The situation in Greece continues to go from bad to worse. Government job cuts, high levels of unemployment and massive cuts in spending have resulted in poverty for large numbers of Greek citizens.
It's all very well to blame the bankers, politicians and even the Greeks themselves for overspending, but in a way, didn't we all do the same? We, and by we I do of course mean you, thought we lived in a world of unending growth, where bills never had to be paid and the good times would just keep on rolling forever. Should you really go around blaming the Greeks when they really just did the same as you did?
As always when we desperately need moral leadership, we look to the Vatican. With my career in the Church of England all but over, I like to fondly recall how Rome has always extended the hand of friendship to Church of England vicars willing to jump ships. The Vatican, whose own bank is renowned for such high levels of probity, is ideally placed to show the financial world the way to go.
As an emergency backup Rev Dr, I think it's time we all obeyed the biblical command: treat others the way you'd like them to treat you, and it is a biblical command, because the Big Book of Magic Stuff invented it and no one had ever thought of it before. It's time you all stopped blaming those in Greece who are suffering most, you rotters.
Jaw-droppingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Isn't the capitalism of the last three decades just terrible? But before we all relish the scapegoating of Fred Goodwin (Boo! Hiss!), let us look first to the plank in our own eye.
For we are all weak, flawed, worm like things, wallowing in sin, error, stupidity and greed. Which of us has not bought huge multinational banks and crippled the new owner with unserviceable debts? Who amongst us has not at one time paid ourselves tens of millions of pounds, lived a lavish lifestyle and left the resulting financial mess for the taxpayer to sort out?
We cannot ignore our own personal responsibility for the banking crisis. Jesus himself was at pains to point out that we all play our part in the stability of the financial system. His whole life was one of service to others, constantly creating affordable growth portfolios for the prudent investor, performing the kind of miracles that the banking sector could sorely do with today.
A friend of mine who worked in financial services, found that the service element had disappeared and that, shockingly, everyone was just out to make money. Fortunately he had already made enough money himself and was able to retire comfortably, leaving the sordid business of making a profit to others.
It is possible to be both successful and responsible. The motto of a famous American corporation reads "We don't just do this for the money you know." If only financial services companies would learn to be nice corporations like that.
Great Uncle Dr Lord Indarjit Singh JP, CBE, Baron Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations
I want to suggest to you this morning, the radical idea that things should be more fair. I know that many people think that things should be unfair but I think things should be fair and here is why.
Many great religious leaders have said that things should be fair. For many centuries, leading religious thinkers have thought about this and almost all of them have concluded that things should be fair, rather than unfair.
Consider people who are very, very rich, such as bankers. Undoubtedly being a banker involves great skill. After all, without them, we wouldn't be where we are today, so it should be suitably rewarded. However, it shouldn't be rewarded all that much.
I think I'll mention Jesus at this point. I find that talking about Jesus works rather well at inter-faith buffets and fancy it might go down equally well with Radio 4 audiences. Jesus said that it was easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than to get into the kingdom of heaven. I think he was probably referring to bankers' bonuses. He certainly seemed to think that fairness was a good thing.
Now I've got all this way and haven't mentioned any of the gurus, so I think it's about time I did. Guru Nanak thought things should be fair, rather than unfair. I think that just about wraps it up as far as any discussion goes regarding whether things should be fair or unfair.
For all these reasons, Stephen Hester turning down his bonus makes the world a better place by making it fairer. He'll just have to scrape by on his annual salary of £1.2m instead.
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.
Tomorrow there's going to be a big public sector strike.
This is what happens when people constantly struggle to work, work, work all the time. Why can't everyone just relax and be a vicar like me? We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", are always trying to earn more money to buy more things, hoping that more things will make us more happy. Life just becomes one never ending labour of trying to get more money to get more things. It's the (spit) secular way and as we all know, "secular" means "bad".
Without wanting to speak in clichés, we all want to work hard and play hard. We've been living beyond our means for too long now. We cannot pay ourselves more than we earn. It's time to tighten our belts, to face the harsh economic reality. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It's all swings and roundabouts. What goes around comes around. If we take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.
As you all rush to the secular shops to buy more secular things for Christmas that nobody needs, let's not forget the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we should all be properly gloomy and morose until we go to a nice midnight service at our little local church, or in my case, a very large cathedral, of which I am now a canon.
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.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter)
Well, I don't really understand what's happening, but something is clearly happening. As someone who has no expertise whatsoever in economics, banking or financial trading, I think I'm the ideal person to come on to the BBC's flagship news programme and give you an uninterrupted three minutes, no questions asked lecture on the morality of these things I don't understand.
I don't understand government debt for example, but I do know that Greece has got far more of it than is good for it. This makes Greek government debt a bad thing. Italy also appears to have too much government debt. This makes Italian government debt a bad thing too.
We people of faith don't like to say we told you so, but if you'd all spent your time being hungry all the time, like a certain well known Prophet, and lived a more ascetic lifestyle, then we wouldn't be in this mess. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", have all gotten rather used to borrowing money to finance our increasingly lavish and decadent lifestyles, merrily frittering away money you don't have, until the bailiff comes knocking at your door. I take no pleasure at all in watching you suffer the consequences of your irresponsible and immoral lifestyle.
When the certain well known Prophet prayed to our version of the Invisible Magic Friend (a version with no visible bits whatsoever), he prayed to save us from debt. So it's not just Greek or Italian government debt that is a bad thing, all government debt is a bad thing, as is all personal debt. Everyone should pay back all their debts immediately, thus making the world a more stable, happier place.
Next time I'll be telling you all about something else that I don't understand.
OK, so a major European economy is about to go down the pan. What's the big deal? I mean, it's not as if it's going to push the world into recession, make millions of people unemployed, crash the financial system, and destroy investments and pensions, is it? Does it really matter if your bank goes insolvent tomorrow and you lose all your savings?
It's about time we let those who are too big to fail, fail. I mean look what happened when Lehman Brothers failed. It's not like the stock market crashed to half its value, and those forced to buy annuities ended up getting half the pension they expected. Even if it did, those pensioners are all rich and powerful and they deserve it.
Time and time again, big things fail and it doesn't really cause that much harm. Look at the Roman Empire, can you honestly, honestly sit there and tell me that any one was worse off because of the fall of the Roman Empire? See what I mean? Look at me, I'm a celebrity Christian writer and I'm doing OK.
This fetish for big economies, big banks and big ships like the Titanic, is something that we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", seem to hold as an irrational belief. I can only conclude that you are all utterly delusional.
Which brings me to the Tower of Babel, which definitely existed. This is the story of how people worked together in harmony to do something constructive. Not being irrational or delusional myself, I am able to inform you that the Invisible Magic Friend intervened. "I'm not having this," he said. "That tower's nearly twenty stories tall. You'll be up here with me in the clouds soon. You've got no business with all this evil bigness, that's my job. I'm going to confuse and scatter you so that you'll mistrust each other and have frequent wars."
Now some people think this was a negative, petty, spiteful thing for the Invisible Magic Friend to do, but it's really all just part of the Invisible Magic Friend's 10,000 year plan which I'm not going to tell you about.
What we need are not things that are too big to fail but things that are too populist sounding and trite to fail.
It isn't easy being a priest. You can't just pick the nice bits from the Big Book of Magic Stuff. You'll doubtless recall all the stories of genocide, barbaric punishments, enslavement, religious absolutism and misogyny that were regularly read out in church when you were young.
Imagine my horror, yes Horror, when I was asked to read Luke chapter 6, blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. My heart sank as I realised that I would be forced, forced I tell you, to preach about precisely the issue I had resigned over.
I'd like to use the metaphor of tectonic plates to describe the predicament of Saint Paul's and the street protests. It lets me use phrases like "fault line", which conjures up images of unimaginable forces and sounds all sort of grand and sciency. It puts theology on a par with geology and makes it sound as if theology actually has something to contribute to the debate about human inequality. These are much more compelling images than one gets from words like "confused", "irrelevant" and "hypocritical" when one thinks of the wider Church of England's response to the protests.
I'm not against capitalism, at least not any more. Anti-capitalists are just that, they are "anti" without having an alternative. The Church isn't like that. Unlike anti-capitalists we are against vast inequality, against rampant materialism, against poverty and suffering. But we are not just against them, we are for whatever the opposite might be, without getting into any specific solutions to complex economic questions.
In a very real and definite sense, the Church believes that it would be nice if everything were better.
Great Uncle Dr Lord Indarjit Singh JP, CBE, Baron Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations
Isn't the financial crisis just terrible? This is far and away the worst financial crisis for at least three years. But what can we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", do about it?
Well you can all start being a lot less selfish for a start. It's selfishness and greed that has caused all of this, and not the fact that the Greek government consistently massaged its economic statistics to hide a huge, growing, government debt.
Capitalism relies on man exploiting man, whereas communism does it the other way around. Wise words indeed. Words that should be heeded and acted upon. If only you had listened to such words in the first place then you wouldn't have got us all into this mess.
Mr. Jesus, surname Christ, who was not the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, told a story about a rich man and a needle. Jesus Christ was nearly as wise as a guru. Incidentally, there's a big Sikh festival coming up. Happy Guru Nanak's nearly birthday everyone! Guru Nanak gave a rich man a needle. In fact, all the great religions have rich men and needle stories. It's a mark of how truth permeates all great religions, and even not so great ones. Atheists don't seem to have any stories about needles, or even about sowing in general, which just goes to show how rubbish they are.
Anyway, back to you being selfish. What you need to do is be a bit more generous, particularly to people less fortunate than yourself. I cannot emphasise this enough. Do not, I repeat do not, start being more generous to people who are more fortunate than you. The wisdom of religion teaches us that it would be better to help those who are less fortunate than you. Helping people who are equally fortunate is optional.
You can start helping the less fortunate immediately. If you have several hundred billion Euros that you don't need, why not give them to Greece?