Sunday, 5 February, 2012, 09:48 AM - ClemmiesQuite a good crop for the start of the year. Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings set the ball rolling with a wonderfully whimsical reflection on the how the past sets the future, but not always and sometimes just a bit, and therefore the embarrassingly candid Book of Ecclesiastes is wrong.
Rev, ex-Canon Dr Giles Fraser gave a totally non-nostalgic history of art and how things were so much better in the past when religion was around to commission all the art.
Rev not-Canon not-Dr John Bell treated us to a patriotic, Saltire waving rendition of Scotland the Brave. The Holy quest for Scottish independence (in a totally not despising the English, or anyone else for that matter, sort of way) begins on Thought For The Day.
Not-even-rev Anne Atkins took the plight of a couple stranded on the Costa Concordia and turned it into a predictable "aren't we all alone, screaming in the dark, looking for the Invisible Magic Friend, bla, bla, bla..."
Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson did a rerun of the 2009 Platitude of the Year and explained how it was Christianity that solved the problems of Northern Ireland. I appreciate that Rev Dr Dr Prof Wilkinson wasn't even a twinkle in the TFTD producer's eye at that time. Obviously, like all TFTD presenters, he has never actually listened to TFTD so he couldn't have known about Gargantuanly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons' contribution. Nevertheless, just like in the science that Rev Dr Dr Prof Wilkinson is so fond of, precedence is everything. Just like the Nobel Prize, there are no Clemmies for discovering something second.
AAA and giles Fraser, we know can do better. They need to be exceptionally extraordinarily platitudinous even to get a look in these days.
Cannon Billings was more waffly than anything else.
That leaves John Bell as this month's winner. I'm sending the Clemmie north of the border this month, not just because of his unashamed nationalism, but because he, like me, is a member of the God's Chosen People, the Scottish Master Race.
One People! One Scotland! One Alex Salmond!
The Big Book of Magic Stuff says to beat your children into submission. This is an instance where the Big Book of Magic Stuff is, of course, wrong. That's why you need people like me around to tell you which bits are right and which bits are wrong. The bits that are right, are the bits that agree with the kind of modern, liberal point of view that I have.
David Lammy, a Christian who is committed, agrees with this wrong bit of the Old Tasty mint. He didn't go to my prep school, where all I remember are the incessant beatings and hot crumpets burning my cheeks with shame. Fortunately, it didn't do me any harm, look at me now.
There seem to be a lot of Christians who think that Christianity is all about the Invisible Magic Friend horribly punishing his visible bit to atone for the sins of mankind, and that this somehow elevates violence as a method of atonement. This is also wrong. My modern, liberal way of thinking tells me it must be wrong and so it is. Just because this is Christianity's unique selling point and pretty much every Christian teacher who has ever lived has said it's true, does not mean it is. True Christianity, real Christianity, my Christianity has got nothing to do with that.
So, in conclusion, all the bits of scripture that tell you to use violence to maintain discipline are wrong, and all the Church Fathers, Popes and theologians who said otherwise weren't really proper Christians.
Won't someone, please, please think of the children.
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.
Thursday, 2 February, 2012, 09:08 AM - AtkinsRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
When my son was 8 he thought he could communicate with his friend when she wasn't there. Isn't it strange what foolish notions we have when we're young?
Now, through the wonders of modern technology, I am able to speak into this electrical microphone and broadcast to you all over your breakfast.
If you're really good I might throw in a rather entertaining joke about some cave men with a rather amusing punchline en Francais, although I expect some pedantic little nerd somewhere will quibble about my placing cave men only a couple of millennia ago.
I'm currently training the great dane that I bought my husband for Christmas. What I've learned is that I must communicate with the dog so that it understands what I want and learns to obey me. In a sense, you are all like dogs and God is like me, trying to train you to be good little puppies.
That's why the Invisible Magic Friend sent his only begotten puppy to come and yelp at you in the kind of language you understand. Remember, in the beginning was the WOOF!
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Me and my fellow 4-star generals at Micah Challenge have just finished an intensive strategic planning session about our worldwide, social networking communications infrastructure. With the help of our in-house telecommunications expertise I've learned one really important lesson: this interweb thingy is really big. And it's not just technological wizards like me who are tweeting and doing stuff on Facebook, people in Africa are doing it too.
There are all sorts of stories about good and bad things that happen to people because of Twitter, more than enough to fill up a few minutes with background anecdotes that don't really form any sort of coherent message.
What's really important though is not to make the medium more sacred than the message. This much is always true: it's what people say that is important. A truth remains true, no matter who it is who says it. That's why we Christians completely ignore the fact that it was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend who said all those various things that he said. The fact that he was the creator of the universe, died and rose from the dead isn't something that we particularly like to emphasise. For Christians, it is always the message and never the medium that is important.
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.
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.