By Matthew Richardson
When I first met my new friend from Sierra Leone, we quickly got on to the subject of religion. To make a point, he asked me to touch to my nose.
I looked at him without moving. Insistently, he said again, “Point to your nose!”
So, I put my index finger on my nose.
Then he said, “Okay, now point to God.”
Well, I didn’t know where to put my index finger, so I dropped it back onto my lap. Later into the evening, he described what African animist religions were, but before that, we further explored where “God” was.
People of all religions point upward when they point to their invisible god. My friend, Mr. Sa’id Forna, told me of the time he played a little intellectual joke on an American Christian at his place of work. Around noon, he asked his Christian friend the following:
“Earlier this morning you were describing your god of the Jews and Christians. Where is your god now?”
The American Christian pointed straight up. “God is in Heaven.”
“And you mentioned something about a lake of fire where evil souls suffer for eternity. Where is that place?”
“Hades is down there,” pointing to a place beyond his feet.
“Ah, I see. I will do my best to remember, but I may have to ask you again in case I forget. These are new concepts to me.”
“That’s okay, when it comes to teaching others about the glory of God, I have unlimited patience.”
“And before I forget, we are to meet later this evening for dinner at your favorite restaurant, right?”
“Yes. I will be on time when I pick you up. The restaurant, as I said before, is in Silver Spring, Maryland.”
Mr. Forna’s friend was on time and they got to the restaurant just before 8 pm. They left about an hour later, went to a fashionable lounge and had a few German dark brews. In a moment of silence, but while listening to background music, Mr. Forna suddenly knitted his brows.
“I knew it! I forgot! . . . Please forgive me, but where did you say God was?”
His host, again, pointed upward.
Mr. Forna paused, then asked: “I don’t understand. Ten hours ago you pointed up and the sun was at its apex for the day. But now the sun is below the horizon and a not-quite full moon is high in the sky. If Hades and Heaven are at fixed positions in the Universe, then God should be down there and Hades up there someplace.”
His Christian friend was dumbfounded and embarrassed–realizing that Mr. Forna was much more sophisticated than he imagined and probably has done this to many Christians before.