Has anyone mentioned sport recently? It's been at least a week since I was last on and talked about Handel and his relationship to football. This week we have Tiger Woods discovered being naughty and now on the path to redemption. Tomorrow we have the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, an unmissable televisual feast if ever there was one. Andre Agassi was also doing some confessing this week. "Yes, I confess, I confess! I took drugs. I lied to an independent tribunal to save my career. Now that I've maxed out my earnings and it no longer matters, I confess. You can learn more about my repentance in my autobiography, available from all good booksellers - it's the perfect Christmas gift."
But what does all this have to do with being holy? Jesus was a big sports fan. Who can forget his unforgettable parables drawn from athletics, horse racing and wrestling? Which brings us back to the true meaning of Advent: it's all about sport!
Barack Obama has just received his Nobel peace prize for making the world so peaceful. Nobel instituted the prizes after reading his own mistaken obituary and realising that he would only be remembered as an explosives magnate. He decided he wanted to be remembered for peace.
By complete coincidence, there's a big Jewish festival just starting. This is a celebration of peace when the Maccabees peacefully revolted against the evil Greeks. The Greeks had erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple - can you believe such wickedness? Zeus is not a real god, like our god is, so there was only one possible outcome: war (done in a very peaceful way of course). When we'd expelled the evil statue from our holy Temple, we lit a special peace candle to celebrate the return of peace after we'd won the war.
Today we have to light two holy candles, one for our peaceful expulsion of Zeus pretending to be a proper god, and one for the Sabbath, because the Sabbath means peace. But what if you only have one candle? Is it a Hanukkah candle or a Sabbath candle? These are the kind of profound moral dilemmas that we people of faith must confront and make a decision about. There can be no fudging on such a serious issue as this. When religious protocols of this magnitude come into conflict, the law must provide a clear and unambiguous choice and the choice is this, it is a Sabbath candle. For no matter how peaceful and well intentioned our expulsion of the evil Zeus-worshippers was, the Sabbath, which means peace, is even more important.
It's about time you non-Jews started thinking about being peaceful like us.
Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Everyone's going bonkers about conkers. But seriously though, life is a risky business. The big question is, why did the all loving, all knowing, all powerful Invisible Magic Friend make the world so hazardous and cruel? Some who are less reverend than me might just say that there are no easy answers, but being the Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron that I am, I will quote Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", a book read by clever people like me. "It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket," says Ivan the sullen and depressed atheist who eventually goes mad. I think the relevance is clear.
You cannot possibly understand the ways of the Invisible Magic Friend, snivelling, ignorant worm that you are, but I shall endeavour to explain it to you. The Invisible Magic Friend allows cruelty, injustice and random disaster to afflict you because he is a loving father who must allow you to go your own way. Like the mountain climber, you are an adult and have chosen to expose yourself to risk by being alive. So there.
Thursday, 10 December, 2009, 06:33 AM - Not TFTDSomeone has done the world of comedy a tremendous service. They've scanned in Kent Hovind's Ph.D. thesis. You know you're in for some fun when it starts:
"Hello, my name is Kent Hovind."
There's no table of contents, but then it wouldn't be much use anyway since there are no page numbers. There's also no list of references, but just quickly looking through it I saw mention of Karl Marx, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Stalin (who amongst other failings, was also one of those nasty evolutionists apparently) and an awful, awful lot of quotes from the Bible.
Just pick a page at random and start reading. It's hilarious stuff. Here's Kent on some other religions.
"Zoroaster was the religion of the Persians that developed about 600 B.C. Darius and Cyrus, who were both mentioned in the Bible were followers of Zoroaster. It is quite possible that the wise men who came to Bethlehem were of this cult. There is no way to prove this for certain. This religion believed that Satan and God were equally powerful, thereby limiting God. This shows that they did not have the right view of God in their theology. This Eastern religion is still prominent today."
So there you go, that's Zoroastrianism for you. On p.82 (according to my PDF viewer) we get this wonderful little gem.
"As I was thinking on this subject, I wrote a poem to try and explain this, comparing blind men and atheists.
Two blind men argued well into the night
about the great question, 'Is there really sight?'
I'll spare you the rest. Suffice to say Dr. Hovind is as great a poet as he is a scholar. This is wonderful stuff. Anytime I'm feeling bored I know exactly where to turn in the next few weeks for a bit of light relief.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
The Copenhagen Summit is a big deal. I mean it's really big. You just won't believe how mind bogglingly, humungously, stupefyingly big it is. In terms of bigness, it's right up there with the Apollo 8 pictures of Earthrise over the moon. It's at times like these, confronted by something really, really, really BIG, when humanity faces a common threat, when we are drawn together by a common goal, that some of us remain sceptical and others just can't be bothered.
When the Invisible Magic Friend was looking for someone to put in charge of creation, he first asked the mountains. Due to their lack of neurons and generally high degree of being inanimate, they were rather slow to respond, but mankind jumped up and down with its collective hand in the air shouting "Me, me, Me, ME, ME!" So the Invisible Magic Friend said, "Alright, you can be in charge of the universe then, but don't trash it." As Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, let me just assure you that this is why we must pray to the Invisible Magic Friend to make our leaders agree in Copenhagen, because we were second choice after some lumps of rock to look after the planet.
Tuesday, 8 December, 2009, 05:58 PM - Not TFTDI wish to speak to you today in my capacity as a great moral leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am well known for my forthright and outspoken support for good causes. I have joined with the workers of Corus Steelworks to say that I really, really wish they weren't loosing their jobs. In another example of outstanding moral leadership, I have expressed my delight that Kit-Kats are going Fairtrade. Along with my esteemed colleague, the Archbishop of Canterbury, I have offered moral leadership on the issue of swine flu. And in my capacity as a member of the House of Lords, I have raised important moral concerns about the issue of sheep tagging.
I think all of these issues illustrate the importance of the Church today in providing moral leadership in our country and guaranteeing that all people have access to their universal, God given, human rights.
It is with this same brave, fearless regard for what it is right that I have been asked to speak out on the issue of homosexual oppression in Uganda, where already draconian laws are being strengthened to include the death penalty, where those who fail to inform on homosexuals, will themselves be sent to prison. When prejudice and injustice on this scale rears its ugly head, great moral leaders have a duty to make their views knows. So it is with great pride that I say to you mmmnnn... fff... pfff... nnnnn. Yes that's right, once again, the superior morality of the Church of England is heard like a clarion call, instructing the faithful that "...the train now standing at platform 13..." We urge all fair minded citizens to join us, shining a beacon of hope in the darkness of despair. Let us be united in our demand for what is right. I say to the leadership of Uganda, "wooooossssshhhhhhh . . . . . . .".
Thank goodness for the clear and unambiguous moral leadership of archbishops like me.
Tuesday, 8 December, 2009, 08:27 AM - AtkinsRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Oscar Wilde, whose works I know from my excellent classical education, quoted from the psalms and if it's good enough for Oscar Wilde (a well known gay author which goes to show how liberal and tolerant I am) then it's certainly good enough for you.
Depression is often related to our relationships and our material well being. Those of us in useful, productive employment, like me, find ourselves getting up in the middle of the night, so that those of you who don't can lie in bed all day feeling lonely. Far be it from me to minimise the seriousness of depression, or to glibly dismiss its consequences, but of lot of depression is really something else.
When a doctor told me I was depressed, he was of course wrong. I was heart broken at my daughter's illness and that's not the same thing at all. People often overlook the good side of depression. What could be better than a good bout of mourning after a bereavement, or a healthy bit of despair at the state of the world?
Has anyone mentioned that it's Advent yet? The true meaning of Advent is about being thoroughly miserable for a month. All you people putting up you Christmas decorations now have got it all wrong. You're not supposed to be cheerful yet. It's only at the end, when the baby Jesus arrives that you're supposed to be happy.
Rev Dr Colin Morris, a Methodist Minister and (coincidentally) former head of religious broadcasting and BBC controller in Northern Ireland
They're calling it the Final Push in Afghanistan. This is a very different war from the war in Iraq, but I'll treat them as being part of the same thing regardless. A very famous historian remarked that we see in the bible that there can be no final push to end history and banish evil from the world. So President Obama's final push to end history and banish evil from the world is doomed to failure. If he exorcises a demon from Afghanistan then seven more will simply take its place and so the history of invisible magic baddies will go on.
Has anyone mentioned that it's Advent? The true meaning of advent is that invisible magic baddies will continue to do evil in the world until the Invisible Magic Friend tells them to stop.
Saturday, 5 December, 2009, 03:13 PM - Not TFTDI understand that some vacancies may soon arise on your board of directors and would like to put myself forward for any of the positions that might become available.
I have no previous experience of banking, either retail or investment, so I think the post of either Chairman or Chief executive would be most appropriate. I will confess that I have done a little share trading and spread betting in the past. However, since I successfully managed to loose a significant portion of my money I believe this can be regarded as a qualification rather than an impediment. RBS has plenty of money anyway so this shouldn't be a problem.
Although I have run two successful businesses in the past, I would ask you not to hold this against me. I have worked for several companies that went bust and have seen at close quarters how to spend other peoples money in lavish and extravagant style. These are transferable skills that I believe will make me right at Home on the RBS board.
I have good spoken and written communication skills. Throughout my career I have convinced a great many people that I knew what I was talking about (including people who actually did know what they were talking about). I already know to use the word "capital" instead of "money", and "credit default swaps" instead of "recklessly gambling with other peoples savings". I am confident that I will be able to leverage these talents to the benefit of the RBS group and can, where necessary, obscure any information as needed.
As to remuneration, it is clear that bankers' salaries are not what they were. Any six figure sum would be appropriate. This can always be topped up with shares, bonuses, pension contributions, expenses, chauffeur driven cars, payments in kind and so forth - the usual items that appear as "miscellaneous" on the balance sheet. Talent like mine, unfortunately, does not come cheap.
I will be willing to consider one of your non-executive director positions. I appreciate that these only pay about £130K per annum, but they have the benefit of being part time and since bankers all sit on each others' boards would give me the opportunity to fill in doing similar jobs one or two days a month with other financial institutions.
It is rare that positions become available for which someone like myself is such a perfect match. I look forward to hearing from you and working with the RBS board in due course.
p.s. If all positions are taken, perhaps you could have a word with some of your colleagues at the (not Royal) Bank of Scotland who I believe are also struggling as part of Lloyds TSB Halifax Bank of Scotland. I don't quite have the distinguished record of Lord Simpson of Dunkeld, who has sat on such prestigious boards as Rover, Marconi and Bank of Scotland, but I will certainly try very hard to emulate his record. (To have presided over the collapse of so much of Britain's industrial and banking base really is the most rotten luck.)
The media frenzy over the 250th anniversary of Handel's death is now reaching fever pitch. It so dominates the front pages that there is scarcely another item of news for me to cover from a faith perspective.
Isn't singing just brilliant? Lots of people enjoy singing. Nothing raises peoples spirits more than a good sing-song, because singing is, first and foremost a spiritual activity. It's like football. Have I mentioned football lately? You will know of course that watching Wayne Rooney is also a tremendously spiritual activity. The camaraderie experienced by we down to earth, ordinary blokes on the terraces can only be compared to, say, Handel's Messiah.
It's because singing is so good at forming bonds between people that we use it in church. Singing builds a sense of community and a general emotional uplift that we can then exploit so that they'll believe anything we tell them about the Invisible Magic Friend.
So let's all join in, in that most famous of all Handel choruses: All we like sheep. (Please note, this invitation is not open to sheep haters.)