Happy 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday everyone! After 10 years and £200m, the Saville Inquiry concluded that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing.
There's a famous picture of a priest waving a hanky over a bloody victim on Bloody Sunday. He became a bishop. Then he retired and wrote a book. He said that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing as well.
I knew a Christian couple in Northern Ireland. They weren't Catholic or Protestant, just Christian. They used to talk to both Nationalists and Unionists. We don't call them Catholics or Protestants, that might suggest that there was some sort of religious element to the troubles, which is absurd. Anyway, this young, indeterminate denomination couple used to talk to people of both
This is how the message of Jesus, the message of peace, was finally brought to Northern Ireland and how religion finally solved that troubled province's purely political troubles.
By coincidence this is also the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. He was religious too in a totally non-specific sort of way. He believed in peace, despite the fact that he didn't think that Jesus was the Invisible Magic Friend, which is remarkable really. Fortunately, the assassins of this man of peace were caught and executed.
So you see, peace is actually a very good thing. Any Syrian dictators who are listening to this, this morning, just might want to bear that in mind.
Don't be ashamed to tell everyone how much money you earn. Have a guess how much money I earn. Did you guess right?
Stephen Hester isn't afraid to tell how much he earns. Who's to say he isn't worth it? His bonus is just a tiny amount of the money he's saved by sacking over 20,000 people. This is a man who earns more in a day than a soldier in Afghanistan earns in a year. That's how dangerous running RBS is!
Don't waste your time being envious of people who are much richer than you. Do you really think that a rich person sleeps easier in bed at night than someone worrying how to pay the gas bill? I mean really? How much is too much anyway? It's all relative, isn't it?
As I said before, I haven't actually read the Big Book of Magic Stuff, but I'm sure it says somewhere not to worry about things like this, to be content with what you have. You don't want to have too little, or too much. People who earn too much have to worry about how to spend their vast excesses of cash. It's a real problem that I don't think poor people properly appreciate.
As long as you have your daily crust of bread, what more could the little listeners of Radio 4 possibly want?
Would you have done any better than the captain of the Costa Concordia? How would you fair, if, as in the Lord's prayer, you were "put to the test"?
The Novel "Lord Jim" begins in a similar vein, when the novel's title character abandons a ship in distress. He spends the rest of his life trying to restore his belief in himself. He never accepts that he, like many of us, can simply be afraid.
Even those who demonstrate great physical bravery, risking their lives to save others, might not have the moral courage to stand up to dishonesty, or the kind of widespread cultural evil spread by extremism. That kind of bravery is exceptional, like the farm boy from the Sudetenland who wrote.
"Dear parents: I must give you bad news - I have been condemned to death. I and Gustave G. We did not sign up for the SS, and so they condemned us to death.. Both of us would rather die than stain our consciences with such deeds of horror. I know what the SS have to do."
We can only hope that all of us, on this Holocaust Memorial Day, and faced with a similar choice, could search deep within us and draw upon such strength.
Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 09:23 AM - AtkinsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Many of you will have taken part in am-dram performances of The Bard, although not all of you will have been directed to the professional standards offered by a world famous author, as I have. As I said to another famous writer friend, with a CBE and lifetime achievement award (I don't want to name names, as I can't stand people like that), "Isn't it great to be an amateur who's as good as professional?"
The RSC has taken my advice on this matter and is supporting am-dram groups. Amateurs in many fields are just as good as professionals.
Most children are brought up by complete amateurs who have no qualifications in child rearing whatsoever. The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us that bringing up children is really important. As Abraham said to Isaac as he was about to sacrifice him to the Invisible Magic Friend, "This is for your own good you know. You'll thank me for this one day."
There's a terrible tendency for people to go around being excellent at things like sport these days. My son, and I don't wish to use my privileged position here to complain, was prevented from playing rugby, purely on the grounds that he wasn't good enough. That's not the way Jesus did things. Look at his disciples. They were rubbish, a tradition that has been maintained by the Apostolic Succession ever since.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 05:14 PM - EdwardsRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The PM wants the European Court of Human Rights to stop poking its nose into human rights.
This is a complex, legal, religious and moral issue that I don't have time to explain to you fully. Humans having rights is of course a very good thing indeed. Great fan of human rights. We were all created in the image of the the Invisible Magic Friend and so have exactly the same rights as he has.
Some religious people, who shall remain anonymous for the moment, aren't too sure about people having human rights. All too often these so-called human rights courts seem to forget about religions' rights to persecute and censor whoever they like. They, these anonymous people whom I'm not going to mention by name, regard this attempt to impose human rights as just another form of western imperialism that Radio 4 listeners should feel suitably guilty about.
Having said that, there are a lot of people who live under regimes that don't allow freedom of religion, a fundamental human right. That's one human right that should definitely be respected. You don't have to feel guilty about western imperialism for defending freedom of religion.
And now for various random phrases and quotations from the Big Book of Magic Stuff...
Tuesday, 24 January, 2012, 09:06 AM - VishvapaniRating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
As the son of a Jewish refugee, I am well aware that nationalism can be a very bad thing indeed. Then again, living in Wales, I am also aware that nationalism can be a very good thing indeed. That's why we have to be wary of the Centre for Cities report that suggests that the unemployed might like to move to where there are jobs.
Wales is rightly proud of its former mining industry, its former steel industry and its former industry in general. It is unthinkable that people might move away to lands with fewer and fewer male voice choirs and that are often bereft of close harmony singing.
People here are part of a community. They knew their fathers and their fathers' fathers and their fathers' fathers' fathers.
This is nationalism in a totally non-tribal, inclusive and tolerant way. It isn't a label that is used to define a complete identity. Subscribing too narrowly to any label restricts rather than defines a person's identity.
There, and I didn't mention meditation once - oh bother.
Happy Year of the Dragon everyone!
This is a time for gifts and family and happiness and optimism. Children born this year will be wealthy and wise and so the Chinese will have many more babies this year.
In Chinese mythology (and let us not forget, it is just a rather quaint mythology) the dragon is not a fire breathing monster with a diet consisting largely of virgins, the dragon is is an ancient protector of the poor.
We all need a protector of some sort, a comfort blanket, something to hold onto when we feel alone and afraid in the big scary world, something greater than us who'll be able to deal with the misfortunes that life may throw at us.
Here in Durham we've been singing Christmas carols. Yes, there's only 49 weeks to go until Christmas. Unlike the silly Chinese with their imaginary dragons, we have the real saviour of the world, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The book Religion for Atheists (available from all good book-stores and a certain well known online retailer) points out all the good things that religion does while dismissing all the silly superstitious bits. What the author fails to realise is that we need the silly superstitious bits, whether it's dragons or the baby Jesus.
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.
Kodak going bankrupt marks the end of a long era in which many of us grew up. It brings memories of photographic memories, of waiting for films to be developed at the chemist and returned to us before being excitedly viewed and placed in the photo album.
But the world moves on. As Isaiah once said, "The world moves on." That's why religion is never stuck in the past and never acts as a highly conservative force to prevent anything ever changing.
If you yearn for the past, remember that one day, today will be the past and you'll then be able to yearn for today. Then you can truly say that nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Friday, 20 January, 2012, 08:54 AM - AtkinsRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
Han Gi-duk and Chung Hae-jin were on their honeymoon on the Costa Concordia when the ship ran aground. They were alone for 30 hours in the dark, screaming and blowing their whistles, before they were found by rescue teams.
None of us want to be alone in the dark, screaming. The question is always raised, are we alone in the cosmos? Of course the answer is no, we have the Invisible Magic Friend. They seek him here, they seek him there, the Invisible Magic Friend is everywhere. People buy books about the Invisible Magic Friend. They look for him on the internet but so far he has declined to start a Facebook page.
C.S. Lewis, a cleverer person than you, believed in the Invisible Magic Friend. Lots of people in the Old Tasty mint discovered the Invisible Magic Friend.
The Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend (but not the Invisible Magic Friend of another well known Abrahamic religion that we don't talk about) likes to sneak up on you in the dark while you're asleep. He'll kill you and then demand if you believed in him or not, and boy are you in trouble if you haven't believed in him.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Disconcertingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 08:22 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
The Artist has turned out to be a surprise success story. It's a movie that reminds us that words are not the only way to communicate. A great deal can be conveyed by facial expression. Take the exchange of glances between Sarkozy and Merkel when asked about Berlusconi.
Then there was a widow, only a few years into her bereavement, who said "I can't picture his face any more." It added to her grief.
Which brings me effortlessly onto everyone's favourite founder of Christianity, Saint Paul. He said that when he dies and goes to heaven, as he most surely would, he'd get to see a great big smile on the face of the Invisible Magic Friend. What's totally unique about Christianity is that the Invisible Magic Friend (whom we refer to as "The Word" because it sounds more mysterious and profound and theological and stuff, and definitely a whole load better than "Invisible Magic Friend" does) briefly became visible and is believed to have made some facial expressions. Although no one thought to sketch them at the time so they mainly just wrote down his words.
You get people who just like to look at statues of "The Word" on the cross. There isn't much in the way of verbal communication in these exchanges and the statue generally has a fairly fixed expression, but I think one expression is better than none at all, don't you?