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The Spectator: Mother Mary

By Roy Clarke, Post of Zambia (Lusaka), 28 December 2000

The Christmas morning service had already begun as Sara and I slipped into our usual pew at the back of St Ignominious. The priest, Father Lawrence Kalaliki, had just walked to the lectern The First Lesson this morning is taken from the Gospel according to St Adam Smith, patron saint of the bourgeoisie, Chapter 2, Verses 18-25.

Here begins the First Lesson: And so Joseph travelled from Nazareth to his hometown of Chilenje, with his new wife Mary, who was heavy with child. And shortly after they arrived in Chilenje, Mary felt the first pains of the baby’s arrival. So Joseph took her to the clinic of the Movement for Maternity Deliveries. They knocked upon the clinic door, but there was no response. Finally the door was flung open, revealing a clinic which looked more like a filthy stable, with rats and cockroaches running everywhere. Blocking their entry to the stable stood an angry cow. Moooh threatened the cow.

Have you pre-paid for your admission? Do you have thirty gluders for your maternity fee? The stench of the cow’s breath was so foul that Mary fell backwards down the steps of the stable, onto the stony ground outside. Moooh! mocked the cow. Good enough for you! and slammed the door shut. And so the baby Jesus was born right there on the stone pavement, where all might witness this great and holy event. And three wise men from the west, who happened to be passing by, wound down the window of their Mercedes to take a look. They explained that it was against their principles to give money to the poor, so instead they gave Mary precious advice on the economy of natural childbirth as a Third World alternative.

And they assured Joseph that the plight of the mother and child would be recorded in their latest Poverty Assessment Survey. Thank you kind sir, said Joseph, kneeling down and clapping, in appreciation of this great kindness. And what name shall we give to our baby son? Shall we call him Poverty Assessment? Jesus Christ! one of the wise men was heard to say, as the car sped off. Now the priest raised his eyes from the Holy Scripture, and looked straight at the congregation. And what do we learn from this morning’s lesson? What is the true meaning of this event?

We in the Church of Self-Reliance believe this event was the turning point for the whole world. We now realise that these three wise men came from the World Bank, the IMF and Paris Club, and that their message is the most important part of the Holy Scripture. And the message is simple. Glorify God by your accumulation of wealth, so that you can be self-reliant, and look after yourself. For without wealth, you are nothing, and will be despised even by arrogant cows. We see from this story that Mary and Joseph had not prepared for the birth of Jesus by saving the money for admission to the stable. And so they were cast out onto the hard road, and into the dark of the night. The lesson is clear. You must work hard and save money if you want to prosper in this world and gain the favour of God.

The three wise men knew they must not give money to Mary and Joseph, for that would only encourage others to come to the clinic without the proper fees. For the first of the Ten Commandments tells us that thou shalt not allow sentiment to stand in the way of economy. We also learn from the Holy Scripture how poor Jesus Christ never recovered from this bad start in life. Due to his parent’s negligence, he himself was doomed to live in poverty and to die young. This must be a lesson to us all. This is why the Church of Self-Reliance advocates cost sharing, so that the poor shall appreciate the services given to them. For people’s needs can be measured only by their ability to pay. Now all rise, to sing Hymn Number 181.

Once in old Chilenje City, Cast out from the clinic shed, There a mother had her baby, On cold stone for their bed; Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child. Refused admission to the stable, By most awkward cow of all, No payment, no admission, So his pillow was the wall; With the lowly mean and poor, He shall live for evermore. As we walked out of the church, a poor woman in rags was sitting by the wall, nursing a small baby. As she reached out her hand for assistance, Sara looked in her bag for a little something. Don’t encourage her! I hissed. She might be Mother Mary!