Reverend Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women's Ministry in central London  
Thursday, 24 March, 2011, 08:22 AM - Gibberish, Priestley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Yesterday was the budget, which brings me neatly onto the subject of spirituality. Can we really control how spiritual we are? It's a question that is often asked and the answer is, no, you can't. People who aren't as spiritual as me are just less well tuned to spiritual reality. It's not really their fault, they just can't help it. They don't understand about spiritual energy and stuff.

We can see this when Nicodemus asked Jesus,

"How do you do all those impressive magic tricks?"

Jesus could have just said, "It's because I'm the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend," but instead decided to launch into a terribly profound but rather long rant about spiritualness, being born again, being raised up and where the wind goes.

So what can those of you who aren't as spiritual as me do? Well, it's important that you remain open minded. If you're not very spiritual, try being a bit less close minded than you obviously are at the moment. If you try lying back with a completely open mind, not thinking about anything at all, eventually the Invisible Magic Friend will fill the void and you'll be able to give people the kind of useful advice that I'm giving you now.

Aren't we lucky that we had the budget yesterday? Otherwise I wouldn't have had the opportunity to tell you all this.

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Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Grumpy Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 08:18 AM - Fraser
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

I hate the way the King James Bible is being represented as some sort of example of Englishness. People just keep going on and on and on about the King James Bible. I wish people would just shut up about the King James Bible. I mean what's so special about the King James Bible? Even at the time, people thought the King James Bible was old fashioned. I mean it's just rubbish, I don't know why anyone bothers about the King James Bible. All right, I'll admit the King James Bible, that people keep going on about, has some cute turns of phrase, but that's about it. The King James Bible is more about nostalgia for a long lost Jacobean monarchy that we mostly chopped the heads off and then spent a century fighting against.

Bits of the King James Bible were used by Handel's Messiah, which is alright I suppose, so long as people don't keep going on about it. What I really object to is the King James Bible being the official bible of the English Defence League, or of Midsummer Murders, the village with the highest murder rate in the world, but which, worse than that, doesn't have any black people in it, not even as murderers.

The fact is, the bible is the the most multi-cultural book there ever was, with detailed instructions about how not to intermarry with other cultures and how to exterminate them if they try to tell you about their false gods.

I don't know how many times you need to be told this, but as a representative of the official Church of England, the Invisible Magic Friend is not English. He's not even British.

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Dr Indarjit Singh CBE, director of the Network of Sikh organisations  
Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 08:49 AM - Lessons of history, Science, Singh
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

History is the most boring possible subject. Alternatively, history is the most interesting possible subject. It all depends really. Some think we should only teach European history because nothing very interesting ever happened anywhere else. Others think we should teach history from some other places as well. India might be a good choice.

Guru Nanak, just to pick an example at random, was a historical character from India. He was a contemporary of Martin Luther and had pretty much the same idea: religion has made a complete mess of people's lives, what we really need is a new religion. Not that the old religions, Islam and Catholicism, were that bad. I mean I wouldn't come on here on Radio 4 and say that those religions were utterly bad and awful, that they were too rigid, stifling and dogmatic. No, I wouldn't say that at all. You'll just have to infer it indirectly from the fact that my religion is so much better.

Meanwhile, Copernicus is credited with discovering that the earth goes round the sun, but Indian astronomers knew that long before. Guru Nanak was also a brilliant scientist. He knew all about other solar systems, other galaxies and the multiverse. In fact, I don't know why modern scientists don't just consult the Gurus, it would save an awful lot of time and money.

Now somehow I have to link this rather rambling speech to a current news story. Let's use the one about the Tornado pilots whose mission required a 3,000 mile round trip. They got to their target and found some civilians in the way, so they turned back without firing a shot. That is precisely the sort of thing a Sikh would have done. Which just goes to show how brilliant being a Sikh is.

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A History of Democracy 
Monday, 21 March, 2011, 04:47 PM - Not TFTD, Murad
While I'm doing the dishes I usually listen to something on my laptop. One of my favourite sources is the "In Our Time" archive. Today, I selected the edition from 18 Oct 2001, a history of democracy. This featured a couple of academic specialists in politics and history, and for some bizarre reason, Tim Winter, aka Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad - then the assistant Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge. His contribution to the programme went something like this.

Bragg: Does it say anything about democracy in the Koran?

Winter: No, not really.

Bragg: Muslim scholars translated the works of the Greek philosophers, including ideas about democracy. Did the Islamic world adopt any of these ideas?

Winter: No, not really.

Bragg: These ideas about democracy influenced European thinkers like Hobbes and Locke. Was any of this taken up by the Islamic world?

Winter: No, not really.

Bragg: Well, thank you everyone, next week...

It felt a bit like having TFTD rudely interrupting a much loved radio programme.
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Appallingly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons  
Monday, 21 March, 2011, 08:31 AM - War, James Jones
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Just War Theory yet? Thought not. Well it's a good job I'm here then.

As the Church of England's official military strategist, I'd just like to point out that there's a danger that the action in Libya will be seen as just another western intervention to secure oil supplies. I bet nobody's mentioned that yet, but then that's the kind of uniquely keen insight that you get when you see western bombardment of Colonel Gaddafi's forces from a faith perspective.

Well, this time, it's definitely not all about oil, as can be seen from the unanimity of Western opinion on the issue (except Germany, who for some reason never seem to want to go to war these days). Even quite a few Arab states were in favour of it, until they realised that this involved attacking things. Qatar is really getting into the spirit of things, joining the West to support the rebels in Libya while sending troops to crush dissent in Bahrain.

Another important part of Just War Theory is that there's got to be an outcome. The outcome in Libya is that there'll be a stalemate, or an uprising, or a partition, or a regime change, or a rebel victory - but there'll definitely be an outcome.

I find it very encouraging that military officers have a conscience. This is no accident you know. They were given it by the Invisible Magic Friend so that they'd have a moral compass as well as satellite navigation for their bombs.

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Rev Roy Jenkins, Baptist Minister in Cardiff  
Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 10:04 AM - Justice and mercy, Jenkins
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

What's going to happen to Gaddafi's inner circle? Will they go or will they stay? As Kate Adie points out, many are as afraid of the dictator as everyone else is of them.

One day they may have to answer before a court of law, to face judgement. I bet you can't guess where I'm going with this. Ooooo! It's going to be such a surprise when I get there, but let's keep up the suspense.

Meanwhile, in Japan, we see humanity at its best, as workers at the stricken nuclear plant, brave the radiation in order to bring it under control. Others have been less brave, abandoning 128 pensioners at their nursing home within the nuclear plant's exclusion zone. They're going to have to be judged as well.

Yes, it's time to reveal my big surprise! According to the Big Book of Magic Stuff, the Invisible Magic Friend will judge you all in the end! So pray that the Visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend does not put you to the test, because you'll probably fail and end up being sent below.

I bet you weren't expecting that.

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Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian  
Friday, 18 March, 2011, 08:39 AM - Brook
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Happy Red Nose day everyone! Just to show you all how game for a laugh I am, I'm wearing my red nose for all to see here on the radio. Obviously I had to make a donation to get my red nose, but that's just the kind of charitable people that we celebrity, Christian writers are.

Comedy is so important. It's equally vital not to over-analyse comedy, regarding it as a sociological phenomenon, used to bond people in the face of the shared tragedy of their miserable human existence. The essence of comedy is sadness and tears, possessing a reality that transcends the unfortunate curse of the human condition.

And on that lighter note, thank goodness we Christians can laugh at ourselves and don't take the whole thing too seriously. Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm going to say that Jesus would've made a great stand up comic. And you'd be right! The Gospel is just one huge barrel of laughs from beginning to end. I mean, born in a pig sty, what's that all about, eh?

Then there's that bit where he's treated as the Messiah! Oh, please, stop, my sides were aching with laughter. What about that bit in the garden of Gethsemane? I nearly wet myself, the tears were just pouring down my cheeks.

Who can forget all those wonderful jokes he told. They didn't have anything as crude as a punchlines, obviously, it was the way he said them. All that talk about virgins and demons, rich men and camels - it was that dead pan delivery of his that made everyone think he was being serious - pure comic genius!

That's why Comic Relief is just like the Gospels, a truly spiritual experience in the fine tradition of the Gospels.

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Reverend Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women's Ministry in central London  
Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 08:56 AM - Morality, War, Priestley
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Should we interfere in Libya or not? Should we establish a no fly zone, with our non-existent aircraft carriers, to prevent Colonel Gaddafi from bombing his own people? Gaddafi himself has challenged the British government, "Are you our guardian? By what right?"

The West's policy on intervention is inconsistent, to say the least. Afghanistan and Iraq have hardly been shining triumphs, while the West did virtually nothing to prevent the horrors of the Rwandan genocide.

Thomas Aquinas set out the conditions he thought must be met for a "just war". It must protect people from unnecessary suffering. Civilian casualties must be minimised. There must be a just cause - greed, revenge or self interest don't count. There must be a strategy for post war reconstruction.

The moral and ethical implications are complex and profound, but on the whole, I say, yeah, let's bomb the hell out of them!

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Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Grumpy Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 08:31 AM - Gibberish, Fraser
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Charlie Sheen, drugs, we are interested, twitter, Guinness Book of Records, social media, A.S. Byatt, The Guardian, decline in religious belief, nothing left, no place in the world. Who are we? Where are we? What are we? Social media, mirror, identity, tragedy, Sheen, be noticed to exist, spiritual, Lent, denial, alone, friends, foes, Jesus, wilderness, forces beyond our control, A.S. Byatt, poem, deeper reality, Invisible Magic Friend, exist, love, hold together, Invisible Magic Friend, Lent, hard.

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Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 08:42 AM - Evil, Science, Wilkinson
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Isn't the devastation in Japan just terrible? It really is very bad indeed. It's not the first time very bad things have happened though. In Lisbon, on All Saints Day in 1755, something very similar happened: a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami. Lots of people were killed or maimed or left homeless, but rather more importantly, all the city's churches were destroyed.

People were quick to pass judgement then too. Voltaire said "There is no God." Rousseau said we should all go and live in the countryside and wear flowers in our hair. Kant said, "Let's start The Enlightenment." All of these were short term, knee-jerk responses with no long term consequences. This just goes to show the futility of being quick to pass judgement.

Similar things are happening now. People ask, should we really build four nuclear reactors right next to one another on top of a major geological fault? Should we invest in better tsunami warning and defence systems? These are the kind of predictable, unhelpful question that are now being raised.

As a Rev Dr Dr Prof, let me just assure you that what the people of Japan really need are more long term answers, Christianity for example. Christianity explains why all this happened. It's because the good and benevolent Invisible Magic Friend created you free, Free, FREE I TELL YOU! Free to be drowned, crushed, burned and torn apart. Free to loose your homes, your loved ones, your limbs. Free to rebuild all you have lost after almost total devastation. Wasn't that good and benevolent of him?

Not only does Christianity explain all that has happened, it tells we Christians to follow the example of the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and feel compassion for all the free people of Japan.

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