I have always had an unrealistic impression of the life style of men of the cloth (nowadays, people of the cloth).  I thought it strange, and maybe improper, if a minister liked doing woodwork and had a complete shop in his basement, or liked muscle cars and tinkered with them in his garage, or was an avid mountain climber, etc.  Probably a little gardening in his back yard was alright, but not much beyond that.  Well, admittedly that attitude is improper, a person of the cloth is entitled to other activities besides sitting at his desk all day or making visits to parishioners in the hospital.  It is a little irksome, though, when they play a lot better golf than I.

 I have been reading a very interesting book entitled, “Night Draws Near”, by Anthony Shadid.  He is an American citizen living part of the time in Oklahoma, but recently living in Iraq.  He is a journalist for the Washington Post.  The book consists of short vignettes of his interviews with the ordinary and in some cases not so ordinary people of Iraq, not the type of story the press would want to publish, but certainly very readable for anyone interested in the daily life of Iraqis.

The interviews with two Shia clerics was very revealing.  If I am a little uneasy with the life style of CRC ministers, what would I be with the life style of some of the Imams. 

I quote, “Ali Shwaki, a bearish Shiite Muslim cleric with the kind of swagger that a pistol on each hip brings, strode with an air of mission throught the no-man’s land that the capital had become in the occupation’s early weeks.  In words and action, he left little doubt that there was a new authority in town and it was his.  At the Prophet Mohammed Mosque, in Baghdad slum where he lived, the forty-seven-year -old Shawki led prayers in a room stuffed with booty confiscated from the looters’ rampages.  He never romoved his guns.”  “We order people to obey us.  When we say stand up, they stand up.  When we say sit down, they sit down.”  ” I pray with my guns “, he told me. Can you picture Reverend Boomsa up there on the pulpit with two six shooters strapped to his waist?

Muqtada Sadr, the young son of the revered ayatollah Sadiq al-Sadr, who had been assasinated by the government of Saddam, became the spiritual leader of the downtrodden Shiites who had suffered for ages under the rule of the Sunnis.  His greatest strength was the militia that he commanded.  Here we have a cleric who spent his time helping his own people but also figuring out ways to get even with the Sunnis, and by that I mean killing them.

If there is a Muslim song comparable to “Onward Christian Soldiers”, it appears it would be taken literally by them.  We don’t sing it very often now days, but I always thought it was to be understood allegorically.  Missionaries using the word of God, not guns, to overcome the ignorance of the heathen,  and the works of the devil, etc.

It is paradoxical that we regard secularism as a bad thing, but for Iraq it is probably a good thing, and something that the administration tried to achieve, but stumbled in doing so badly. 





1 Comment

  1. Barbara said,

    March 23, 2006 at 2:18 am

    One of the most suscinct but revealing statements about comparative Christianity/Islam is
    “Jesus came into the city on a donkey to die; Muhammad rode out of the city to war.” (that’s a paraphrase…I’ll have the find the exact quote.) From Rev. Timothy Keller of the wonderful Redeemer PCA church in NYC, who probably has all kinds of interesting hobbies.

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