely platonic.

  • Carstonio

    I was about to ask why the text doesn’t state that explicitly, but then I realized that the original audience may have known without having to be told. Doubtful that the authors envisioned these stories still being the subject of study and debate 27 centuries later. 

    Hell, jokes about Polish people had been around for decades when I was growing up, and I didn’t understand the point of the jokes. Beyond my simply disapproving of slamming an entire ethnic group, it seemed to me that someone had simply chosen the Polish at random. The origin and context of the genre was unknown to me, just as much of the context of the Old Testament stories is unknown to us.

  • Madhabmatics

     My father called me Cato when I was a little kid and I was confused for years about why he was nicknaming me after a Roman. As an adult I went and asked him why he called me Cato.

    It wasn’t Cato, it was Kato! He really enjoyed the Green Hornet.

  • From what I know about the Harry Potter fandom, you can take any two characters at random — regardless of their interactions and find an entire community of people who believe that the author intended for the two to be carrying on a torrid affair. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the two characters don’t share a scene or even appear in the same book. 

    That being said, you’re absolutely right. 

  • At least he didn’t say that he really meant the libertarian thinktank founded in 1970s.

  • I used that sort of acronym for a fictional one, but “Saving Homosexuals from Making Unhealthy Choices with Knowledge” is more than a little forced.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, that’s applicable pan-fandom. But I think Rowling wrote the Dumbledore & Grindelwald interactions to imply a torrid affair, and I think if Grindelwald had been female, nearly everyone would see that, instead of only the people who ship everybody with anybody.

  • Carstonio

    I question the latter, because famous male teams in fiction have long been the subject of speculation about homosexuality, like Holmes and Watson, and going back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu. I read Deathly Hallows knowing about Rowling’s statement on Dumbledore’s homosexuality, and I wondered if his gay relationship was not with Grindelwald but with Doge the worshipful sycophant. His relationship with Grindelwald had too much conflict and bitterness to suggest an affair.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And some people were saying Dumbledore/Grindelwald was a thing before Rowling said Dumbledore’s gay, too. I’m not talking about what some people think, I’m talking about what most people think, and most people think Holmes and Watson are platonic.

    His relationship with Grindelwald had too much conflict and bitterness to suggest an affair.

    *dies laughing*

    (If you’ve never had a highly conflicted and bitter romantic and/or sexual relationship, I envy you.)

  • Carstonio

    Torrid? The two seemed so antagonistic that if one or the other were female, I might never imagine them being lovers.

  • Carstonio

    My mind doesn’t work like that. If I see a couple having a row in public, I tend to assume that the relationship or marriage is unsteady at best. I’ve heard the claim that some such situations are really reflective of the depth of emotion involved, but anger seems like the opposite of love.