“Kicking against the pricks”?

That wonderful phrase in the KJV of Acts 9:5 and 26:14 seems perfect for the latest news from Reuters: “Saudi clerics condemn protests and “deviant” ideas” and “China says Dalai Lama has to reincarnate”. Across the Islamic universe there is turmoil at the moment as predominantly Shi’ite muslim populations “kick against the pricks” and demand greater democracy in their lands. The long fight of Buddhist Tibet for its own independance from its communist China overlords is not dissimilar.

Saudi Arabia is in the hands of the Sunni Wahhabist sect. Many Muslims decry the fact that their most sacred sites are under the control of this sect. The clampdown on demonstrations by the Wahhabist clerics is a direct challenge to the mainly Shi’ite led call for greater democracy. In Egypt, the dominant Muslim forces turned against their overlords. But in Saudi Arabia, the Sharia courts are shoring up the Kingdom’s regime.

The Dalai Lama is investigating ways in which he can use his religious tradition to maintain the freedom of his people and their religion. One way is for him to “reincarnate” before he actually dies (yes, this is possible it seems), and in this way choose his own successor. The real possibility is that after his death there will be a Tibetan Dalai Lama (who will continue as the current DL does in exile) and an official “anti-Dalai Lama” appointed by the Chinese Government.

Pope Benedict in his World Day of Peace message valiantly sought to draw the world’s attention to the necessity and plight of religious freedom. What we see in these two stories are the dominant powers trying to use “religious tradition” against their subjects.

What we are used to here in the West is religious freedom challenged by dominant secularism. But in the Middle East and in Asia, the fight for religious freedom is often one traditions fight against another tradition – claimed by those in power.

In your prayers for our non-Christian brothers and sisters in humanity, please pray for the Saudi muslims and for the Tibetan Buddhists that they may prevail in their “kicking against the pricks”!

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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2 Responses to “Kicking against the pricks”?

  1. Gareth says:


    I honestly don’t like that passage of the Acts being re-framed to demonstrate a point – not a fan of St Paul’s conversion sarcastically being used, no-matter how demonic the guilty party in the example being used is.

    • Schütz says:

      But the expression fits the situation in one way or another. Hard to know what it means in the original parlance, but most probably it meant “kicking against the prod/pointy stick”. As a farmer’s son, I am familiar with the image. “the pricks”, as the KJV translated them, was the pointy stick used by the shepherd to push the sheep or goats into a pen. On the farm we used a modern version, an electric battery operated jabbing thing that used to give the sheep or the pigs a bit of an electric shock to make them move into their pen. Whatever the context of the use of the phrase in St Paul’s conversion, the secular meaning of the phrase does seem to be what is going on in some regimes: they are using religious laws or traditions against other religious believers to keep them in their pen.

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