Happy feast of Epiphany everyone! The true meaning of Epiphany is that it's all about humility. You all need to be a bit more humble. I'm going to be humble now by showing that I don't know all the answers. We don't know where the wise men came from or even if there were three of them, but they most definitely, definitely came and were certainly very wise indeed and I say that in all humility.
The three wise men were astrologers. That's not the kind of astrologers that you get in tabloid newspapers - that would be silly, no they were the kind of astrologers that studied the heavens. Being so very wise, the three wise men definitely followed a star in the sky. Rather than take them round in a circle as you might expect, it led them to where the baby Jesus, who just definitely happens to definitely be the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, was definitely being born.
What, you might be wondering, is the relevance of all this to today's news? We're at the start of several months of electioneering, where one of three wise men will be elected to run the country. They need a bit of humility too, like me. They need to be wise, like the three wise men were. They should do this, not by consulting widely, acting carefully and weighing up the needs of the country as a whole, but by studying the stars, kneeling before Jesus the prince of the universe and asking him what to do.
Children are to be taught all about money and debt. In the high spending, high credit, high debt world of modern Canon Precentors, I can understand the need. If we're to create a future generation of responsible, solvent Canon Precentors, then it's vital that we teach them good money management at the earliest possible age.
But there is a serious problem with modern money management. Too many of today's transactions are performed by computer, online or by plastic. We no longer get the warm loving touch of feeling a ten pound note, with it's ruddy brown colour and delicate silvery security strip. Fewer and fewer people are taking their twenty pound notes out of their bank accounts to caress them gently, to flick a large pile of cash through their fingers and think "this is mine". This lack of tactile experience with hard dosh is making us forget about the dangers of love of money.
So why not withdraw large dollops of dough from the bank so that you can remember just what it's like to love money and just how sinful that can be.
Monday, 4 January, 2010, 09:52 AM - ClemmiesThe final Clemmie of 2009 goes to Rev Roy Jenkins. Well done Rev Roy and good luck to you in the New Year - may you win many, many more platitude polls in 2010.
And now, to summarise the whole of December, the true meaning of Christmas is:
It's about won't someone please, please, think of the children
It's about watching out for demons tempting you
It's about not enjoying yourself
It's about sport
I told you before, it's about not enjoying yourself
It's all about justice
It's best to make the right decisions
You've been saved
Christ is born
It's about any random thought that flies through a vicar's head.
Monday, 4 January, 2010, 08:47 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a Hopeful New Year to you all. Well it's been a miserable 2009 and 2010 doesn't look much better, but I got some nice woolly socks for Christmas. The best gifts aren't these wonderful material goods though, they're the things that come from the the Invisible Magic Friend.
I didn't find that Marxism or Zionism made me happy. It's difficult to find joy in a political philosophy. However, sitting in empty chapels I'd talk to the Invisible Magic Friend and, after a while, he'd begin to talk back.
"Hello, Invisible Magic Friend," I'd say.
"HELLO LIONEL," He'd say in return.
Then I started to like people and I started collecting jokes because jokes are no joking matter. So here are two jokes from Rabbi Lionel's big book of funny stories.
A flasher opens his coat wide in front of a Jewish woman who looks down at what he has to show.
"You call that a lining?" she says.
So if your idea of sex is exposing yourself to women, at least make sure you have a well tailored overcoat.
Then there's the tail of the Artic ice melting and Golders Green is under water. Standing before the Ark the rabbi says to God.
"It's going to be difficult living under water."
Well that's enough fun and frolics for one day. Just remember the Holocaust - there's always hope.
Time for bed. Good night Justin, good night Evan, good night Invisible Magic Friend.
GOOD NIGHT LIONEL.
Sunday, 3 January, 2010, 07:31 AM - Not TFTDJust a quick reminder to everyone, under no circumstances whatsoever should the cartoon below appear on any of your social networking pages or blogs. It gives the impression that Islam drives some people to become fanatical, violent and intolerant, and it makes some Muslims very unhappy. We all know that in real Islam, proper Islam, which is after all the Religion of Peace, Jihad is about an inner spiritual journey. Islam didn't spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia by attacking it's neighbours (anyone who says this is clearly ignorant of history). Islam spread because of its internal beauty, consistency and logic. No one, anywhere on Earth, is forced to be a Muslim because, as everyone knows, there is no compulsion in religion. Even today, where Islam lives in peaceful coexistence with its Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist neighbours throughout the world, Islam is admired by all.
So in the interests of respect, human rights and freedom of speech, I implore you all not to show this cartoon or give it any publicity.
Farhan Nizami CBE, Prince of Wales Fellow in the study of the Islamic World, Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
Happy new decade everyone! It's a time to look at the world afresh, to resolve to make changes, to make life better. We approach the new decade with hope and gladness in our hearts, full of optimism and joy, looking forward to the Spring and Summer of a new life.
Except, we all know that this enthusiasm will soon dissipate. As we're locked into the daily grind once more, our good intentions will waver and finally fail. The cost is simply too high. And when I say "we", I do of course mean "you". You're all so predictable and depressing. Oh gawwwd I'm so depressed. Except we muslims aren't allowed to be depressed, but if we were allowed then I would be. Nothing ever changes, it all just keeps getting worse and worse. Don't you just find the whole thing, life, so utterly pointless? Everything's just so miserable and unremittingly awful.
Look at Copenhagen, while we Muslims tried desperately to take the long term view and save the planet, you lot couldn't think beyond the next change in fashion or the next upgrade to your iPhone. You just don't get that sort of narrow, self interested, short termism in Islam.
A couple of weeks ago we had the real new year, the anniversary of the flight of The One And Only Prophet from Mecca to Medina. Now there's a proper piece of long term thinking. You don't get to found a major new world religion by being self centered and getting everyone to do what you want them to do. You can't deny that starting Islam changed the world. Just imagine what the world might be like if that hadn't happened.
The award will take place at a star studded, glittering ceremony, as part of the Secularist of the Year 2010 event.
There have been over 300 TFTDs in 2009. As you might imagine, competition for this prestigious and much sought after prize has been stiff. Nominating a select handful has been no easy task, but after much thought and deliberation the Holy Spirit has inspired me to choose the following candidates.
Akhandadhi Das for showing that the work of the primatologist Frans de Waal proves that Hinduism is the correct religion.
Lord Jonathon Sacks for explaining that the Invisible Magic Friend allows suffering in the world so that we can feel sorry for the victims.
Anne Atkins who revealed that there is more historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar.
Anne Atkins for pointing out that people who believe in UFOs are a bunch of loonies.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad for the example of conspiracy theorists, which shows that some people will believe any old rubbish.
Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson for the work of Galileo and how it demonstrates the lack of conflict between science and religion.
Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson for his thesis that lack of proof of God's existence is exactly what you would expect, thus proving that he does in fact exist.
Reverend Canon Doctor Alan Billings for showing that the war in Afghanistan is a just war. It is a just war because the enemy are a bunch of religious nutters.
Reverend Canon Doctor Alan Billings for giving us moral comfort in bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, because it is sanctioned by people in authority, moral people, like politicians.
Right Rev James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons for revealing how it was religion that solved the problems of Northern Ireland.
All of the above candidates are now invited to purchase tickets for the Secularist of the Year gala dinner. There is a real prize (paid for by a member of my congregation, Roger Scotford - thank you Roger). I'm not going to reveal what the prize is but it is genuinely worth winning.
I will be attending the ceremony myself, dressed in appropriate garb for a Rev Dr. After a short sermon, I will present the prize to the most platitudinous person of 2009. In the unlikely event that the winner doesn't turn up, the prize will go to the NSS to be sold or raffled at their discretion.
Even I don't know who the winner is yet, but I am willing to be further moved by the Spirit should He choose to add any comments below in favour of one candidate or another.
Friday, 1 January, 2010, 08:58 AM - ClemmiesFirst of all, let me wish my flock a very Happy New Year. I'm sure you will all join me in praying for all the cast and crew at the BBC's Thought For The Day. Long may it continue to be the most consistently entertaining highlight of the Today Programme.
It hasn't been a bad month, platitudinousness wise. Only the other day, we had Rev Roy Jenkins comparing atheists to the Bali bomber. Then on Christmas Eve, we had the Padre of 11 Light Brigade telling us all how much he loved children. Let's hope the brigade doesn't accidentally blow any of them to pieces. As always, Anne Atkins is represented, complaining about people enjoying singing Christmas carols. Anne will lose some credibility this month since she made several quite sensible and largely unobjectionable contributions. I hope and pray that this sad state of affairs will be remedied in the new year.
Although not a popular choice according to platitudinometer ratings, I think we really do have to include Lord Jonathan Sacks. Thanks to him we now know how to solve that age old ethical dilemma: what to do if you only have one candle but you have two holy days to celebrate? I really don't know how I managed to get through life so far without Lord Sacks' helpful moral advice.
A special guest contribution was made by the creationist scientist Dr. Kent Hovind, whose Ph.D. thesis is now available online. One instinctively recognises the scholarly calibre of his work when it opens with the line, "Hello, my name is Kent Hovind."
I'm going to leave it 'till Monday before announcing the winner, so you've got all weekend to recover from your hangover and click on the little yellow dots of your favourite contribution.
S'aul about hishtory (hic!). Y'know, I ush'd to fink Shaint Paul wash a load a ol' rubbish (hic!). I mean, he jusht drones on an' on an' (hic!) on an' on 'bout Jeshus. Jeshus Chrisht! I fought he wash jusht a biggoted twat. Then th'other day (hic!), th'other day, hoshtage Peter Moore go re-leashed an' I fought (hic!), "Wait a minute", that'sh what Shaint Paul was on about. S'obvious! S'about (hic!) s'about freedom and shtuff. Ye shee, Paul wash a dirty, rotten shinner. Then 'ee got shum Jeshus and he wash free, jusht like Peter Moore! S'mazin! An' y'know what elsh? A'll tell ye 'cos yer ma very besht friend y'are. Shumbd'y paid a price. Yeah, y'know what I mean? Eh? Eh? Fur Shaint Paul wash Jeshus! I really wish I'd undershtood 'at before I got made a bishop (hic!).
Anyway. 2009. 2009 (hic!). Sh'istory now. All in the pasht. Sho raise your glash an'ave a wee glash o' sherry to wish ye all a Happy New Year (hic!).
Thursday, 31 December, 2009, 09:19 AM - HealthRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
The execution of Akmal Shaikh reminds me of Samuel Butler's book Erewhon, where ill people are classified as criminals. The Chinese authorities make no allowance for illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, pointing instead to the need to deter drug dealers.
Quakers were among the first to recognise the needs of the mentally ill, with the opening of The Retreat in York. I have spent much of my working life helping those recovering from mental illness. It is a task compounded by the attitude of others and the stigma connected with it.
We do this work because we want to find the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend spends more of his time in ill people, especially the mentally ill.