There was once this man. No, honestly there was, I knew him well. He's not at all a literary fiction designed to embody certain characteristics that tend to typify people about this time of year, and this year in particular, and that you might expect from such a celebrated author as myself.
Anyway back to this man. He was able to mention the latest fad in mass TV programming and quote G.K. Chesterton. He could mention financial terms and even knew what some of them meant. This was a man to be reckoned with, a man as well read and well informed as, oh, me for example.
Now this totally non-fictional man who isn't me and that I know well, was useless at keeping new year's resolutions. He'd resolved to read the Big Book of Magic Stuff from cover to cover but rapidly got bored by its tedious, contradictory, often badly written and largely irrelevant prose. In these difficult economic times, he was determined to find a resolution that even he could keep. He decided to quote Mark Twain and a phrase from Robert Burns made famous by John Steinbeck. He even managed to squeeze in a passing allusion to Dickens, just to remind you how well read he was.
His set of resolutions was a blank page (a somewhat overworked metaphor you might think, but he probably wasn't as advanced in literary craft as a celebrity, Christian writer like myself - or alternatively, he couldn't be bothered to waste an original metaphor on a radio slot where he didn't get paid).
He consulted the great god Google. (Did you hear that? I managed to combine the idolatry of false gods with our dependence on technology. Oh, I'm on fire today, or rather he
He turned to the last paragraph of the last page of the last book of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, and there...
Well, no, actually it's not the last paragraph, it's verse 4 out of 27. It's almost certainly not the last page because there is no standard page layout, and it isn't even the last chapter, as there's one more chapter to go in Revelation before it appears. I just knew some nerdy, scientific type, with their obsession with "accuracy", would go look it up and make a big deal about it. You're so predictable. It's called artistic license, you wouldn't understand.
Anyway, it says in the Big Book of Magic Stuff, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
And he ended the last Thought for the Day, on the last day of the year, with a phrase that was intended to be profound, but was instead hilariously platitudinous.
Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010
Has anyone mentioned the 400th anniversary of the King James Big Book of Magic Stuff yet? Yes of course they have, lots and lots and lots of times. The most recent was the Prime Minister. Speaking to an audience of Christians, the PM said how fantastic being a Christian was. He said how deeply committed he was to Christianity and how, if he could be bothered, he would certainly be in favour of being one himself.
The King James version is of course a Protestant Big Book of Magic Stuff. There's nothing wrong with being Protestant. Some of my best friends are Protestant. The King James Version has contributed all sorts of words and phrases to the English language such as Behold, I am against your pillows and Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature.
What not many people know is that this fantastic Big Book of Magic Stuff is really a Catholic Big Book of Magic Stuff, and all that wonderful stuff about pillows and kerchiefs was actually invented by us. So really it was us Catholics who invented all this English fantasticness.
Catholics decided to translate the Big Book of Magic Stuff from Latin to English to prove that we weren't against people reading the Big Book of Magic Stuff. It was thought that the previous 1,000 year ban on translating into English and the odd burning at the stake, might have given people a contrary impression. Nothing was further from the truth. The Catholic Church was always in favour of ordinary people reading the Big Book of Magic Stuff. It never, in any way, tried to keep it to itself to protect the power of it's exclusive access and its priesthood. I can't think why anyone would ever think otherwise.
There's a big Anglican festival just past. Happy four-days-after-the-anniversary-of-the King James Big Book of Magic Stuff everybody!
They used to brutally execute you for translating the Big Book of Magic Stuff into English, but after England decided not to be Catholic any more, the authorities' views on an English Big Book of Magic Stuff changed a bit. King James decided he wanted his very own Big Book of Magic Stuff. Then, thanks to the printing press, everyone who mattered could have a copy. People started to read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and immediately concluded that we needed wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and the Bill of Rights. After that, things began to settle down a bit.
Something similar is happening today in the Arab Spring. Has anyone mentioned the Arab Spring lately? No? Good job I was here then. Thanks to the benefits of Facebook and Twitter, revolutions are taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. This is exactly the same as the Big Book of Magic Stuff being translated into English. So the Arab world can now look forward to a century or so of wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and a Bill of Rights, before things begin to settle down a bit.
In the beginning was Facebook and Twitter, but shortly afterwards was the Invisible Magic Friend. For as we all know, where the Invisible Magic Friend is put in charge, liberty, freedom and democratic accountability soon follow.
Isn't the King James Bible just fantastic! Even atheists think the King James Bible is just fantastic. It's so just fantastic that it's influenced our entire culture. Eloquent phrases such as And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts have drifted effortlessly into the English language.
But it is not just the fantastic beauty of the King James Bible that is so admired. It was written as a translation that everyone could understand. You didn't have to be wealthy or learned, or even a celebrity Christian writer, to read it. Ordinary people, like you, could appreciate its fantastic clarity in passages such as:
For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
"Why indeed?", I hear you ask.
But even its fantastic beauty and fantastic clarity pale into insignificance compared to its fantastic truth. You see every single word of the Big Book of Magic Stuff is true, especially in the King James version.
Take the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (or the feeding of the 4,000 on a bad day, or the feeding of the 100 when there are no messiahs handy). I bet no one's mentioned that for a while. A little girl asked, "Is it true? It'd be a much better story if it was true." So, yes, of course it was true. Except all the bits that have been proved false. They're just metaphorical, although in a fantastic King James Bible way.
If I tell you that all vegetarians are anti-Christian you'd think I was nuts.
If I tell you that anti-government protesters are anti-Christian, you'd still think I was nuts.
Well that's what Christian fundamentalists say. They take every word of the Big Book of Magic Stuff literally. Because Jesus ate meat and Saint Paul told us to obey authority, any authority, fundamentalists hate vegetarians and demonstrators.
But it's not just Christians who can be fundamentalists. Atheists can be fundamentalists too. Fundamentalist atheists follow every single word of their Big Book of Magic Stuff to the letter. I can respect this as an intellectual position that chooses not to think about things.
The fundamentalist Christian, Terry Jones, no, not that Terry Jones, this Terry Jones, is coming to Britain to give a peaceful message of hope and reconciliation to the English Defence League, that well known champion of tolerance and religious freedom.
Terry Jones is either a victim or a megalomaniac. I know this because I saw him on telly once.
His type of Christianity is the wrong type of Christianity. Do not listen to him, he's not a proper Christian at all. How dare he claim to speak for the Invisible Magic Friend. Real Christianity, true Christianity, my Christianity, doesn't go around burning the Koran. Nowhere in the Big Book of Magic Stuff does it say anything about burning the Koran (although I hasten to add that I'm not a fundamentalist, so there's no need to take the Big Book of Magic Stuff literally on this). In several places in the Big Book of Magic Stuff, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic friend is seen to talk to people of a completely different religion. That's right, he actually kept company with non-Jews. That's how liberal and tolerant and generally nice he was (although once again, just because the Big Book of Magic Stuff says so, there's no need to take it literally).
Beware of people making extravagant, outlandish claims in the name of Christianity. The Holy Spirit is not a private poltergeist but a revealer of public truth[*].
I just want to make it absolutely clear that Terry Jones, no not that Terry Jones, the other Terry Jones, is not a good Christian Pastor at all, even though he runs a church. He's really just a slimy politician who has actually got nothing to do with Christianity at all, even though he's not standing for any elected office.
[* Ed - I've no idea what this means, so I decided to quote it literally.]
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a book.
Book's are being given away on World Book Night.
Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Advent and we'll read from the Big Book of Magic Stuff, which is a book. Oh yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff - what a coincidence that the weather should lead us so directly to the Big Book of Magic Stuff.
What a fantastic book it is, full of all sorts of really brilliant stuff. It's a manual for how to live your daily life: how to treat your slaves, when to stone people to death, when to commit genocide against unbelievers - useful, practical advice that we can all use.
And isn't the King James version just beautiful, and occasionally even accurate? Though there are still new translations every year, making it the best selling book of all time.
But absolutely brilliant as the Big Book of Magic Stuff is, you have to read it carefully, to study it, to learn which bits you must obey and which bits you shouldn't. For even though it is all the inspired word of the Invisible Magic Friend, there are bits that the Invisible Magic Friend didn't really mean. Some people think he meant every single word. They're called "extremists" and they're very bad and you mustn't pay any attention to them.
True Christianity, my Christianity, only believes the good bits of the Big Book of Magic Stuff and so makes you feel all warm and fluffy inside. Giving you hope that the ice will thaw and Spring and Summer will return again one day, because without the good bits from the Big Book of Magic Stuff you'd probably not have any hope.
France is at a standstill. Mass protests have erupted over government plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
I've searched the Big Book of Magic Stuff from start to finish. There isn't a single mention of what the correct retirement age should be. The entire Big Book of Magic Stuff, including the Old Tasty mint and the New Tasty mint is completely irrelevant when it comes to deciding the age for retirement. So my religion really has nothing whatsoever to say on the matter. You see, in those days, when they didn't have medical science to keep them alive, most people never got anywhere near retirement.
So what on earth am I going to talk about? Well I'm going to have to stretch things a bit and talk about the Sabbath instead. It's a sort of weekly retirement isn't it? A time of rest. The Big Book of Magic Stuff has got loads to say about the Sabbath, especially in the Old Tasty mint.
1. The Invisible Magic Friend rested on the seventh day, thus making it much holier than the other six days.
2. When the Israelites were wandering the desert they learned that the Invisible Magic Friend wasn't going to give them any Manna on the Sabbath 'cos they were supposed to be doing something much more important: worshipping him.
3. No one is allowed to go out on the Sabbath.
4. It turns out that some people don't do any proper worshipping on the Sabbath. They're to be put to death.
5. None of that wicked lighting of fires on the Sabbath.
6. Despite being told several times about working on the Sabbath, some bloke went to gather some wood. Well obviously he had to be stoned to death for such blatant non-worshipping.
The Invisible Magic Friend does seem to have mellowed a bit by the time the second bit of him became briefly visible. He revealed that all these piffling little rules didn't apply to him, what with him being God and all.
So there you go, a biblically sound recipe for a long, healthy and happy retirement.
Has anyone mentioned that there's a big Jewish festival on at the moment? We've been sitting in our damp bamboo huts, being holy, remembering our fictitious past.
Has anyone mentioned Ed Miliband yet? He wants a break with the past. New Labour is just looking so old now. But he doesn't really want to break with the past because that would mean rejecting several thousand years of European culture. He really just wants to break with New Labour and create a much brighter, glorious, New New Labour.
Now that we've got that bit of the news out of the way, let's get back to the big Jewish festival. Once the big Jewish festival is over, we start reading the Big Book of Magic Stuff all over again, just in case anything has changed since last time. Then there'll be some more big Jewish festivals where we remember the past, some of which isn't fictitious, until we get to the end of the Big Book of Magic Stuff and go back into our huts again. Then we do it all over again. But don't worry. If you forget, I'm sure one of us will remind you.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Last month I told you that honour killings are unislamic. Today, I want to inform you that rioting and killing over the potential burning of the Koran by a lone American nutcase, is also unislamic.
Rev Terry Jones (not to be confused with Terry Jones, who is not at all reverend), wants to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. He thinks Islam is the religion of the Invisible Magic Baddy because it doesn't think Jesus is the Invisible Magic Friend. Well, Jesus is not the Invisible Magic Friend. He is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. The Koran was not written by the Invisible Magic Baddy, it was written by the Invisible Magic Friend.
So my message to those misguided Muslims who may be thinking about having a good old unislamic riot, is to remember that it's Eid, the end of Ramadan. Chill out. Relax. Pop along to the mosque to hear some soothing words from your friendly neighbourhood imam.
For some reason, Islam has got this reputation in the west, as a violent, intolerant, fanatical religion. I can't think why. So whatever you do, don't feed this irrational stereotype.
So have a really nice weekend, and remember, whatever you do, please, no rioting.
Nineteen white-tailed sea eagles have been released into the wild from a secret location in Fife. If I were a scientist I might give you some useful information about the life of the eagle, it's relationship with other birds of prey, its evolutionary ancestry, or indeed anything that might help you to understand its role in its natural ecosystems. But I'm not, I'm an Anglican priest so I'll tell you how eagles are really only important because they're a Christian symbol.
Aren't eagles just amazing, fantastic, magnificent, resplendent, majestic, impressive, noble and all round very good? Yes they are. That's why they're so closely associated with Christianity. Whenever I see an eagle I think, that's just like a Christian that is, soaring above the humdrum everyday trivia of ordinary people, unconcerned by irrelevant distractions, seeing things clearly as they truly are, then swooping mercilessly out of nowhere... er... no, forget that last bit.
Isaiah mentions eagles, which just goes to show how incredibly important they are. They were so important that the Victorians, who all just happened to be Christian but just ignore that, drove them to extinction in the UK. Saint John the Evangelist is often portrayed as an eagle because his gospel is amazing, fantastic, magnificent, resplendent etc compared to all the other rubbishy gospels.
So there you have it. No wonder we all admire eagles, they're just like Christians.