Thursday, December 24, 2009

Two great old men died this week

Sunday the 20th saw the deaths of two remarkable old men - Lester Rodney, and Grand Ayatollah Hosain Ali Montazeri.

Lester Rodney was born in 1911 and was the sports editor of the Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker, from 1936 to 1956. He and the paper campaigned against the exclusion of black players from Major League Baseball for a good 10 years, when nobody else wanted to say anything about it, especially the mainstream papers. He left the Communist party when he couldn't stand its failure to deal with Stalin after Krushchev's denunciation of his crimes at the 20th Party Congress in 1956.

Grand Ayatollah Hosain Ali Montazeri was second in line after Khomeini after the Iranian revolution of 1979. When the regime began killing and torturing large numbers of people in 1988, Montazeri protested in letters to Khomeini, and eventually broke with him publicly. People wondered why he didn't just keep quiet until Khomeini's death, and then make things right when he became Supreme Leader. He responded that his conscience wouldn't let him sleep at night being aware of the injustices and human rights abuses that he would have to pretend not to know of. He followed Jesus in not bowing down to falsehood in order to obtain the kingdom. He was 87 years old at his death. Hundreds of thousands of people came to his funeral in Qom and observed it in other Iranian cities this week, even though the police have often been beating them up.

I'm not a Communist or a Shi'a theologian, but in these men I recognize quality, people better than myself. They're good for me, teaching me humility and calling me to better than I am, in a small way just as God does. Why do we so seldom get that from Christians?

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