I was In Bruges admiring a painting of Jesus when my daughter said, "Oh no, not another painting of Jesus. Didn't they paint anything else then?" I had to smile at the simple boredom of a child. The answer is, no, they didn't.
Anyone who could paint in those days painted who they were told to, and they were told to paint pictures of Jesus: Jesus being born, Jesus being killed and occasionally Jesus doing other things apart from being born or being killed. Of course they were painted in a huge variety of slightly different ways but I have to admit, even I found it all incredibly boring.
Then it hit me. A lot of art and public works were done for money or prestige. How much of it was really done to glorify the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend? The more I looked around In Bruge, the more I came to realise that motives of adoration and praise become confused with motives of self aggrandisement. What an original thought this was. As a celebrity, Christian writer I thought to myself, is it possible that anyone has ever questioned religious motives before?
A retired bishop has got so confused about all of this that he's written in his book that he's confused.
Everyone's favourite earliest Christian author, Saint Paul, famously said that Jesus was the invisible image of the Invisible Magic Friend. Even by Saint Paul's standards that seems obscure. Fortunately it all makes sense when you realise that I haven't actually read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and the few bits that I have read I don't remember very well.
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.
Hasn't 2011 been just terrible? It's been awful. Absolutely abysmal. There's youth unemployment and all sorts of social ills.
Fortunately, Christianity invented something called "hope". This isn't just blind optimism. It isn't.
Christians also invented things called "faith" and "love". The Bishop of Liverpool might think the phrase "God is Love" is too vacuous, but God is Love, and this is not a contradiction. God is the ultimate reality. It is.
A famous theologian thought love was a really good thing, so it must be true.
Since love and hope are such good things, faith must be too. A child told me that faith was believing what you know isn't true. Foolish child! Don't worry, we will soon correct such wrong notions. Nor is faith simply a crutch for those who can't accept that the universe wasn't made for our benefit. It isn't.
To show how correct everything I'm saying is, my charity collected the money to switch on an old woman's heating. That's how right I am.
We, and by we I do of course mean you, have the ability to transform from an ugly, selfish, sinful pond nymph, into a beautiful, generous, virtuous dragonfly.
The marvellous Tracey Emin has asked me to provide a thought for you today. We have one of this marvellous artist's work in my cathedral. What a marvellous work this is, it is a neon sign with the word "love" in it. Marvellous, is it not? Who but such a marvellous artist could have created a marvellous neon sign with the word "love" in it? It says it all marvellously, does it not?
The Hayward Gallery put on a marvellous display of this marvellous artist's work. Some of those marvellous works also included the word love, as well as Christ and the cross. Emily Bronte mentioned love too, which just goes to show how important love is.
Tracey, I call her Tracey due to us both being marvellous, might expect me to say here that God is love. That would be too predictable. An empty, vacuous platitude, unworthy of this illustrious slot. In fact, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend never said this and it only occurs a few times in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Therefore it may, or may not, be true that God is love. I think my point here is clear.
If, and I emphasise if, we were created by the Invisible Magic Friend, which we definitely were, then that creator must be able to love. For it is clearly impossible for a creator to create anything with attributes that it itself does not possess. A few moments thought will soon convince you that there is not a single counter-example to this.
Tracey has another marvellous work with words in it that include "love". These words on a blanket could have wrapped the baby Invisible Magic Friend. They didn't, but they could have. Indeed, of the infinite number of things that could have happened, this is one of them. They could also have been stained with blood by Herod, the evil baby murderer of ancient Judea and not a marvellous artist of any kind.
It's nearly Christmas. There will be lots of Christmas presents. That's because giving and receiving gifts was invented by Christians, so it's a good job we were around.
Aside from all this giving and receiving that was invented by Christians, has anyone ever mentioned that the best things in life are free? No? Well they are. One of the best free things is love. It's a well known fact that you don't have to spend any money at all to win someone's affections. The best love of all is the love of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine recently? Saint Augustine said that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Saint Augustine was always right about these things, that's how we know that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Other, lesser theologians, who are not even saints, are much less reliable in this regard. We know this because they're not saints.
The love of the Invisible Magic Friend, which he gives to everyone freely and equally because Saint Augustine said so, has a special technical name. It is what we theologians call "divine grace". It's a good job there are theologians like myself around, otherwise you wouldn't have known that. This, once again, proves the incredible usefulness of theology.
This "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians and that is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so, is something that we Christians give thanks for. It doesn't make any difference that we give thanks because "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians, is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so.
There's no point in trying to be self sufficient because you'll always need "divine grace", as the love of the etc.
I'm delighted that Tracey Emin has been appointed professor of drawing at the RA. Tracey was "thrilled". I'm not thrilled, but I am delighted.
In order to draw things you have to look at them. David Hockney agrees with me. "In order to draw things you have to look at them," he said.
While you are looking at something you use a pencil to sketch lines on paper that creates a representation of the thing you are looking at. That is how to do drawing. Drawing isn't just an arty thing. Architects, engineers and anatomists draw things too. So drawing is important. Although it has to be said that architects and engineers tend not to draw things they are looking at, so Hockney and me were probably lying when we said you had to look at things in order to draw them.
We now come to the important question: are you allowed to draw the Invisible Magic Friend? Fortunately, skilled theologians have investigated this difficult subject, and the answer is, yes, you are. Other religions say you're not, but they're wrong. The reason you are is that there was a visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Nobody drew him at the time, so we don't know what he looked like, but we know he was tall, white, with nicely shampooed hair and had blue eyes, because that's the way everyone imagines he must have looked. You can also draw the other bits of the Invisible Magic Friend even though he's hardly ever been visible except as the occasional burning bush. This was recognisable as the invisible Magic Friend because it was a talking burning bush.
This means that pictures of the baby Jesus on Christmas Cards are theologically orthodox and are therefore permitted.
We look at the world with our eyes. We also use our hands. Other bits of the body come in useful too.
A famous hermit says we must be like angels, who even though they don't have any bits of the body, still look at things.
Hi Mary, Gabriel here. I would have texted u but that hasn't been invented yet. Great news!
Who are you?
I told you, I'm Gabriel, the angel Gabriel.
Aha. So what's this good news then?
The Particularly Invisible Bit of the Invisible Magic Friend has just blessed you.
Has just what?
He's just blessed you.
You know... blessed.
I don't follow.
Oh come on, do I have to spell it out? He came in here just now, went underneath your sheet and... you know... blessed you.
Oh, I see! Blessed! That's a bit of a liberty don't you think. I mean, usually a girl likes to be courted a little bit. A box of chocolates, some flowers, even an introduction might have been nice.
Yes, well, He's not really into all that sentimental stuff, what with Him not being human or having any hormones. He really just likes to get on with the business end of things.
He must have been very quick, I didn't even notice I was being "blessed".
That's Him alright! When He wants to bless someone He doesn't hang about. It's just straight in there and, woosh, He's one fast blesser.
So now what?
Well you'll have a baby boy who, according to prophecy, will be named Emmanuel.
I think I prefer Jesus.
He will be the Messiah.
No one in the family's called Emmanuel.
He will be the salvation of mankind.
Jesus has got a nice ring to it don't you think?
You will be worshipped as the replacement mother goddess, as the Queen of Heaven. Well, not worshipped exactly, more sort of... er...
Yes blessed! No! No, no, no, no, no. Not blessed.
And that everyone, is the True Meaning of Advent.
The chancellor's autumn statement says things are going to get worse before they get better.
This is exactly what it says in one of the Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff. Just hang on in there for another five or six years, a decade or two tops, and it'll soon be party time again. The future will be brighter for our children, and our children's children. Hope springs eternal. Where there's a will there's a way. Nothing venture, nothing gained. In for a penny in for pound.
I will now introduce you to four exotic sounding Hindu words, whose mystical eastern sounds lend gravitas and authority to their meaning. These words are as follows.
Darn socks - the ethical values that help us to repair damaged hosiery.
Arthur - the King of Camelot who provides the stability necessary for our economic prosperity.
Calmer - the state we need to be in to enjoy material things.
Mocha - the delicious coffee and chocolate mixture that makes us so spiritually fulfilled
All four are needed. If Arthur does not darn socks then we won't be calmer to enjoy our mocha. While Arthur may be a bit idle at the moment and outside our control, this is no reason not to darn socks or enjoy a calm, soothing mocha. We look forward to the day when Arthur returns to unite all of Britain in darning socks and have a calmer Mocha. That day will happen and it will take all four to make us truly fulfilled and better off.
Something coherent about degrees of separation and the internet.
Friend, friend, friend, friend.
Dive into Sanskrit and Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff.
Equality rather than just tolerance.
May the Force be with you.
Sink into irrational darkness of spirit, soul, oneness, god.
Unlimited clean, free energy source.
Devotee, devotee, devotee, devotee.
Gibber, gibber, gibber, gibber.
Das, das, das, das.
Finally drown in degrees of separation from god.
So Dame Vivienne Westwood has been addressing the anti-capitalist protesters outside Saint Paul's on the emptiness of consumerism. And so I stood around watching the Durham Lumiere Festival. There were lots of bright, happy colours, lighting up the town and especially the cathedral.
And so it begins, the Cathedral was adorned by pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels. These unique Gospels were produced at enormous expense. Going forward, they were definitely the designer Gospels of their day and highly desirable artefacts in their own right - no hint of abject consumerism or the ostentatious display of wealth there.
Do you know who all this reminds me of? Go on, have a guess. No, I knew you wouldn't get it. OK, I'll put you out of your misery, it was Jesus! Yes, that's right, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend! Jesus is like light, a great big multi-coloured neon display of tubular light, who now reigns supreme in the great fluorescent bulb showroom in the sky.
So science and religion don't have all the answers. (I put them together because they don't have all the answers in roughly equal amounts.) And so there's no art any more, For Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine, except in Durham, where we have 1,300 year old Gospels projected onto the Cathedral walls - that's art.