His Grace, Bishop Angaelos, Patriarchal Exarch for the Youth Ministry at the Patriarchal Center and the Coptic Orthodox Theological College, Stevenage
Tuesday, 27 December, 2011, 08:19 AM - Christian persecutionRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Things are not going well for Christians in the Middle East. We used to be top religion, where everybody did what we told them to. Now another religion is top religion and they're making life very difficult for us.
Some Christians in the Middle East have already celebrated Christmas, unlike the Coptic Church, which, more properly, uses the correct Julian calendar - an eternal calendar, that is not swayed by the passing fashions of astronomical alignments. Whether they use a heretical calendar or not, Christians are increasingly having to flee from the Middle East to seek a more favourable climate in other traditional Christian centres, such as Stevenage.
You would think that the recent revolutions and the arrival of democracy would make things better for Christians. It turns out that the rule of the majority, when the majority all belong to the top religion, seems to make things even worse for non-top religions. I think there may be a message in here somewhere about mixing religion with politics and the benefits of a secular society, but for the life of me I can't think what it might be.
Some of the people from the top religion are even manipulating the feelings of the electorate. Yes, I know, shocking isn't it?
Fortunately, we can place our trust in the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, who arrived 2,000 years ago proclaiming peace and hope in the Middle East. Things have just been getting better and better there ever since, apart from the occasional little hiccup like the current century and most of the previous ones.
The Archbepop of Cadbury met with Robert Mugwewe yeshterday. (hic!) Robert Mugababy started off with the besht of intenshums. "Let'sh all be lovely (hic!) 'nd happy and let bygones go bye bye," he shed. "No more black aginst white or wheat againsht (hic!) block. Jusht one big happy family." Before he immediately started shending out gangsh of (hic!) armed thugsh to beat up anyone who dishagreed.
D'ye know what? I'll tell you what. Shum of those gansh've been beeting up Anglicansh! (hic!) Yesh, (hic!) no, really! Ye see there'sh thish renegit... rene martin... webel bishop Nolbert Kunonga. He's bad. Oh yesh he's very bad. He's a very bad bishop indeed. (hic!)
So our nice Arshbishup hash gone out there to (hic!) to have a word with Mishter Muvuzela. E'sh told him all about all the bad thingsh that've been happening to Anlicans. Mishter Mugbabies didn't know anything about it! No, nuffin (hic!) at all. Sho now it'sh all gonna be fixed and every'fin in Zimbabwe's gonna be alright from now on.
Brilliant bloke our Archbish. You now, I think thish calls for jusht a teenshy weenshy celebratory sherry. Why not indeed. (hic!)
A couple of weeks ago, councillor Susan McCaffery, a self-confessed Christian, tabled a motion at Billericay town council to introduce prayers at the start of the council meetings.
"When you see the stories about the stock market crash, when you get the riots, the killing, if you have not got God what have you got? I just felt it was so apt," said Ms McCaffery.
The London Stock Exchange must be kicking itself. All those billions knocked off shares. If only Billericay town council had had the foresight to introduce prayers to their meetings, the impending economic collapse could all have been avoided. And what about all those riots in Billericay? Er - there weren't any, despite it's obstinately decadent, secular council.
"If you are contacting God in your deliberations you have His wisdom and guidance in the decisions that you make," she said.
Presumably the council just tosses a coin the rest of the time in order to make decisions.
The chair of the council, John Buchanan, another self-confessed, pointed out that the House of Commons always starts with prayers, and we all know how honourable, upright and careful with taxpayers' money they are .
The council very sensibly defeated the motion by seven votes to three.
"I was a little disappointed, it is something that is part of our tradition," said Mr Buchanan, even though it isn't part of their tradition and never has been.
Wishing to offer a compromise to the poor persecuted Christians, Councillor Edgar Guest suggested that those who wanted to pray could arrive at the meeting early to do so. A perfectly sensible solution you might think, but local Christians don't seem to think so.
One Christian commented that Britain was "like a despotic communist country" for not forcing people to pray to the Christian god.
Another wrote that he was "disgusted", and that "These sorts of attitudes only create cultural divides and alienate the Christian population of this country and those who uphold our time-honoured traditions."
So apparently Christians are feeling disgusted and alienated because they can't force everyone else to pray. But even feeling disgusted and alienated was not enough. A letter in today's local newspaper, expresses "dismay at Billericay council's decision to abandon prayers at council meetings," which of course they haven't - they've simply voted not to introduce them. "One of the ideas behind prayer is to subvert one's own petty bigotries," said the dismayed, disgusted, alienated Christian, "and self-seeking ambitions to a superior will known as God. In my experience politicians are not very good at doing that."
I think the writer may be confusing the debauched Billericay town councillors with its former MP, Harvey Proctor, a notoriously right wing Tory until he was forced to resign in disgrace after his S&M sessions with teenage boys. He was on the Executive Council of the Conservative Monday Club, one of whose values is "The embracing of Christian teaching and morals."
Has anyone mentioned the phone hacking scandal yet? Well, yes, rather too many as a matter of fact. The other day I walked behind a line of reporters with their cameras focused on the House of Commons. Do you know what not one of those reporters did? Not one of them turned to take a picture of me? ME, the Editor of the Tablet, walking right behind them! They never even realised what a fantastic scoop they had, right behind them! ME!
I was going to Lambeth Palace, where I was being joined by various other important Christians. We were talking about the problems of Christians in the Holy Land. The Holy Land is as holy today as it's always been. It's just full of holiness, or in some cases, just full of holes. The Holy Land is full of all sorts holy places, some of which are very holy indeed. All these holy places are filled with holy people doing holy things.
But the number of Christians in the Holy Land is falling. For some reason, a lot of them have been leaving and they don't want to go back, despite it being so holy. So me and my fellow important Christians, invited some of them to Lambeth Palace to say they really should stay in the Holy Land to keep it holy. We need to show solidarity with our fellow Christians.
This leads to a dilemma. Should we only show solidarity with fellow Christians? Then we might not be showing solidarity with our fellow non-Christians. It's all very difficult and puzzling and holy.
It has been brought to our attention that there is a small group of people in this country whose rights are commonly overlooked. Powerless, disenfranchised and with virtually no access to the media, this increasingly impoverished community have been exploited and enslaved with no support from the British establishment. Here at the EHRC we feel that enough is enough. It is time to make a stand for the rights of...
Her Majesty the Queen, the British head of state, speaking on behalf of all Christians, said "One is living in constant fear. The faith that one is the defender of seems to be under constant attack by gangs of militant secularists. They come to one's palace in broad daylight, armed with words, articles, books and all sorts of reasonable arguments. One is even thinking of moving to one of the other states that one is head of."
Speaking from his seat in the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared, "We simply have no one to speak for us in this country."
The EHRC is duty bound to protect persecuted minorities like Christians. For example, did you know that there are still some schools in this country not being run by one of the major Christian denominations? Religions other than Christianity even make regular appearances on Radio 4! That's how bad things have got for Christians!
To this end, EHRC have decided that we have no alternative but to seek redress against two of the major culprits responsible for bullying these poor, defenceless Christians: employers and gays. Several employers have ruthlessly informed Christians that they can't use the employers' uniforms to advertise their religion. We at the EHRC feel it is sensible and proportionate to use state funds to defend Christians in the European Court of Human Rights for their right to wear small crosses around their necks. If Christians can't have exceptions to employers' uniform policy then they run the risk of burning in hell for all eternity, and if that isn't discrimination, I don't know what is.
But this kind of anti-Christian bigotry isn't limited to the country's employers. The crushing power of the state backed gay hegemony has also been pressing it's jack booted heel against the faces of helpless Christians. For years, these fascists have been demanding that gays be treated like normal people. Good Christian registrars and councillors, who wish nothing more than the simple right to discriminate against gays, find themselves unreasonably dismissed. We think a compromise is in order: namely that they be allowed to discriminate by restricting goods and services to people they approve of. Even if they were only allowed to discriminate a little bit, perhaps on alternate days, this would be a huge improvement.
The EHRC: prosecuting those who discriminate against minorities while defending the right to discriminate against minorities. You know it makes sense.
What a sad day it is today. That great defender of public morality and decency, the News of the World, is no more. They enjoyed the great privilige that one so Reverend and Honourable as I, should write a regular column for their magnificent, upstanding organ. Together we fought the stridentness and shrillness of militant secularists. We battled the evil campaigners who seemed to think people should have some say in how and when they should die. We exposed the appalling moral depravity of Max Mosley, a story which this fine newspaper never otherwise deigned to titillate its readers with. We shared our disgust at Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time, although you have to admit he has a point about immigration and all these burkhas being worn in London. And of course, we fought the good fight to defend we poor, persecuted Christians.
It really is quite distasteful to see all these holier-than-thou MPs and other people of influence, turn upon those whose posteriors they were once so recently want to lick. One can only pray that this will not tarnish, or in any way sully the otherwise good name of News International - that they will continue to be seen as fit and proper people to take full control of BSkyB.
What an unfortunate coincidence that this should happen so soon after the admirable Rebekah Brooks had already announced her intention to sack most of the staff and merge operations with that other fine, noble, Christian newspaper, the Sun. Perhaps I will be able to give the Sun on Sunday readers the benefits of my wisdom?
What's the greatest thing about me? Is it that I'm so Christian? Or is it that I'm such a well loved, sought after writer? In fact, the same celebrity Christian and fabulous writer are both me. Just think, without Christianity, you might never have heard of me!
However, in some people it's there skills that matter. I don't stop to ask a surgeon whether he's a Christian or a Hindu. So should we ask about the private lives of politicians or footballers? Many fans have been shocked to learn, shocked, that some famous footballers sleep around. The integrity of that once proud profession, so admired for its scrupulous morals, may be tarnished forever. It seems certain that Manchester United fans will now abandon their team, they may even be so disillusioned that they will abandon football completely. So yes, it does matter what they get up to in their private lives.
That's why it puzzles me that we Christians should be so persecuted. Take the example of the Witch Doctor from Kent. All he wanted to do was dance around the patient to exorcise evil spirits, pour fresh ram's blood over them and tell them to smoke the secret plant that had been handed down to him by generations of his ancestors. Where's the harm in that? After all, he'd already tried aspirin and that didn't seem to help.
The visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend wasn't beyond a bit of witch doctoring himself, which just goes to show how medically valid it is. Without the Invisible Magic Friend there'd be no doctors or teachers. There'd be no music.
We trust doctors, teachers and footballers. They often exercise great power over us. Why on earth would anyone want to curtail their undoubted freedom to tell you to become a Christian? What possible objection could you have to it?
Oh the persecution! The pain, the pain!
I want to talk to you today about the art of Ai Weiwei. Which brings me on to religion. Religion is very much like art. It is subversive, not at all part of the establishment. It asks all the difficult questions and even makes up some answers.
Believe it or not, there are control freaks out there who want to tell you what to think. That is why they are so afraid of religion. When you have a religion you are free to think what you like. Free, FREE, FREE I tell you! You are free to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Free to ask, what if there is more than this world? Eh? Eh? What if? Eh? Makes you think, eh? A famous poet asked that, so there. What a disappointment it would be if this dull, uninteresting universe was all there was.
I am free to have random thoughts rattling around in my Rev Dr brain. That's what makes me so dangerous. That's why "they" want to suppress me, to prevent me from coming on Thought For The Day. But they will not succeed. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.
And in conclusion, that's what the art of Ai Weiwei is all about.
As anyone mentioned Easter yet? Happy Easter everyone!
Phew, well thank goodness the papers said some nice things about Christians for a change. At least the various denominations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre managed to avoid a brawl this year.
Quite why some people don't like Christians is a bit of a puzzle. They seem to think that Christianity is, in some unspecified way, divisive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans (both high and low church), Calvinists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic and Evangelical Christians couldn't be more united. It's ridiculous to suggest that Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans (both high and low church), Calvinists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic and Evangelical Christians are in any way in conflict with one another.
It's probably unwise to say we feel "persecuted", although we do. Think of all the high profile cases lately where, quite unreasonably, we haven't been allowed to push our beliefs on others, or even discriminate against The Gays - a fine, ancient church tradition that must surely be allowed to continue.
Everyday church attendance may be constantly dwindling but we get good turnouts on big days like Easter, when people know that we put on a bit of a show. Even more encouraging, government spending cuts will soon start to bite. There'll be big increases in poverty, destitution, homelessness and drug and alcohol dependency. What's more, there aren't going to be the government agencies to help them. It's boom time for the churches again. "Want a nice, hot, cup of thick, nutritious soup? Just step inside, into the warmth and sing a few hymns to Jesus. Is that really so much to ask?"
We're everywhere. We've got the buildings, we've got the people, we've got the schools, we've got our hands on the social services in all the most deprived areas. You just see if church attendance doesn't start to go up. Although we're still persecuted because we don't get to do absolutely everything we want.
Oh, and Jesus did rise from the dead, so there.
In my gap year I visited Romania. It was a desperately poor country, with shortages of most essential items. So I went there to help out by providing them with bibles. Then I visited Nepal, another desperately poor country in sore need of bibles.
Of course we Christians are used to being persecuted. There has never been a place in the world, or a time in history, when we were anything other than a plucky little minority faith, struggling to bring truth and justice, oppressed by the rich and powerful.
Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, told us in the Big Book of Magic Stuff to expect as much. "Telling the truth about me being the Invisible Magic Friend isn't going to make you popular, so go out there and enjoy a jolly good persecution."
Jesus himself was incredibly tolerant, of thieves, cheats, liars and people who didn't have sex according to the rules of the Big Book of Magic Stuff. That's why Christians are so much more tolerant than everyone else. It's why, throughout history, Jews and other minority beliefs have always flocked to Christian lands, where they knew they would be welcomed and given the religious freedom denied them elsewhere. It's why Christians abolished the slavery being practised by other Christians. It's why Christians have fought so hard to defend the rights of homosexuals, the ungrateful bastards.
Yet here we are again, despite all our tolerance, being persecuted once again. Homosexuals forced Catholics to close their adoption agencies. The agencies had no choice. They had to protect the children in case a homosexual accidentally stepped through the door. Who knows what horrors a homosexual might have inflicted on innocent young children. There was nothing else they could do.
Another pair of poor, persecuted Christians have now been banned from fostering children, simply because they wanted to tell homosexual children that they were evil and would burn in hell. I mean, who could possibly object to that? It's political correctness gone mad!
We Christians never put rules before people. Just as Jesus told us to, we don't consult a book of rules to determine a person's worth. If only secular society could be as tolerant and understanding as we are.