From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Mind-blowingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
The rules regarding adoption are to be reviewed.
Parents. Babies. Adoption. It's Christmas Eve. I wonder where I should go with this story? Hmmm... difficult one. I hadn't anticipated such an awkward news story appearing. Somehow I've got to relate parents, babies and adoption into what I was going to say about the True Meaning of Christmas.
I mean, if one of Jesus' parents had been an adoptive parent then I think I might have had an angle on this. Oh, wait! Joseph was! Phew, that was a bit of luck! Brilliant! That means I can talk about the visible bit of the invisible Magic Friend becoming visible after all.
Joseph was initially going to split up with Mary due to her having a baby that he couldn't recall playing any part in. Fortunately, the Angel Gabriel informed him that she'd been blessed by the particularly invisible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and that the baby was in fact going to be the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. This came as considerable relief to Joseph who decided to stay with her while she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. Presumably Joseph did too.
With all their fussy rules about protecting children, those politically correct bureaucrats gone mad down at the town hall, probably wouldn't have allowed Joseph to adopt nowadays, even when he told them about the Angel Gabriel. Joseph wouldn't have learned about the way children mess up your life. My wife and I had to constantly cancel our wild parties and boozy nights down the pub.
And that is the True Meaning of Christmas.
Happy Christmas to you all!
Aren't the unemployment figures just terrible! One million young people out of work. Tut, tut, tut. Now, just because you're unemployed, there's no need to go out rioting, although I'm sure we'll all understand if you do. In these difficult economic times, jobs come and go, they come and go.
Somebody ought to do something about this. As a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian, let me just assure you that young people need to feel wanted and appreciated. They need to feel loved, to feel like lovers, not like rivals. They need to feel productive and useful, do something important like being a theologian.
How do we sell the contradiction, of fat cats on huge bonuses that can't employ a young person, even on minimum wage. For the young unemployed, every day is like survival. They string along, they string along.
Gandhi, a nice, wise Hindu that everybody's heard of and likes, thought it would be wise to have some native industry and not just import everything. No wonder he is regarded as so wise. That way people will have jobs, and through having jobs will be able to worship the Invisible Magic Friend. Otherwise they'll be like a man without conviction. We can even make things in different colours: red, gold and green, red gold and green.
Hindus call this: karma karma karma karma, karma chameleon.
Children in the UK are the unhappiest in the world and it's all my fault! I should have been spending quality time, playing with my children. Instead, I've been working all hours being a busy Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian. I tried to buy them off with flash gadgets and shiny toys, but there was only so much a 3 year old could achieve with a Blackberry. Now look what's happened, they've turned into materialistic consumers.
If only I'd listened to what I was teaching and theologising about. Hindu teaching definitely says to spent time with your kids. And they grow up so fast, don't they? Gandhi himself pointed out there just weren't enough hours in the day for all the fasting and praying and theologising and spending quality time with your children.
As if spending time with the children weren't enough, we've got to find quality time to spend with the Invisible Magic Friend as well. Now there's someone you really can't buy off with a new xbox.
Don't make the mistake I made. Don't put your busy life as a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian before the well being of your children. Won't someone please think of the children!
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Years ago, a Muslim friend who had died, had expressed a wish to be buried in India. This caused some concern among UK friends and relatives. How could they pay their respect?
Yet there are other ways to pay respect to the dead, as we see in the people of Wootton Bassett. Now the military cortèges will no longer pass through the town, one resident remarked that maybe the town will be a little happier.
Individuals and communities are not defined by their deaths or by passed conflicts, but by their willingness to forgive the past and move forward.
I celebrated Eid in Yorkshire with my brothers and sisters, their partners and their children. Old tensions were soon forgotten. In the end it is always better to forgive, we will be happier for it. More important still, it creates a happier future for our children.
Saturday, 20 August, 2011, 08:35 AM - Invisible magic stuff, Spirituality, Think of the children, MarshallRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
Weren't last week's headlines about young people just terrible! Every single one of them, except the Christian ones, were out rioting. Few can now afford higher education and fewer still will ever own a home. What has gone wrong with all modern youth, except the Christian ones?
Former Big Brother host, Russell Brand, speaking from Beverly Hills, and quoting Gandhi, criticised the lack of spirituality in modern youth. I agree with that, so he must be correct. And when I say "spirituality", I don't mean that wonder and awe that taps into the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of young people. No, I mean the much narrower, silly definition about invisible magic stuff.
Pope Benedict has gathered almost a million young people from around the world to worship him in Madrid. That's what I call being properly spiritual. Well done Pope Benedict! That's how to teach them right from wrong. You don't see Christians going out rioting.
You see, without Christianity, young people don't understand how to be generous or think of other people. They're just their natural, selfish, greedy selves.
Young people from Walsingham recently spent a week together being Christian. This is the kind of useful, constructive, insightful experience that more young people need to give meaning to their otherwise purposeless lives. All the ones that weren't being Christian were out rioting.
When modern youth look at today's adults, they see only the shallow cynicism of today's teachers, doctors, aid workers, poets, scientists and philosophers. No wonder their souls are empty and they go out rioting. How much healthier it is to see young people worshipping the leader of the greatest paedophile cover up conspiracy in the history of humanity. What an inspiring tonic it must be for these young people! Isn't Pope Benedict just fantastic!
The USA owes $14,300,000,000,000.
I'm not an economist. I don't spend my time reading economic theory or calibrating computer models of the economy. I barely know anything at all about economics. In fact, what I know about economics, you could right on the back of a match box. That's why I'm going to talk to you about economics.
US government debt is exactly the same as Adam and Eve. That's where it all started and it's been down hill all the way since then. I don't wish to sound grumpy or anything, but everything just keeps getting worse and worse and worse 'till everything's just completely awful and unimaginably terrible. Original sin is not about humanity's fall from grace and its loss of innocence, necessitating the second bit of the Invisible Magic Friend sacrificing himself, as some deluded Christians may have erroneously informed you. Original sin is about government debt, and as sins go, US government debt is about as sinful as it gets.
Adam and Eve weren't happy with the GDP of the Garden of Eden. They had to borrow fruit from the tree of knowledge, fruit that they couldn't possibly repay, leaving it to future generations to service the debt. Enough is enough. There are limits to economic growth. We need fewer jobs, less production and overall economic stagnation and contraction. That is the only sure fire way to pay our debts, increase happiness and ensure the general well being of the human race. (Oh, by the way, in the resulting economic depression, I'll still be getting paid, so feel free to come and see me if you want some spiritual comfort while your family starves.)
Government debt is money that we have borrowed from our children. Won't someone please, please think of the children.
The USA now owes $14,300,005,000,000.
Every 5 minutes a child runs away from home or from care. That's 100,000 a year. A quarter are forced out. On the streets they are vulnerable to predatory adults and the false escapes of drink and drugs. I was so outraged by these scandalous statistics, this wanton disregard for the welfare of children, that I decided that enough was enough, I just had to do something. So I immediately grabbed my coat, dashed out of the door and headed straight for a museum.
The Museum of Childhood was full of happy, smiling children in neatly pressed school uniforms. I breathed a huge sigh of relief - no street urchins dressed in rags, surrounded by empty tins of Tennents' Super here. I was reminded that children take a special delight in the world around them, especially when it's filled with toys.
I was also reminded that real Christianity, true Christianity, my Christianity, likes to enjoy itself. We're not like certain dour faced puritans, such as... well we all know who they are, no need to name names - so-called "Christians" that don't want to have priests and bishops with lots of shiny gold threaded vestments and great big flowing capes with pointy hats and big ornamental poles to carry around.
Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, said we needed to be more like children. Unfortunately, some children are being prematurely sexualised and made to think as adults by adults who want to be more like children... so Jesus was obviously wrong about... er, just forget that bit.
Anyway, we should be very, very angry indeed about the mistreatment of children. Won't somebody please, please think of the children!
Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010
Monday, 4 July, 2011, 08:21 AM - Think of the childrenRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
What shall we leave to our children's children's children's children. No, I'm not trying to use an exaggerated cliché, it's our legacy to those who are born long after we die that concerns me. With all the terrible problems we're creating, climate change, the national debt, nuclear waste, the pensions crisis, overpopulation, shouldn't somebody be thinking about generations unborn?
Things were much better in Victorian times. Borrowing was quite sensible and natural in those days, and if you couldn't pay your debts, you would be looked after in a debtors' prison until your could. With our current unsustainable use of natural resources it's possible that future generations might even be worse off than us. NO, really, that's possible. Makes you think, eh?
This is where the sermon on the mount is so important. Thanks to that, we know that it is the meek who will inherit the earth, so they're the ones we should be planning for. I'd just like to say how important various churches are in solving these problems, but before I do, let me mention the Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations. There, I've mentioned a secular organisation, now I can get back to talking about churches as much as I like without being accused of bias.
Churches are really important in solving all the problems of the world. Look at all the ones they've solved so far! The Vatican uses the phrase "intergenerational justice" in some of its documents. This means it is seriously wondering how the world will cope with the never ending exponential growth in human population that it wants. It's a puzzle, there's no doubt about that.
So why do we care about the future prosperity of the species anyway? I mean, it's not as if it's instinctive or anything, is it? The only reason I can think of is that the Invisible Magic Friend would like us to be kind to future generations. If only everyone else was as advanced in their thinking as the churches.
Won't somebody please think of the children, and the children's children, and the children's children's children, and the children's children's children's children!
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
We all have roots, where our cultural values originate, places where we were born, where our fathers and our fathers' fathers and our fathers' fathers' fathers were born. Many of these places allow children to be adopted. Some even allow adoption without any sense of shame - none at all. What's important is what is good for the child.
The government has revised the rules on adoption. A child's race will no longer be of such importance in finding suitable adoptive parents.
Conceivably this is possibly, just maybe, a potentially not so bad thing, perhaps. India may be the place of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers, and that place of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers will always be part of me, but I don't agree with absolutely every cultural trait from the land of my fathers and my fathers' fathers and my fathers' fathers' fathers. So maybe race and culture are not so static and well defined as we sometimes suggest.
Muslims tend to be confused about adoption. Islam, as the religion of peace, tolerance, love and caring, exists to help the poor, the widows and of course, the orphans. It is really, really important, and as a Professor of Islamic Studies I can't emphasise this enough to you, Radio 4 listeners, that orphans be looked after.
Perhaps it is time to look beyond a child's race, culture and yes, perhaps, possibly, maybe, even their religion. Won't someone please, please think of the children.
People just don't seem to be able to live without their technology these days. Everyone's on their computer on Facebook or twitter, or they're texting on their mobile phones. A Rutgers university professor asked 82 students to switch off their phones for 48 hours. Only 12 succeeded.
Contrast this with the two charming families who stayed with me over Christmas, whose young children made their own entertainment. They played games, laughed and ran around without any technological assistance of any kind. This just goes to show that you don't need expensive computer games to enjoy yourself.
This is what Jesus meant when he said we should be like little children, we should stay off Facebook and twitter. Blessed are those who texteth not, for they shall have lower Pay As You Go bills. Should we encourage this natural curiosity of children, given to us by the Invisible Magic Friend, or should we chain children to a computer desk as soon as they are born? Hmm, that's a difficult one.
I've had cause to complain about excessive mobile phone use in the past, but people don't seem to have got the message and are continuing to use electronic gadgets. Why, oh why, oh why, will parents not realise that love does not mean giving the latest mobile phone to their offspring? Won't someone please think of the children?