The quote, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” taught in primary school is a sweeping statement which is elegant in its simplicity and cannot be faulted.
The word godliness goes further: a person said to be godly should have such attributes as being holy, pious, godlike (represent the Supreme Deity) and divine. What beautiful adjectives are associated with cleanliness!
Can anyone indeed be clean?
First cleanliness can be physical, can be moral, spiritual, professional, and so on. In simple terms, being clean implies being “free from dirt” and being pure. The idea of being free from dirt is our point of view in this piece.
To be truly free from physical dirt relates to the individual as entities along with their surroundings. Someone cannot be said to the truly clean when he or she lives in dirt or stench. Someone for instance can live in a slum but at least the immediate environment of domicile is an island of cleanliness. There is this CEO of a small organization whose residence is “spick and span” as my primary school teacher taught me. Yet in his office he sat surrounded by wall gecko and lizard wastes, cobwebs, and dirt in general. I arrived at a simple conclusion: his wife maintains his home.
Cleanliness is therefore a personal thing. I don’t know if it is in the DNA or is taught or is a product of habit. A change of housekeeper took place of recent in the residence of a relation. Within 48 hours the bedroom and kitchen, hitherto a study in filth, became human dwellings.
There are people who can’t stand dirt. There are people who can’t work or eat where a wall gecko has left waste. Such people need not be rich by any stretch of the imagination. They may not even be educated. On the flip side the residence of some highly educated and or hyper wealthy persons are like rat holes. But all it takes is a broom or duster and packer and mop. I once found myself invited to eat on an expensive dining table filled with wastes from wall geckos!
Why did this occur to me this Sunday? The church should be the height (epitome) of everything good. What does it take? Next to nothing if you ask me. As we grew up in my mother’s village of Afia Nsit Udua Nko, family compound cleanliness was given and thus not negotiable. Our daily chore in the morning included sweeping, going to the stream to bathe and fetch water, eating, and still get to school early enough for morning assembly at least to avoid the cane or grass cutting. Our father would not dream of our being absent from the Saturday morning chore in the church compound. He later added his – we must be in the church before 7am to dust the pews on Sunday morning. Bring up the child the way he should go…
Now there are paid Cleaners in the wealthy churches. But some Orthodox churches do not take the blessing which flow from keeping the church compound clean. Women groups continue to clean the compound for six days in turn while youths carry out the major cleaning on Saturdays. Some of us are beneficiaries of the blessings associated with cleaning of church compound. This includes cleanliness in our personal homes.
But one wonders: most church compounds are neat. Not one church permits even its own posters on the church building and fence. How come churches deface the walls of people’s houses, public buildings, fences, electric poles etc with their posters? And these posters are pasted with gum or fofo!! When they are removed patches of the paper in several configurations and colours stick to the walls. Cleanliness is therefore next to godliness on church premises. Did I hear someone say all properties belong to God? Except of course church buildings and fences. Maybe we can say do as I say not as I do.
I rest my case.