Monday, 9 April, 2012, 07:59 AM - BellRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory? This is the question I asked myself this weekend: Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory?
I'm going to give you a few examples where it seems to be easier to celebrate a tragedy than a victory, but given that it's Easter and I'm mentioning the words "tragedy" and "victory", you probably already know where I'm going with this.
The Titanic was a tragedy, having to restart the boat race was a tragedy, an over ripe banana is a tragedy, but the greatest tragedy of all is seeing an innocent person persecuted. And so we finally come to where you all knew I was going all along, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend being tortured to death for our sins was a tragedy. But he came back to life again, which is a victory. Hurrah!
I am now going to end with an insight that was really worth getting out of bed early for on a damp Bank Holiday Monday morning.
Jesus loves you.
And in Argentinian sports news, River Plate beat Boca Juniors 6-5 in their Superclásico match three weeks ago. I was there and the Boca Juniors were stunned that they did not win when they thought they had the right to win.
The John Bell American tour then moved on to the United States, where a lot of the "Grand Old Party" as the Republicans think of themselves, are looking forward to winning the presidential election later this year. They too think they have a right to win. With such leading candidates as Mitt Romney, a man with admirably flexible opinions, and Rick Santorum, a man with no flexibility whatsoever, who can blame them.
But it's not just sports fans and politicians that think they have the right to be heard without criticism, religious leaders do too. Some even think they should have a reserved slot on the radio where they can talk, uninterrupted, every morning at just after 7.45 in the morning.
They're precisely the sort of people who had Jesus executed. They think they know all there is to know about the Invisible Magic Friend. When the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend comes along and tells them the truth, they can't handle the truth. He's not the genocidal, Jewish maniac god that the Chief Rabbi told you about last week. He's actually the god of peace and love and all things cuddly.
You can trust me on this, I know all about the Invisible Magic Friend.
Noo it widney be right fur me tae come own here makin political or nationilistic points, but the Inveesible Magic Freend waants Scotland tae be independint. It's in the Big Book ae Magic Stuff
D'ye know thirs folks oot there that take the mickey oot a a Glesgy accent? Wid ye credit it? Well we've goat oor pride ye know. Wir no aw like Rab C. Nesbitt. 'N we've goat religion anaw - plenty ae it.
Thirs awe sorts ae stuff that we dae diffrintly fae yoo. Wir no as brazenly money grubbin as you lot ur. Wiv goat a bit ae a social conscience up here. In ye know wit? It's a HOLY thing this struggle tae be independint ae yoo English. Wir gonnae be liberated at last. Wir gonnae be at one wae muther irth.
So ye can take yer Rule Brittania and stuff it up yer nuclear deterent.
News, news, news. The news is just full of news these days. However, a lot of news is not news at all. It is in fact, old news, news that has been announced before it was news and that by the time it became news was no longer news.
There, no one can accuse me of only tangentially mentioning the news today. I've done nothing but talk about news, future news and past news.
Which brings me onto past and future tense and the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we haven't had it yet. You're not supposed to be jolly yet. You're supposed to be miserable. There's lots of death, suffering, injustice and wealth disparity to dwell upon. Believer and unbeliever alike, ask why does the Invisible Magic Friend not do something? Simplistic answers like, he doesn't exist, are automatically excluded because it would make religion look silly.
The birth of the Invisible Magic Friend is something that happens NOW, that is to say, in several weeks time. It wasn't announced in advance, except by the prophets who announced it in advance. That is why Christmas is real news, or at least it will be when it happens. When it does actually happen, which is NOW, in several weeks time, we'll all be jolly grateful that it's already happened in the past, unannounced and NOW.
And in the big news today, I was speaking at an important medical conference at the weekend. Famous authors, poets, lawyers and philosophers gathered to discuss medicine in front of an audience of health professionals. Modesty forbids me from mentioning that I was speaking too, but I was, which is how I know so much about it.
I must say it was very refreshing to see doctors willing to listen to me, and other lawyers, poets, authors and philosophers, telling them how to do their jobs. If only more professions were so open to being told how to do their jobs by me, and other philosophers, poets, authors and lawyers.
You see, patient care isn't just about administering medicines, it's about whole patient care. This is where Christianity is so very relevant to modern medical practise. In the New Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, was always going around healing people. His techniques, of touching them, spitting on them, casting out demons and demanding ritual sacrifice, were somewhat unorthodox by today's standards. It's also not entirely clear how his techniques work, although being the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend suggests that magic may have been involved.
Jesus clearly believed in this holistic approach to medicine. In at least several cases he told the patient to go home and rest, although in many others he had done such a great job curing them that he let them keep on following him instead.
There's a bit of a <some-Scottish-word-that-even-though-I'm-from-Glasgow-I-have-never-heard-of-but-which-I-infer-from-the-context-may-mean-a-bit-of-an-uproar> in Scotland at the moment. The Bishop of Paisley has come out strongly against gay marriage. This will shock many of you, I know, as the Catholic Church is renowned for its support for gay rights.
The Bishop has threatened to get all 800,000 Catholics in Scotland to vote against the SNP, although as the Scottish Lib Dems and the national Conservative Party have both come out in favour of gay marriage, it would seem that the number of Catholic approved political parties is diminishing rather rapidly.
The few biblical texts prohibiting same sex relationships have been argued over ad nauseam. Psychiatrists long ago stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease. There is increasing scientific evidence to suggest that sexual preference is genetic. It is no more than nature doing what it always does, producing variation.
Civil partnership takes care of the legal side of things. Marriage is a public declaration of fidelity and love.
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 08:27 AM - BellRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
We all enjoy a good sing song. It's such an innocent pastime.
Or is it?
Only last Saturday we had the Last Night of the Proms, where people waved Union Jacks and sang patriotic songs. Well, call me mister picky, but it may interest you to know that there is no theological justification whatsoever for Britain to rule the waves. Remarkable, isn't it? Someone just completely made it up!
Then there are the sectarian songs that Catholics and Protestants like to sing to annoy one another. Anyone would think that the two beliefs, that the Pope is the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, and that the Pope isn't the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, are in some way mutually exclusive.
And now we have Julius Malema's jolly little ditty Shoot the Boer, which invites poor black South Africans to cheer themselves up by getting a gun and go shoot a white South African.
At this point, for no obvious reason, I'd just like to mention Satan, the Invisible Magic Baddy, and Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
South Africa doesn't need this. It introduces division between black and white South Africans to a generation that never knew apartheid, and does so for the most cynical of reasons, to disguise the failure of political leadership in South Africa.
With all the public sector cuts, in the health service, the police and the armed forces, we naturally think of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: for everything there is a season. The government really ought to wait for the proper season to make people redundant.
It's all the fault of the banks. The government wants to split the steady, level headed, retail aspects of banking away from the risky, reckless, casino aspects of investment banking. Some bankers have threatened to take their casinos elsewhere and let some other government insure them against collapse.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff is quite clear on this: thou shalt not use capital from retail savings to invest in futures, derivatives or exotic financial instruments devised by rocket scientists and that no one really understands. If only the banks had followed this simple advice from the Invisible Magic Friend, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff remains as relevant as ever.
I've got a Big Idea. Here's my Big Idea, which is mine, belonging to me and which I invented. This is what it is, my Big Idea.
The people of Libya should be allowed to set up their own government.
There, that is my Big Idea, that I invented and that is mine.
Other people in the past have set up their own governments. The East Germans set up their own government by having the same government as the West Germans. The Russians set up their own government after they'd let go of all the other bits of the Soviet Union. South Africans set up their own government without killing all the whites. They were able to do that because they were Christians (the South Africans that is - although come to think of it, quite a lot of Germans and Russians are Christians too). As Christians, they realised that a bloodbath of revenge might be a bad thing.
None of these involve my Big Idea, because none of these involve Libya. Libya has got a problem. It's not full of Christians for a start. It seems to be full of people from one of the other religions. The last documented good person from Libya was Simon of Cyrene, 2,000 years ago. Despite this, I hold to my Big Idea, that Libya should form its own government. That means that it should not be formed by China, or Russia, or Britain, or France, or Kenya, or Chile but by some good people from Libya, assuming they can find any.
And that is my Big Idea for today.
I was talking to some people, American people, American people who were priests, American people who were Lutheran priests, American people who were Lutheran priests staying at Iona.
They complained that politicians in America are so dogmatic. They're completely intransigent, causing all debates to be polarised along ideological lines. They just can't admit that their way of thinking could be wrong, no matter how much evidence is presented to them. They just argue on and on and on about who is right, never compromising on what they believe to be principal. I can't think of any other body of thought that behaves in this ridiculous, unproductive fashion, said the American Lutheran priests.
And I don't just mean Republicans, Democrats do it as well. It just so happens that my totally non-partisan and apolitical example happens to be of a Republican. Rick Scott is the Governor of Florida and the founder of the largest private for-profit health care company in the U.S.. In a state bedevilled with unemployment and lack of health insurance, he refuses to apply for federal grants. The government helping sick people for free is decidedly un-American. What are the unemployed, the ill and the poor supposed to do in Florida? Radio 4 listeners, do not vote for the Governor of Florida, or anyone from the other party who leaves the poor, the ill and the unemployed without any help.
There's a story about Jephthah who promised the Invisible Magic Friend that, in return for a successful genocide against the Ammonites, he'd round it off by killing whatever greeted him on his return. Unfortunately it was his daughter, but since his honour was at stake, he had no choice but to slaughter his daughter. I think you can see that this is exactly the same as the Governor of Florida.
Isn't it curious how ideology and theology are both ologies?