It's been a bad few days for freedom of religion.
First, a tiny band of militant secularists, who are by definition shrill, have thwarted the democratic will of Bideford Town Council. The council had repeatedly voted to impose Christian prayers during council sessions on all councillors present. Their perfectly reasonable, Christian, compromise, that those who didn't wish to pray could get out of their seats, make their way out of the chamber, stand outside, wait for the religious ceremony to complete, come back inside, make their way to their seats again and take part in the remainder of the council business, was spitefully rejected.
Now, in an astonishing ruling, a High Court judge no less, has said that the councillors will have to say their prayers before, yes - you heard me correctly, before the council meeting. He has thus opened the floodgates to the slippery slope that will result in the banning of the national anthem, the disestablishment of the Church of England, the removal of the monarchy and the proscription of all religious activities anywhere, forever. We are just one step away from a totalitarian communist regime and the end of civilisation.
Fortunately, we have our knight in shining armour, Eric Pickled. He will return proper authority to local councils so they can say as many Christian prayers as they want throughout council meetings. They'll also be able to say mass, enjoy a nice choral evensong, pray to Allah or slaughter a goat if they wish.
Sadly, there seems to be no such respite for the poor, persecuted, Christian B&B owners who simply told a pair of cruel, heartless homosexuals that there was no room at the inn, at least for them. And no, they didn't have a stable either. Why can't these homosexuals just read the sign outside?
"No blacks, no Irish, no dogs, no homosexuals. Go find yourself a less godly place to lay your sinful heads for the night."
I mean, what could anyone possibly object to about that?
In an even greater affront, not only to freedom of religion but also to freedom of speech, three Muslim men have been unjustly sent to jail, just for calling for homosexuals to be executed. Secularists are all in favour of freedom of speech until it is used to preach God's word, or in this case Allah's word. They were merely expressing a view that gays should be hung by the neck, or thrown from a great height, or slowly crushed under a large weight of rocks. Similar policies have been highly successful in many Islamic countries in discouraging sinful behaviour.
I wish to make it absolutely clear to their fellow inmates, these are good Muslim men who want nothing to do with any kind of homosexual behaviour. They intend to spend the next 15 months meditating and praying and not getting up to any sort of hanky panky at all.
I wonder if any of you have heard of someone called "Harry Redknapp"? For those of you who haven't, Mr Redknapp has been in the news lately. He has just been aquitted of tax evasion and many are now speculating that he might be the next England manager. Yes, Mr Redknapp is a manager of a football team. The job of England manager is the dream of all football managers. It inevitably ends in glory and means years of joyous adulation from fans and press alike.
Harry Redknapp is a bit like Jesus really. Jesus picked his Judean first eleven, affectionately known as "The Apostles", carefully. A twelfth member of the team turned out to be playing for another team entirely.
Jesus would never be accused of tax evasion though.
a) He was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and didn't do wrong things.
b) He was known to associate with tax collectors and other sinners, so tax collectors were unlikely to investigate him.
c) He never had a spare £200K or a bank account in Monaco named after his pet dog.
But it wasn't all encouragement and trying to get the very best out of the people he gave some magic powers to. There were some tough words too. Very tough words. Very tough words indeed. Tough words that some people would prefer not to hear. That's how tough the words were. I've run out of time, so I can't tell you what those tough words were, but believe you me, as tough words go, these were as tough as tough words can possibly be.
Strikingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Friday, 10 February, 2012, 08:16 AM - HarriesRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
There was an item on here the other day about birdsong.
Isn't the sound of the birds really pretty?
Of all the problems facing the country and the world, the most pressing is the question: can a woman have a full set of magic powers?
The Church of England Synod has been hotly debating the issue again. Some churches, and I don't won't to mention any names here, don't have any kind of elected assembly, but we do. A few years ago, the synod decided that women can have some magic powers but not all of them. This was a major step forward since, even today, most Christians have never met a woman with any magic powers at all!
This is all the fault of Hamley's, the toy store just up the road in Regent Street. For years they've had separate floors for boys and girls. The boys' floor had all the fun stuff like train sets and Darth Vader outfits, while the girls' floor was just covered in princesses with yucky pink dresses. Now that Hamley's has taken a more enlightened view to children's toys, it is to be hoped that future generations will realise that gender stereotypes are very old fashioned and it really is time to let women have a full set of magic powers after all.
Some people aren't happy with women having magic powers. Unfortunately the synod is pandering to these people. It seems to me to be quite foolish to believe in the Invisible Magic Friend and not think women can have a full set of magic powers. They're going to be allowed to have a man with magic powers instead.
Let us hope that, one day, we can put all this silliness behind us and accept that the Invisible Magic Friend can give magic powers to women as well as men. Then we can listen to the wisdom of women with all the same magic powers as men.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Wednesday, 8 February, 2012, 08:11 AM - EdwardsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the bicentenary of Dickens' birth yet? No? Good job I was here then. Let's see how many Dickens references I can get into a sermon about international aid.
India has Great Expectations these days. They are like the Oliver Twist of the modern world, or possibly the David Copperfield. An Old Curiosity Shop of mixtures of rich and poor, we must consider, like in A Christmas Carol, whether to provide aid. As with Mr Micawber, they're expecting something any day now. We will know all on the day of judgement as told in Bleak House. Extreme wealth mixed with grinding poverty is truly a Tale of Two Cities. In these Hard Times we should continue to be generous.
Both the Old Tasty mint and the New Tasty mint said we should be generous to poor people, so we should.
Great Uncle Dr Lord Indarjit Singh JP, CBE, Baron Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations
There's a meeting between us Lords tomorrow in the House of Lords, where we Lords will be discussing with our fellow Lords, what more religion can do to finally bring peace to the world.
Now some of you might just have spotted a teeny weeny problem with this. When one looks at the world today, the one thing that religion most notably seems to be poor at, is bringing peace and understanding between peoples. I just thought I'd mention that so that I can ignore it and move on.
Before I was even a Lord, I was one of the select few who gave the prestigious City of Coventry Peace lecture, due to religion being responsible for so much peace in the world. As an expert on my religion, I immediately set to work to see what my religion had to say about peace. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it didn't say anything about peace.
Then I remembered that Sikhism isn't really about peace. Peace is quite overrated you know. People forget just how important violence is in achieving peace. The important thing isn't that we have peace but that right should prevail and judging what is right is what relgion is so uniquely good at.
Oh, I have to mention something about the news don't I? Well Charles Dickens was very good at talking about Justice and peace and things. So if you can't find anything about them in Sikh scripture you might like to give Dickens a go instead. And isn't the bombing of Homs just terrible?
Meanwhile, we Lords will go ahead with our important dicsussion to figure out how religion will bring peace and happiness and justice and goodness to the world. I'm pretty sure that we'll come up with something really useful.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Magnificently Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Monday, 6 February, 2012, 08:38 AM - JamesRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The Queen has been sitting on the throne for 60 years now and very magnificent she looks too. Her father, who was George VI you know, found that sitting on the throne, even for a short period of time, made him ill. He was quite unable to take an arduous tour abroad while on the throne, so he sent Princess Elizabeth, who was quite unencumbered by the throne at the time.
As a loyal bishop of Her Majesty's church, I just want to thank her for her years of service, her strength, her resilience, her sure footedness, her ability to hand out senior bishoprics.
Once, in the 1950s, someone criticised the Queen. I know shocking, isn't it?
The Queen has always been very restrained on the throne. This is a good thing, a Christian thing, a godly thing. You see, Christianity invented being restrained. We don't go around telling everyone about Christianity, especially on forums where it might be mocked. You won't find Christians shouting about their beliefs on street corners, or shopping malls, or in the middle of BBC news and current affairs programmes.
So, as the Queen continues to sit on the throne, supported by the Invisible Magic Friend, we give thanks to Her Majesty for her dedication and her years of restrained service.
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.