Mzanzania | Father Garyby Tom Eaton, illustration by Alastair Laird / 01.04.2011
The story so far: at the annual Rainbow Revelation Interfaith Retreat at Schloss Lebensraum in the Drakensberg, young priest Gary Beige has his own cross to bear in a seminar titled Reaching Out, Reaching Inside…
Sheikh Yusuf Yusuf. Apparently the son of easily satisfied parents. Just opened the baby book at Y and that was that. And is he a Sheikh or is he an Imam? I thought Sheikhs charged around the desert on white horses, kidnapping and seducing plucky Western gals who went to bed in jodhpurs. Incredible beard, though.
“As men of faith it is our duty to encourage inter-faith tolerance.”
Shit, I should have said that. I wish I had a beard like that. He looks like George Clooney in Syriana. I should tell him. Although maybe not, with the whole CIA oil-sleaze suicide-vest vibe. Maybe just say he looks like Clooney in Oceans 11, except with a big beard? Does he know who Clooney is? Are they allowed to look at images of Hollywood actors?
“At the end of the day, we all believe in one God.”
So true. So so true. All believe in one God.
Except, hang on…Do we? Getting confused. Go to first principles. Shit, what are first principles? One God, we all believe, same deity, unity, interfaith brotherhood, except…aren’t we as religious sort of supposed to be saying that we believe in one true good and all the rest are heathens prostrate before the Pagan demon? I mean, if he was true to his faith and I was true to mine we’d be trying to convert each other, and failing that, praying for each other’s immortal souls burning in the eternal hellfire that awaits those who turn away God’s all-encompassing love. Am I a hypocrite? Am I the tourist wearing the Crocs of materialism and clutching the video-camera of decay in St Paul’s once-holy church? Am I the atrophied skeletal claw of what was once Muscular Christianity?
No. If we tried to convert each other, Rainbow Revelation wouldn’t ask us back and the sausage rolls here are killer so I’ll just go with it for now.
“May I have a glass of water?”
A glass of water… Is that parable? Did he just say something parable-ish? What’s the word – parabolic? Shit, he’s so wise. ‘May I have a glass of water?’ The life-giving water of life that brings…life to those who have… life. I wish I was an orator. Then I’d have, geez, I’d have like 200 people in Church on Sunday instead of 76. 77 if you include old Mr Chester, although you can’t count him since his stroke and brain operation. Poor old Mr Chester. Is he hoping for a miracle cure from me? I bet this fucking guru next to me could perform a miracle cure. Notch up another win for the Prophet. Got to say something deep.
Something deep but contemporary. Relevant.
“Muslims can be good people too.”
Shit. They’re all looking at me. I think I screwed it. Didn’t mean it to sound so…Dick Cheney. What I meant was…
“They’re not all suicide bombers.”
Hm, not really much better. Smiling now, but nobody else is. OK, not really smiling so much as showing my teeth. Stop smiling. Will just touch Sheikh Whatsisname in a warm way, with fingers together so no hint of a grope-y caress. There. And pause, and… remove hand.
He’s about to talk. How does he get his beard so full of shine and body? Pantene? Are Muslims allowed to Pantene their beards? I mean, God knows what they put in Pantene. Are there pork products in Pantene? Subject of a sermon, possibly? The Hidden Pork Product Pitfalls That Lurk In The Pantene Of Holy Redemption? Shit, he’s talking…
“I think what my brother in faith means is that we must try to look beyond stereotypes and look to the fragment of God that exists in each one of us.”
He is Clooney. He’s fucking Clooney, except he can read Arabic and didn’t start his career pretending to be a doctor on TV. I hate him so much. Except I really want him to be my dad. Is that wrong? Am I a bad priest if I want an Imam to be my dad? Remember to pray about it. After finding out about the Pantene pig bits…
*Tune in next week for Mzanzania Part 4 and meet Archie a too cool 20-year-old art student. Post Zef, post label, post post. Dating an American exchange moron…
***Illustration © Alastair Laird.