出谷紀 1-20 章 Exodus
出谷紀21-40 章 Exodus
Religion and public policy
Faith and footwear
Putting their best feet forward
In the Muslim world, removing one's shoes on entering a mosque is one of the basics of religious practice. Pig-leather shoes can never be worn. But all shoes are dirty in more than the literal sense. That's why throwing a shoe is considered a particularly contemptuous form of protest. The latest person to experience that was Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president who is now on trial on multiple charges, and had to dodge a flying shoe on the way to court on Friday. George W. Bush had a similar adventure in Iraq in December 2008, and shoe protests have grown more popular since then.
Pastor Walt, an evangelical Christian preacher based in Tennessee, declares on his webpage that he has strong likes and dislikes in respect of footwear: "flipflops" imply a deplorable sort of ambivalence, while the best shoes of all are the "combat boots" needed by those who have "put on the whole armour of God" as Saint Paul recommends. But Pope Francis has more modest ideas about what to put on his feet. During his first encounter with journalists, one of the first things they noticed was that he had swapped his predecessor's bespoke red-leather numbers for an ordinary black pair.
There is also some footwear specially designed for atheists, but they may have trouble getting it delivered to Tennessee. I'm grateful to my fellow blogger Mark Silk, director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, for pointing out some of the recent findings of a shop in Berlin which sells "atheist shoes" by mail order. The store did an experiment to see whether packages sent to American addresses arrived more slowly, or were more likely to be lost, if the wrapping revealed the non-religious leanings of the sender. The finding was positive. In some parts of the world, people of no faith have to tread carefully.