Screaming Dom Antony Sutch, a Benedictine monk  
Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 08:29 AM - Health, Sutch
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

As you will know, many in my family are bankers, financiers and business people. My brother was chairman of an airline. On a trip with him to Hong Kong I was constantly referred to as Mr Sutch's brother, as if I was some sort of idiot relation in a bizarre monkish outfit. This was very irritating and just made me want to scream. I wanted to be treated like everyone else.

People who are ill or diseased or unclean, just want to be treated like everyone else. The man who had a full face transplant just wants to be treated like everyone else. Christopher Reeve, who played Superman, just wanted to be treated like everyone else. A man in a wheelchair that I met once just wanted to be treated like everyone else. Lepers just wanted to be treated like everyone else, which is why Jesus liked to go around touching them.

For reasons that I'm sure are entirely clear, I would just like to mention at this point the story of Peter denying Jesus three times.

While we're on the subject of sick people, it's been a while since I had the opportunity to mention Lourdes, a site of pilgrimage so beloved by the many hoteliers, restaurateurs, tour guides, travel companies, and of course members of the clergy, who make such a worthy living by persuading millions of people of its miraculous powers. Most people who go to Lourdes get cured, except amputees, whom the Invisible Magic Friend hates and never cures, and the unfortunate woman, who on her third visit to Lourdes, instead of being cured, fell over, broke both legs, was improperly diagnosed, not treated and subsequently died. But apart from them, everyone gets cured.

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Reverend Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Benet's Church in Cambridge  
Wednesday, 28 July, 2010, 08:25 AM - Health, Sex, TV, Tilby
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Once again, there's nothing in the news, so I'll just talk about what I watched on telly the other night. First there was a programme about young people attending the Chelsea and Westminster HIV and Sexual Health clinic. This followed a bunch of immoral young tarts who'd never been taught to keep their knickers on. Oh they were ever so full of their "rights": their right to have sex at the drop of a hat with whoever they wanted. I was so disgusted that I helped myself to a nice packet of cheese and onion crisps, got another glass of white wine and curled up on the sofa to watch the whole programme. It was just terrible.

Then there was this documentary about a bunch of African religious nutters trying to exorcise children accused of witchcraft. Obviously we don't do that sort of thing in the Church of England. It's not like real Christianity, my Christianity, endorses belief in the supernatural, beings who are the incarnation of evil, magical miracles, or any of that nonsense that you find in those wacky, way out African religions. African people that think children can be witches are obviously deranged. I mean any African person who can believe in something like that is just some sort of loony. Although you can say what you like about those African pastors behaving like delusional, demented dervishes, but at least those girls they were whacking over the head with a Bible won't grow up with their legs permanently spread wide open. At least they're teaching them some proper Christian morals.

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Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral 
Tuesday, 27 July, 2010, 08:50 AM - War, Fraser, Afghanistan
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

When I was a boy, I used to line up row upon row of neat little plastic soldiers, commanded by an officer, sat on a hill giving both a military and a moral lead. I thought that's how war was conducted. Of course, now that I'm grown up, I don't believe silly things like that any more. The Afghanistan leaks reveal that this is a far messier war. Rather than nice big, orderly battles, the war is an endless series of skirmishes, where every soldier has to make instantaneous life and death decisions.

The rulebook of legal warfare has become disconnected from the experience of the soldier on the ground. This is exactly the same as the Big Book of Magic Stuff, with its hundreds of rules that tell us how to be moral. Things like how to deal with people from another religion or how to deal with those evil rotters who wear clothes made of two types of material.

Thomas Aquinas was really clever and thought up many really important things that are so terribly useful in everyday life. One of the things he thought up was "action follows being". I'll just say that in Latin for you, "agere sequitur esse". It sounds so much better in Latin, don't you think? What Aquinas meant by that was that "action", i.e. what we do, "follows", i.e. comes after, "being", i.e. being. In other, other words, what we do is dictated by our character.

So the question is not, do we have the right rules of engagement, but rather, do we have the right people - people with proper moral, Christian backbones? Maybe we need a few more Rev Dr Canon Chancellors on the battlefield to show them how to be a bit more moral.

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Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 26 July, 2010, 08:07 AM - Be nice, Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Good morning Sarah, good morning Evan and good morning to you all, especially those of you who are now on holiday abroad and are making a special effort to listen to Thought For The Day from your bedroom overlooking the beach.

But holiday's are not all fun and frolics. They can be terrible times full of gloom and irritation - fourteen days with nothing but the same family or friends. So here's some holiday advice to make your time away from it all a bit more bearable.

Comfort is good, but you only get as much comfort as you pay for and there's no satisfaction in life in just being comfortable. A life of comfort is a life of diminishing returns. You can't eat two dinners even at the very best restaurant. There's no pleasure in simply delighting in what you have and others haven't.

Spreading happiness is the exact opposite, the more you give, the more you have. Share your happiness with others and it will always come back to you. Bring an outsider into your round of drinks. Relieve the burden of loneliness, so often found in crowds. And if you happen to enjoy a brief holiday flirtation, don't promise what you cannot give.

My ma was great on holidays. Once in Rome, she joked that they could convert the Coliseum into council flats, much to the annoyance of one Monsignor but to the hilarity of another.

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Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian  
Saturday, 24 July, 2010, 08:32 AM - Brook
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Facebook is BIG. It's really, really, really BIG. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think The Church Times website gets a lot of traffic, but that's just peanuts compared to Facebook.

For a while I, as a celebrity Christian writer, was on Facebook. With my extensive network of friends and colleagues it seemed the natural thing to do. It would satisfy my need to belong, to be heard, to share information and stay in touch.

But then the novelty wore off. It was all so banal and tedious and irritating and a complete waste of time. I really didn't need to know that John was in the "Quick Bite" cafe having a coffee and an egg sandwich with ketchup while waiting for his dental appointment. I had better things to do with my time, like some really useful celebrity Christian writing. I realised that, far from getting to know people better, Facebook served an entirely different purpose - it was the place on the internet where all the people I didn't want to stay in touch with went.

So I resigned from Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg pleaded with me to stay. Without a celebrity Christian writer like me, quality would inevitably nosedive.

"Without you, we'll only have 499,999,999 members. Please Rhidian - don't do it. I beg you."

But his pleas were in vain.

"Mark," I said (I call him "Mark" because that's his name), "Mark, your web creation is an offence to my Invisible Magic Friend. He commands that we know each other face to face, not through a computer screen (darkly) and a keyboard. Know you not that the face is the window into a man's soul? And I include women in that. The psalmist says Do not hide your face from me?"

"Yes, but taken in context, the psalmist was referring metaphorically to God's favour, it wasn't a literal reference to the face of God."

"Shutup. There's that bit in Corinthians about seeing face to face."

"Aha! Once again, if you take it in context, this is purely a literary device, an allegory for perfection rather than..."

"Look I'm doing this Thought For The Day, so why don't you just bug**r off back to Facebook."

The End.

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John Bell of the Iona Community 
Friday, 23 July, 2010, 08:20 AM - Sex, Bell
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Isn't the media just shameful? The way it treats gay people is just appalling. Every time gay people appear in TV dramas it's always in a negative light. They're portrayed as promiscuous, predatory or a figure of fun. I mean, tut, tut. I can't think where they might have got this prejudice against gay people from.

Contrast that with we Christians. We actually pray for these people. What many people don't seem to realise is that many of these people are just ordinary people. Some have even done good things, like write some really good tunes, or write some very readable books. And what would we do for hairdressers and fashion designers without gay people? The thought is simply outrageous.

Yes, Christianity is right out there, leading the moral crusade for gay rights. Just because someone has the wrong sexuality and is morally reprehensible is no reason to portray them negatively. All portrayal of gay people in Christianity is done in a totally non-patronising way and is always done in the best possible taste.

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Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation  
Thursday, 22 July, 2010, 09:24 AM - Health, Edwards
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Depression is a bad thing. And it's not just me that thinks so, scientists think so as well. Thankfully, depressed people can be very creative, so we can all enjoy the benefits of their gloomy moods. In the arts, entertainment and philosophy, some of our greatest works have come from people bordering on the edge of suicide. That's why depression is such a good thing. Even people who aren't depressed themselves have written some jolly good dramas about those who are, thus providing us all with endless hours of entertainment.

One in five of you will suffer depression at some point in your life. It will be thoroughly unpleasant both for you and anyone who comes in contact with you, but on the positive side, a very small number of you will write a fantastic sonnet or record a really, really sad, depressing, miserable, but very good song. Perhaps even as good as one by Elton John.

If you're feeling a bit under a cloud, then you're in really good company. It doesn't actually say anywhere that the prophet Jeremiah (who really was the best prophet there ever was) suffered from clinical depression, but I suspect the Babylonian captivity left him a bit down. Elijah got a bit depressed from time to time. He'd cheer himself up by slaughtering a few rival prophets from another, not so good, Invisible Magic Friend, or having some bears maul some kids for shouting "Up yours baldy".

Finally there was King David, a hero to people of all faiths including Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Even people of no faith are always saying, "Gee, wasn't Kind David just brilliant? That guy really knew how to deal with a bit of depression."

So don't just think about the down side of feeling depressed. Think of all the good things that come out of it as well.

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Right Awful Anne Atkins - Agonising Aunt and Vicar's Wife  
Wednesday, 21 July, 2010, 08:43 AM - Women, Atkins
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Jolly hockey sticks everyone! My hockey mistress made me take off my second hand school uniform skirt because it wasn't fashionable.

I just hated the privately paid for, exclusive, classical education that taught me to play music and quote Shakespeare and the bible. Every streetwise, urban jungle, savvy middle class street kid like me did. Don't you just hate that bossyness? That shrill, domineering, lecturing, hectoring, sermonising, holier than thou tone?

So I'm against banning the burka. Women should be free to interpret their faith and wear what men tell them to.

Of course sometimes there are security concerns, at banks, airports that sort of thing. In situations like that a ban on the burka is something I'd support.

But then again, some Muslim women are scandalised at the thought of having to show their face. They'd feel like such brazen hussies. So I'm against the ban on the burka.

Then there was the wonderful work of Gladys Aylward (a Christian) who did so much to implement the Chinese policy that banned foot binding. So yes, banning the burka could definitely be a good thing.

Saint Paul, always a reliable source on what women should do, was very much in favour of women wearing bags. So, on balance I think I'm against the ban on the burka.

But there are women who are forced to put a bag over their head against their will. That's a bad thing, so I'm for the ban on the burka.

I don't think the ban on the burka will come here. It's not very British. And why is it not very British? Well because we're a Christian nation, unlike horrible, smelly old secular France. Christians never compell anyone to do anything. So I'm going to stick with Saint Paul and say that women should definitely be allowed to wear a bag over their head.

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Scientology not stupid 
Tuesday, 20 July, 2010, 06:24 PM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Not TFTD
On a recent visit to London, Cardiff LibDem councillor, John Dixon, tweeted that Scientology was "stupid". As a result of a complaint, the Welsh public standards watchdog has investigated and has concluded that Dixon was likely to have breached the code of conduct for local authority members and will face a disciplinary hearing.

I have no doubt that readers of this blog will share my outrage and indignation, that one of the world's great faiths, promoted by such luminaries as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, should be shown such disrespect by an elected councillor. Thankfully, the story has now been mentioned on the PM Programme, where millions of listeners will now have had the opportunity to be equally outraged and indignant.

As a Rev Dr, you will know that I always do my utmost to respect the deeply held beliefs of people of all faiths. I would never, ever, call any religion stupid.

I would never call Scientology stupid.
I would never call Catholicism stupid.
I would never call Islam stupid and I would certainly never show one of those evil cartoons, like this one:



I would never call Anglicanism stupid.
I would never call Judaism stupid.
I would never call Zoroastrianism stupid.
I would never call Sikhism stupid.
I would never call Hinduism stupid.
I would never call Wicca stupid.
I would never call Presbyterianism stupid.
I would never call astrology stupid.
I would never call crystal healing stupid.

In fact, there is not one single system of beliefs that I would ever mock or ridicule by calling it stupid. Thank goodness the Welsh public standards watchdog is there to crack down on this shocking abuse of free speech.
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Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark  
Tuesday, 20 July, 2010, 08:58 AM - Health, Money, Butler
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Accorrrding to New Sshientisht, poor people live young and dies fasht (hic!). They have teenage pregnanshees then turn to (hic!) turn to the bottle or the lottery ash a way out. They don't live ash long ash ush effluent pipple, sho they 'ave to cram it all in a lot quicker, poor people do.

Ian Dunk'em Smiff 'nd Flank Flield ar' gonna change all that (hic!). They gonna revolvooshinise welfare they are. 'nd it won't involve jusht cuttin (hic!) benefits 'n gettin soshal services on the cheap frum faith groups.

In the News Tastymint you won't find nuffin about soshal iniquillill... analquallill... (hic!) unfairness. Nope, nuffin at all. Complete washte a time. The Old Tastymint'sh diffrint. That'sh got a proper God innit. He knew how ta deal wif teenage pregnanshees 'n (hic!) unmarried muvvers 'n shtuff like that.

Sho letsh 'ope Ian Dunkin Donuts comes up wif summin truly brandsh shpankinly 'nnnoviviv (hic!). We gotta giv poor pipple mor 'an jusht the lottery and the odd glash of sherry.

What? Oh, yesh please (hic!).

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