In the course of one of his many escapades, the tortoise, that lovable rogue and scoundrel, pauses to reflect on the fact that he may have just pushed his luck a little too far this time, and it is perhaps time to wrap up the gig before it falls apart. However, he decides to continue, musing, “There is no god like the throat. It demands sacrifices daily.” Of course, the scam blows up in his face shortly after and ever since he’s been thinking, “Should have gotten out when I could.” This is why the tortoise walks so slowly. Or has a cracked shell. I forget which particular facet of the tortoise’s nature the tale sought to explain.

There is no doubt that among the local deities, the throat would have been considered an especially demanding god. After all, the other gods didn’t demand an offering from you every day, only when you wanted something. Even then, their demands could be exceedingly specific. For instance, one could be faced with a request for a pregnant brown and white spotted she-goat, for example. Or a black and green cockerel with a red and white crown. Either of these could take weeks to locate or, just coincidentally, happen to have been sitting in your backyard all along. It was no coincidence that priests weren’t poor men.

Accordingly, when the white man showed up with his god, it would have been something of a relief. Here, at last, was a single deity who claimed kingship over all others, and granted direct access to his supplicants. No more inconsiderate demands for that she-goat you’d spent the last two years rearing, just your worship and prayers. No more priests only willing to meet you in the dead of night, this god wanted his worship done in the bright sunshine. And his priests, oh, such humble fellows, simple of raiment and undemanding in their care. And how the people flocked to him.

Over the years though, the white man’s god has gradually taken on some of the characteristics of the gods he so unceremoniously shoved aside. He has grown to like being addressed in the dead and dark of night, sometimes, all night, whereas his predecessors would rarely demand more than an hour of your time, maybe half the night where your problem was deemed grave enough. His demands have grown and grown. He could ask for your car, your house, or a certain amount of money based on how many years he has suffered you to live on his earth. His priests are no longer the humble advocates of self-denial they once were, oh no. Now they tell the people that salvation lies in wealth, and their god requires as much of yours as would be uncomfortable to hand over to them. That new car you just acquired? The lord requires it of you as a seed. Last time I checked, metal, glass and plastic don’t grow out of the ground, but what do I know. Also, no longer does their god offer his services gratis, his chosen “anointed” priests inform sadly. Their god requires a small consultation fee, depending on how dire your situation is, of course. Somewhere along the line, their god changed from a benevolent and kindly deity into a benevolent and kindly mafia boss. And just like Don Corleone, when he makes you an offer, you would be wise to accept it.

Somewhere, the throat is wondering just how the tortoise got it so wrong. Should be easy enough to catch up with him and have that conversation. Unless the tortoise is racing the rabbit this week…