The bishop walked to the lectern, opened the Good Book, and announced ‘The reading this morning is the Parable of the Turbulent Priest, as recorded in the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 23 Verses 12-36…’
There was in the Land of Zed at that time a young priest by the name of Francis Bwabwata, who liked to speak out against sin and corruption. He had just been ordained as a priest and was keen to make a name for himself.
So one day he knelt down and prayed to the Lord, saying ‘Oh Father in Heaven, where can I find some sin and corruption to expose? When people are in church they are always on their best behaviour, and I have failed to find a single case of theft or even fornication within the holy precinct of the church.’
‘Fear not,’ answered the Lord, ‘for the world is full of the sins of greed, covetousness and gluttony which lead to corruption. You must follow your congregation to find out where they go after church.’
And so, the very next Sabbath, young Father Francis followed his flock out of the church and into the nearby Soccer Coliseum, where the local team, the Neanderthal Warriors, was playing the Chibuku Chola Boys.
And what the innocent Francis saw was too awful to behold, so much so that he had to scurry back to his church, fall to his knees and pray to the Lord, saying ‘O Lord I have seen terrible things. The referee is paid to see the sins of one side rather than the other, while the local team has dug special muti under the goalposts, and the crowd participates by hurling beer bottles in a most partisan fashion. O Lord, I have come back here to pray for peace and goodwill to prevail on Earth.’
Whereupon the Good Lord, who can get really annoyed sometimes, roared ‘It’s no good coming here to pray, you are supposed to go out there and do something about it! Show them all a red card!’
And so, fortified with this backing from such a famous celestial mentor, the good priest Francis went forth courageously to the next match armed with a red card. And when the referee failed to award an obvious penalty, Francis raised his red card and shouted ‘In the name of the Lord, send him off’. Whereupon, a crowd of Neanderthal supporters ran onto the pitch, picked up the referee, and carried him off.
After this initial success, Father Francis immediately formed a supporters club, which he called the No Nonsense Neanderthals, and kitted them out with red cards, red whistles and red shirts. And before long Father Francis became a national hero for his Christian Crusade against corruption in football, extending the his campaign off-field to the rigged election of club directors, backhanders in stadium building contracts, illegal selling of players, and so on.
Even better for Francis’s reputation, he was soon arrested by the Police Farce on charges of having a red card without a licence, inciting a football crowd to shout at a referee, and wearing a red shirt without permission from Manchester United. As soon as the various laughable charges had been duly laughed out of court, he was carried shoulder high to the clubroom of the Neanderthal Warriors and made Chairman of the Club alongside a new board of directors.
That evening Father Francis again knelt in prayer. ‘Oh Lord,’ he said, ‘I humbly thank you for this opportunity to lead football towards the Kingdom of Heaven, and to do my small part in your work to rid this Earth of sin and corruption.’
And the Lord spoke unto him, saying ‘Just watch yourself, and make sure you don’t get pompous.’
Father Francis was soon so busy reforming football that had no time for either church or prayer. But one evening he was so pleased with his own good work that he thought of asking the Lord whether he didn’t deserve promotion to an even higher calling. ‘O Lord,’ he prayed, ‘I trust you have been appreciating my good work, and I’m humbly asking whether you would back me for the presidency of the Land of Zed at the next election, so that I may extend your fight against sin and corruption.’
‘My son,’ replied the Lord solemnly, ‘I have seen that you have fired two directors who disagreed with you.’
‘I’m pleased you appreciate that,’ purred Father Francis. ‘Maintaining unity in the club is always my top priority.’
‘My son,’ intoned the Lord, ‘I see that you have never been available to hear complaints from the Supporters Club.’
‘It’s difficult to attend to everything,’ explained Father Francis, ‘I have had to spend so much time attending high-level FIFA meetings in Switzerland.’
‘My son,’ continued the Lord, ‘What are you doing about the continuing complaints of corruption in the Neanderthal Warriors Football Club?’
‘Unfortunately, O Lord, my disciplinary committee was sent on forced leave.’
‘My son, I have no choice except to give you a red card. You must take leave from your present job and devote yourself to forty years of prayer and fasting.’
‘But after that, O Lord, shall I ascend to the presidency?’
‘No my son,’ intoned the Lord solemnly. ‘You will ascend to Heaven.’
‘Thank you, O Lord,’ replied Father Francis. ‘And shall I sit at the right hand of God?’
‘No, my son,’ said the Lord firmly, ‘you shall sit at the left hand of Judas.’