Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 10:14 AM - ClemmiesThe conclave has reached its conclusion. White smoke appears over Southend-on-Sea. Habemus POTY!
First of all, a great vote of thanks to all of my faithful congregation, who have provided such excellent advice, both regarding the 2011 POTY and throughout the year. We have been truly blessed with platitudes by the BBC's Holy Department of Religion. At this special time of year, please think of all those countries whose state broadcasters have no such holy department to interrupt their breakfast news programme with a daily platitude. We tend to take this for granted and sometimes forget just how fortunate we are.
As always I have given the serious question of this year's POTY much thought. With your prayers and guidance, I have meditated at length on who is worthy enough to be crowned POTY 2011. I know that some will be disappointed by the outcome. There can only be one POTY. I want you all to know that, just because your own esteemed favourite may not have been chosen, this does not mean that they were not blessed by the particularly invisible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. I think we can all agree that each of the twelve Clemmie winners in 2011 would have made a splendid POTY.
We have been befuddled by the astounding gibberish of Anne Atkins, amazed by the historical revisionism of Joel Edwards, inspired by the genital mutilation of the Baron Lord Big Chief Rabbi, dazzled by the mental compartmentalism of Rev Prof Dr Dr Wilkinson. In the end though, I think we must all think of the children. Will a Catholic priest put the welfare of children before the protection afforded another priest in the confessional?
Of course he won't!
Once again, simply by stating the official policy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Platitude Of the year 2011 goes to:
Most people are shocked by the video of American marines urinating on dead Afghans.
Unfortunately, in this internet age, we've seen it all before, with Abu Ghraib and the last few minutes of Gaddafi. The sanitised war that we used to read about in the papers, is now revealed in graphic detail.
Yet young soldiers, almost as a requirement of their job, must dehumanise their enemy. My great grandfather, who hadn't learned that lesson, killed a German in hand to hand combat and screamed in terror every night for the rest of his life.
The irony of all this is the outrage over the desecration of bodies. Few it seems, are outraged that they were killed in the first place.
I want to start with the architectural theorist Charles Jencks. I know what you're thinking: is there in fact an academic discipline called Architectural Theory? The answer is yes, and Charles Jencks is one of them.
He said modernism ended.
Modernism was rubbish. It didn't produce any great art like religion used to. After Modernism came Post-modernism. It was rubbish too and didn't produce any great art like religion used to either. You can go to the V & A at the moment and you'll see what I mean. All the modern stuff is rubbish and all the old stuff, when there was lots more religion, is really good.
What this proves is that people need to belong to a tribe. How can you say that my tribe's better than your tribe (in a totally non-chauvinistic and multicultural way of course) if you don't have a tribe. Modern art doesn't have a tribe, whereas good art, the stuff we used to do in the past, is part of the Christian Tribe.
Scottish Nationalists, good fine, noble, tribal people, understand this and are looking forward to the tremendous fun we're all going to have sorting out who owns the oil and the debts of RBS and HBOS.
As ex-Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, I sense that people are searching for something bigger than themselves, like St Paul's Cathedral perhaps. They want a society where there was ethics, and morals, and no greed, or pain, or suffering. They want the good old days (in a totally non-nostalgic sense) when everything was just hunky-dory, and Christianity was in charge and produced art that wasn't rubbish.
Friday, 13 January, 2012, 06:28 AM - Not TFTDOnce again, I find myself in the sad position of having to berate people who go out of their way to offend Islam. University College London (which was created as an explicitly secular institute of learning) has told its Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society that it must stop using this image to advertise its pub meetings.
I entirely support this brave, spirited, principled stance of UCL. Of course we must have freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but only to the extent allowed by every religion. I mean, have you ever seen anything so repulsive, so degrading, so insulting, so harmful, so dangerous as this filthy and quite unfunny cartoon?
As always in these matters, I ask all of you not to display the above image on any of your websites or Facebook pages. Above all, do not sign this disturbing petition that seems to think that UCL, of all the academic institutions in this country, should refrain from promoting religious censorship.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Incandescently Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 08:28 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Happy one hundredth anniversary of Scott not reaching the Antarctic first and everybody dying on the way back everybody!
Scott's example is a testament to the bravery, endurance, stoicism, toughness, fortitude, tenacity, backbone, courage and many other fine thesaurus entries of the human spirit. Yes, everything went hopelessly wrong and everybody died, but is survival to be the only measure of success? I mean winning at things, coming out of it all alive, well, it's just not very British is it?
Where's the inspiration in people who just go around achieving things all the time? There's got to be failure, tragedy, humiliation and death. These are the things that inspire us all to follow in the footsteps of those who have failed before us.
This explains why Christianity has been so popular. People like a good story of torture and death but where the good guy eventually comes out on top. In fact, the story is so well designed that you might even think that it's an entirely fictional account which appeals precisely because it includes all the right story telling elements, plus some extra goodies like eternal life and so on.
So let's hear it for Captain Scott and Christianity, the very best of British!
Everyone agrees that selling goods and services that people want, and making a modest profit in doing so, is needed in a healthy, productive economy. However, some people now get paid far too much. Many chief executives now get paid nearly as much as film stars and footballers. Meanwhile, really useful people like teachers, doctors and vicars hardly get paid anything by comparison. Handing out these huge sums of money to the alpha-male in the boardroom has gone too far.
How are we going to fix this? Naturally, we turn to theology for the answer. Now, I know that many of you think that religion is at least partly responsible, always identifying the Invisible Magic Friend as an all powerful man that we must worship and obey. My response to that is that we should ignore it. Let's concentrate instead on what religion ought to be rather than what it is.
Blah, blah, blah, mystic, blah, blah, divine, blah, blah, blah, loving, blah, blah, blah, blah, trust, ...
My word is my bond.
Has anyone mentioned the Olympics yet? There's only 199 days to go, so I think it's important that I point them out to you, otherwise you might not notice.
That's why the Cabinet met at the Olympic site yesterday and David Cameron said, "Hey look at me, I'm at the Olympic park. Isn't that just great?"
I took a bus out to the Olympic park the other day and I can confirm that it really is there. Not only that, but there's a fantastic new shopping centre as well. The people of Stratford, East London, are now really happy and contented. Anyone who says otherwise is just one of those horrible cynics who can safely be ignored.
The really important thing about the park is it's legacy, like giving the local kiddies somewhere to splash around and have some fun in.
But "legacy" does not just mean buildings. It is much more than that. It is something that is hard to define, is much more intangible. What is the word I'm looking for? Let me see. Ah, yes it's SPIRITUAL!
Did someone say "spiritual"? That reminds me of the wisdom books of the Old Tasty mint. The wisdom books wisely speak of the wisdom of maintaining our faith legacy. Those who wisely maintain the wisdom of their legacy of faith are known as wise people, say the wisdom books. As it wisely says in one of the wisest of the wisdom books, "Those who wisely maintain the wisdom of their legacy of faith are wisely wise and full of wisdom, but those who foolishly discard the wise wisdom of the legacy of faith are full of foolishness and are fools."
Are you believing what I'm believing? Are you wisely wise as the wise wisdom book proclaims? Or have you foolishly discarded the wise legacy of faith and become a fool?
Has anyone mentioned the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee yet? No? Good job I was here then.
There'll be lots and lots of people looking at Britain during the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee. The big question they'll all be asking themselves is, what religion are they? And the remarkable thing that they'll find, almost unique to Britain and virtually every other secular Western democracy, is that we have lots of religions. Even better still, all these religions get along quite happily with one another, except for Northern Ireland and Scotland. I know, isn't it remarkable! Different religions living (mostly) peacefully side by side. It's so remarkable that it's worth remarking about.
This is because of all the hard work we've put into all our inter-faith meetings and their delicious Halal buffet lunches. It has nothing to do with the fact that hardly anyone cares about religion any more and we all have to band together to ensure that we aren't even more irrelevant than we're rapidly becoming. You can be absolutely certain, that if religion ever came to dominate the public discourse again in this country, it would do so in a tolerant, polite, civilised and totally non-violent way.
If there's one thing that Britain can be rightfully proud of, it's that it's not Nigeria, or Kenya, or Egypt, or Pakistan, or any of the other countries around the world where religion is still considered important.
The trouble with all these countries is that religious people are religious full time. Here in Britain we've learned only to be religious part of the time. The rest of the time we're just like normal people. We have jobs, hobbies, civic duties and clubs where we can meet each other, get to know one another and see beyond the heretic or infidel who's standing in front of us.
So you see, Britain has a really important lesson that it can teach the rest of the world: the less religion there is, the happier and less violent a nation becomes.
Sunday, 8 January, 2012, 10:12 AM - ClemmiesThe highlight of the platitudinous year is almost upon us. Once again, the conclave assembles to elect a new Platitude Of The Year winner. Who will succeed such worthies as Clifford Longley, the POTY 2010, and the Bishop of Liverpool, our POTY 2009?
As in previous years, we have a strong field of contenders. So without further ado let us press on with the exciting summary of the twelve best platitudes of 2011.
With an absolutely superb start to 2011, Akhandadhi Das abandoned any pretence at being sensible and went straight for the cosmic woo vote. The universe is really a giant cosmic computer that adds up all the good and bad things we do before deciding what sort of life we're going to have next time around. This is not too implausible as the Tesco computer can already add up loyalty points.
February maintained the same high standard as Rev Angela Tilby explained that she understood exactly how the Egyptian protesters felt as she herself had suffered a power cut at the Cambridge branch of Waitrose.
A potentially very strong contender came in March's Clemmies as Rhidian Brook explained that Jesus was one of the funniest stand up comics ever, with all those hilarious New Tasty mint jokes.
John Bell echoed the words of our 2009 winner. He raised the serious and ugly question of religious sectarianism in Scotland. Fortunately, the good Rev has the perfect solution: more religion!
With a very similar theme Rob Marshall explained how important religion was in sustaining people throughout the Balkan conflicts, not to mention causing them.
And of course, POTY just wouldn't be POTY without a contribution from Anne Atkins. In an absolutely delightfully wacko contribution, dear AA pointed out that the Space Shuttle reminds her of Jesus. You've really got to hand it to Anne. Very few TFTD contributors would have the sheer audacity to say something like that with a straight face.
Before you begin to think that the Catholics are just going to throw in the towel this year, Catherine Pepinster revealed that the seal of the confessional is absolute and is much more important than something as trivial as protecting children. Besides Jesus forgave everyone anyway, so isn't it about time we started seeing a bit of forgiveness for abusive priests? After all the Catholic Church is very sorry for what happened.
Unusually, Rob Marshall won a second Clemmie in 2011. In a single TFTD, he managed to cover all of the following, any one of which would probably have made him a winner.
1. Young people wouldn't go rioting if they were Christian.
2. Isn't Pope Benedict just fantastic?
3. Russell Brand thinks things should be more spiritual.
Rob really did pull out all the stops in 2011. He could well be one to watch.
Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson took the interesting discovery that neutrinos might be able to travel faster than light and explained that this is exactly the way theology operates: performing experiments, gathering data, testing hypotheses and adjusting theories to match the evidence. Except for not doing any of those things. This was a clear winner in September just for its plain 100% wrongness.
The only contender in October, but a worthy winner nonetheless, was Joel Edwards, who lambasted secular society for failing to keep up with the Church's enlightened views towards women.
Rob Marshall isn't the only presenter who made a second stab at the top prize last year. Anne Atkins made one of the most astonishingly incoherent presentations ever. Even now, after months of digesting her three minutes of totally unintelligible gibberish, her point remains as obscure as ever. Whether complete gibberish in itself is sufficient to win the POTY, only time will tell.
Ringing out the old year and ushering in the new Baron Jonathan Sacks retold the brave tale of Jewish freedom fighters and their desperate fight against the mad king Antiochus IV, who was so mad that he wanted to take away their freedom to chop bits off of baby boys' winkles. A noble and inspiring tale of one small group's fight for the freedom to impose their religion on everybody.
Several commenters throughout the year suggested that surely, surely, we had already found the POTY 2011. As you can see, the skill, inventiveness and total whacko, down-the-rabbit-holeness of TFTD should never be taken for granted. As always, I am open to persuasion, prayers and bribes as to who should win the coveted 2011 POTY. Whose name will finally appear on this, unique, expensive and extremely tasteful certificate?
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.
Am I talking nonsense? Does what I say often sound like gibberish? Do I sound as if my reasoning is confused and my grasp of logic tenuous? Thanks to those clever scientists we now know why. As we head towards middle age, we soon go into rapid mental decline.
I once had a razor sharp mind that could slice through superfluous detail and get to the heart of any argument. My analytical powers knew no limit. I was able to discern in a flash, myth from reality, delusion from fact, false invisible magic stuff from real invisible magic stuff. Sadly, as I find myself in my late forties, my faculties are not what they were. Lines are becoming blurred. What was once clear as day to me, is now fuzzy and indistinct. I am beginning to fear that my best days are behind me and I now face the inevitable decline where perhaps I won't even be capable of being an Associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
But even as I look back on the dazzling achievements of my past, still, even in the muddled cloud of my impending decrepitude, there are things to look forward to. As my once firm grasp of reality begins to fade, I will transform and become ever more spiritual. As the tyranny of hormones and ambition evaporate before my bespectacled eyes, as I more and more simply enjoy being on a planet that goes on forever spinning beneath my feet, as my medicine cabinet continues to grow in size, as I find I can get away with ever more outrageous bad manners, the true me begins to emerge.
As St Paul said, weakness is strength, up is down, black is white and I really need to get my prescription changed.