Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Ayatollahs, Imams, Mullahs and God
I charged up the old cell phone, cozied up next to the land line on my desk and dialed God's unlisted number (see earlier post for the technical explanation). There were a number of clicks, some static, a faint whirring and finally a gender-neutral voice that sounded like Joan London channeling James Earl Jones.
"Hello, Boots." It was God. "I've been expecting a call from you.
"What happened to your receptionist," I inquired?
"Oh, that job is handled by a revolving crew. Answering my line for eternity is very boring so we try to rotate every billion years or so with the harpists. We're smack dab in the middle of a crew change so I'm doing my part to make things go smoothly. Besides, I knew it was you. Your antique Nokia phone creates a distinctive ring."
"So, what's on your mind." God likes to cut to the chase, none of that "How's your mom an' em" small talk. Besides, God already knows how your mom an' em are.
I told God that I had been following the Iranian Election dust-up pretty closely and was wondering about Heaven's take on the situation.
"Well, first of all, there are quite a few of those Iranian clerics who are in for some really, really unpleasant surprises when their numbers come up. I've got my nether world emissary arranging for some unique treatment. Satan takes great delight when we send down special requests. It gets the old boy's creative punishment juices boiling. I hear that there will be some virgins involved but certainly not in the way that those clerics day-dream about, heh, heh." God can generate a wicked little chuckle.
I noted that much of what the clerical leaders throughout the Middle East say and do, they say and do in the name of God; "Allah Akbar" and all that.
"And, that," said God, "is where they get their collective beards in the wringer. I defy anyone, cleric, theologian, Jew, Muslim, Christian or Oral Roberts to point to a place where I purportedly say it's O.K. to kill innocent people in the street. Ridiculous."
"The underlying problem,' God continued, "is that throughout the history of the earth, at least since humans have been around, some of them have tried to put words in my mouth. They do O.K. for awhile but eventually they botch it up big time. For instance, I never sent Saul and his army to slaughter all of the men, women and children of Amalek. How stupid is that? That was some man's agenda. I'm not about the wanton slaughter of innocent people."
"Muhammad didn't do any better in keeping some silly stuff out of the Koran," God continued. "Of course, if one hangs out in the Arabian desert for years and years all by your lonesome, one is likely to write some weird stuff. He was no exception."
I told God that I was confused by many of the Muslim titles and names that get bandied about in the press. I wondered what the differences were between an ayatollah, an imam and a mullah.
"Beats me," said God. "That just more of that man-made foolishness. One is either truly trying to be holy or not. As far as I'm concerned, it's far better not trying to be over-the-top holy and admit it than it is to slap a title onto your name indicating that you are particularly holy and then do a bunch of unholy things."
So, I observed, the differences are no greater than, say, than those between a preacher, a pastor and a priest.
"Pretty much," said God, "except, of course for the celibacy part, which, I'm pretty sure, the pastors and preachers want no confusion about whatsoever."
And, so, I continued, the differences between Sunni Muslims and Shi'ite Muslims are similar to the differences between Methodists and Episcopalians.
"Well, not exactly," said God. "Shi'ites try to kill Sunnis and vice versa because of some minor differences. Episcopalians and Methodists have minor differences, for instance, Episcopalians have nicer cars, but that rarely leads to gun play or beheadings."
"Look," said God, "it's not just the Muslims who let religious titles get out of hand. The Catholics are particularly culpable. They have padres, priests, deacons, monsignors, bishops, cardinals and a pope. Geesh. And, the more august the title, the sillier the hat. How would you like to sit behind the Pope on movie night at the Vatican Cinema 6?"
God seemed pretty steamed up so I tried to change the subject with a question about Joseph and Mary and the quality of their relationship once they had successfully dealt with the virgin birth deal.
"Hold on," said God, "I've got an urgent call from one of the parallel universes. We'll have to talk another time, Boots. Take good care."
The line went silent and I was alone with my thoughts. The "parallel universe" comment was intriguing and I intend to follow up on that subject.
Observoid of the Day: Although they both start with "A", the Appalachian Trail and Argentina are not the same thing but some folks apparently missed that day of geography class.