Thursday, 23 April, 2009, 08:39 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Ha, ha! I'm the first TFTD presenter to cotton on to Susan Boyle. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it all you very reverends, right reverends, most reverends, eminences and reverend doctors. And only twelve days after the rest of the world! Who says the Church doesn't live in the modern world?
The tabloid photo looks OK from the neck down, but then you see her face and realise this is Susan Boyle, the frumpy, awkward, dumpy, Scottish lady. By some astonishing freak of nature, this plump, homely, ungainly creature, and I'm not being unkind here, has an OK singing voice. Now who'd have thought that was possible? Everyone knows that good singers have to be attractive, which is probably why Susan Boyle isn't that good. Now she says she wants to look nice and smart. Yeah, dream on Susan!
The really important lesson here is not that we shouldn't judge by appearances, or that someone's dream can come true at any time in life, or that the value of a human being isn't in their fashion sense. No, the really important point is how like Jesus, Susan Boyle is. She's ugly and unattractive, just like Jesus was. Admittedly they had to rough Jesus up a bit first, but at one point in His life Jesus was indeed nearly as repugnant as Susan Boyle. Jesus spoke with real authority. Knowing that you're one third of the Invisible Magic Friend does that for you. Susan Boyle sings with authority because, laughable and quaint as she is, she knows she's got a better voice than all the people who are more beautiful than her (and let's face it that's virtually everybody), a treasure in a clay jar.
Wednesday, 22 April, 2009, 08:42 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Jack Jones said he wanted a better society. Martin Luther said if you have them by the purse strings their minds and hearts will follow. Spike Milligan said, money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
Happy budget day everyone! There's nothing sufficiently depressing happening in Liverpool today, so I'm going to talk to you about the Church of England's official economic policy. We used to talk about helping the poor, looking after the sick and educating the young, but we can't afford any of that any more. It's time to slash government expenditure and close everything down, except the Church of course. This will make you all more spiritual. You like to think of yourselves as consumers, well, well done, this planet's consumed. Don't go around trying to blame the Church for this one, it's not like we told you to go forth and multiply or anything. As Jesus continually made clear, "Blessed are the policy makers, for they shall ensure that monetary and fiscal policy always makes reducing government borrowing its highest priority and stuff all the social services that have to be cut to achieve it."
It would be nice to think that today's budget will reflect these enlightened, spiritual values, but I wouldn't bet on it. For some reason no one ever pays any attention to us.
Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 08:36 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
1. India's month long general election is taking place. This is very complicated.
2. A journalist threw a shoe at a minister over his evasiveness on the massacre of Sikhs 25 years ago, but like all shoe throwing journalists he was a very poor aim and missed.
3. Democracy doesn't guarantee good government or protection of a country's citizens. We need religion for that. My religion is quite a good one.
4. We Sikhs think democracy is a very good thing, even though it doesn't guarantee good government or protection of a country's citizens.
5. Sikh teaching says that, when we do things, or not, it has both practical and ethical implications.
6. If we were all a bit nicer then we'd all be a bit nicer.
Sunday, 19 April, 2009, 06:47 AMApparently it's compulsory for every newspaper, talk show, social networking site and blog to sing the praises of Susan Boyle. Well just to be different, I'm not going to. I'm not even going to mention her.
Susan Who? You mean you haven't seen the video? It's various You Tube incarnations have only been seen about 50,000,000+ times, so there's a fair chance that some people on the planet haven't seen it yet.
You might not even have heard her on this 1999 CD (if you happen to have one of the 1,000 copies of that CD in the bottom of a drawer somewhere, I'd put it in a safety deposit box right about now).
So what cynical smart-assed put-downs have I got not to say as I studiously ignore the Scottish singing sensation as she catapults to stardom and riches? Well for a start I'm not going to shout hurrah at how she made a mocking audience rise to their feet in praise of her. Nor am I going to canonise her as the patron saint of all us nobodies with dreams. And I'm not going anywhere near clichés like inner beauty and astonishing talent shining through. In fact, given all the moralising and platitudes that have been gushing forth around the world, I'm astonished that no one on Thought For The Day has mentioned her yet (come on Department of Religion and More Religion - you can do better than this).
Why am I so keen to make no comment on the internet arrival of the year so far? Could it be the instant media hype that tarnishes everything noble and beautiful? Could it be my well known prejudice against Catholics? No, it's far worse than that - she's got a crush on Piers Morgan!! It's so true, you put your heroes on a pedestal, only to see them come crashing to the ground.
On behalf of all of us Scottish, fat, frumpy, socially awkward, unemployed, nearly 48 year olds: KNOCK 'EM DEAD SUSAN!!!
Saturday, 18 April, 2009, 10:00 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
"Pop" songs are now more popular than hymns at funerals, except in Scotland where Scottish Catholics continue to prefer pope songs. I myself often allow popular melodies such as Hallelujah to be sung. "She tied you to a kitchen chair, She broke your throne, and she cut your hair" - very moving, and what better way to remember the dearly departed. I have so many, many happy memories of other people's funerals. For originality, wit and creativity you really can't beat a jolly good funeral. Churches are still pretty popular with the dead and bereaved, which is very good for me as it means I get to run no end of funerals. Some people get stuck in very boring, unfulfilling work that they don't enjoy at all. They should take up presiding at funerals, it's tremendous fun. I particularly look forward to Christian funerals, where everyone has a good cry about their loved ones going to heaven.
Friday, 17 April, 2009, 08:43 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It appears that some of you are not abandoning your parents in the traditional British fashion. Why aren't you getting married and having babies? It's the Catholic way, lots and lots and lots of lovely babies. This just isn't good enough. There are all sorts of things you can't do when your parents are watching. Yes, many, many things that you'd rather your mum and dad didn't see you doing and of course, chief amongst these, is being more spiritual. How on earth are you going to be more spiritual with your parents sitting there on the couch, sniggering at you? I know when I want to be more spiritual I sneak into my room, make sure the door is locked and, as quietly as I possibly can, have a really good prayer. I feel so much better when I'm done. Of course, if I've dribbled too much while praying then I have to have a tissue to prevent embarrassing stains. I can always tiptoe down the stairs afterwards and dispose of the evidence without anyone being any the wiser that I've secretly been having a frantic spiritual session all alone in my room. As Saint Paul said, "When I was a child I thought like a child, but now I am a man and I have my Invisible Magic Friend to keep me company and boy, do we get spiritual together."
Friday, 17 April, 2009, 08:36 AMWell that was a surprise. There I was, listening to the Today Programme and who should I hear but my old choir master Stephen Rhys. They're getting ready to do Carmina Burana in May along with Putney Choral.
I can only echo the words of Edward Sturton, if only they didn't have to stop singing for TFTD.
Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 08:24 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
I wonder if anyone on Thought For The Day has ever pointed out how evil materialism is? I think it's about time someone did. This is a topic that for far too long has remained uncommented upon by religious commentators. I really can't recall even hearing the word "materialism" on this slot before, can you? So I'm going to take the bit between my teeth and grab the bull by the horns. I'm going to tackle this controversial subject in a novel and unusual way: I'm going to talk about Jesus.
The current economic crash is all the fault of materialism. You have coveted employment so that you may have a roof over your heads and feed your children. Such foul depravity! Well, as a vicar, let me just just tell you that if people didn't go around making things and wanting things then there'd be no economy to crash. Simple really, problem solved. But materialism isn't just about material things. Many of you have got your fingers burned by irresponsibly saving for a rainy day or selfishly trying to invest to secure your future. Such pure, unmitigated, wickedness shall not go unpunished. As Jesus made clear in his famous beatitudes: blessed are the destitute for they shall provide objects of pity for the clergy who continue to get paid anyway.
Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 08:22 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Today is the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. This reminds me of Jesus' Resurrection. That's the great thing about being Bishop of Liverpool - its numerous tragedies and consequent boundless opportunities to talk about Jesus and sing Abide With Me. Wherever there's misery and disaster, you'll find the Church there. 96 people died at Hillsborough due to multiple organisations' incompetence. Jesus also died, but he came back. Isn't that just fantastic! Today, I'll be joining those who grieve for their lost friends and relatives, talking to them about Jesus and singing Abide With Me. God, I love being Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons they're both so wonderfully miserable.
Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 06:55 AMOver at pharyngula they're busy crashing a poll based around this beautiful image from the Chandra X-ray observatory.
This reminds me of a very different Hand of God picture taken by Hubble a few years ago. In this picture God isn't so much offering a helping hand as perhaps sending the rest of the universe a message.