Should we have an elected Lords? Parliamentarians say mostly, although some say a little bit and some say not at all. Some said we should ask the people whether the people should choose the Lords, and some said we shouldn't ask the people whether we should ask the people to choose the Lords. David Cameron isn't sure whether we should ask the people to ask the people to choose the Lords and would rather just wait and see what way the wind's blowing on this one.
And will an elected House of Lords do what the elected House of Commons tells it to? Or will they think that because they're elected, they've got just as much right not to do what the House of Commons tells it to? The current House of Lords is filled with experts on all sorts of things, like theology. They are the nation's wise ones.
But what does it mean to be wise? Surprisingly, just being a bishop or even a professor, does not necessarily make you wise. The Invisible Magic Friend's Big Book of Magic stuff says that fear of him is the beginning of wisdom. Indeed, given his reputation for capriciousness, smiting, vengefulness, favouritism and genocide, regular doses of praise, obeisance and all round flattery might well be considered wise.
There's also wisdom in humility. As a Rev Dr Dr Prof, let me just assure you that humbleness is a sure fire indicator of wisdom. Saint Paul said so too. He said wisdom was the life, death and resurrection of the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, which if you think about it, actually means there is wisdom in humility.
So do you really want to elect people to the Lords who want to be elected in order to take power? Wouldn't you prefer Lords who are the humble servants of the people elected to take power?
The blast furnace at the Redcar steel plant on Teeside has been relit. It has been resurrected. Speaking of resurrection, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend was resurrected. As you all know, this definitely, 100%, no doubt about it happened. It gives us all hope, doesn't it?
Speaking of hope, weren't the 1970's just awful! Power cuts, industrial action, terrorism and worst of all, black and white TV, full of gritty, "it's grim up north" hour long plays. Yet even in the 1970's, some people occasionally smiled. It gives us all hope, doesn't it?
Speaking of hope, the Breivik trial in Oslo is all about hatred and terrorism. Most of us aren't hate filled terrorists. This comes from our Judeo-Christian tradition (but not any other Abrahamic religions that you might think of). Anders Breivik doesn't come from a Judeo-Christian tradition, which is why he's a hate filled terrorist. It gives us all hope, doesn't it?
Tuesday, 10 April, 2012, 08:54 AM - WilkinsonRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
The ceasefire plans in Syria are falling apart. This is what happens when people don't trust one another.
The Dalai Lama says we shouldn't destroy our neighbours. He's not a Christian, but he's very religious and holy so I think he's worth listening to when he says we shouldn't destroy our neighbours.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Syria and the Dalai Lama, that's exactly the same as Easter, what a coincidence! Jesus dying on the cross is where trust begins. I'm a Rev Dr Dr Prof, you can trust me on this.
I know a senior clergyman in Nigeria who wants to learn about Islam. He wants to learn what we both have in common. [Ed - hint: homosexuals.]
That's the kind of courage we need to bring faiths together. The question is where might I make the first move? I rather fancy I might try one of the many inter-faith buffets that are often being arranged.
Happy 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday everyone! After 10 years and £200m, the Saville Inquiry concluded that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing.
There's a famous picture of a priest waving a hanky over a bloody victim on Bloody Sunday. He became a bishop. Then he retired and wrote a book. He said that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing as well.
I knew a Christian couple in Northern Ireland. They weren't Catholic or Protestant, just Christian. They used to talk to both Nationalists and Unionists. We don't call them Catholics or Protestants, that might suggest that there was some sort of religious element to the troubles, which is absurd. Anyway, this young, indeterminate denomination couple used to talk to people of both
This is how the message of Jesus, the message of peace, was finally brought to Northern Ireland and how religion finally solved that troubled province's purely political troubles.
By coincidence this is also the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. He was religious too in a totally non-specific sort of way. He believed in peace, despite the fact that he didn't think that Jesus was the Invisible Magic Friend, which is remarkable really. Fortunately, the assassins of this man of peace were caught and executed.
So you see, peace is actually a very good thing. Any Syrian dictators who are listening to this, this morning, just might want to bear that in mind.
Happy Year of the Dragon everyone!
This is a time for gifts and family and happiness and optimism. Children born this year will be wealthy and wise and so the Chinese will have many more babies this year.
In Chinese mythology (and let us not forget, it is just a rather quaint mythology) the dragon is not a fire breathing monster with a diet consisting largely of virgins, the dragon is is an ancient protector of the poor.
We all need a protector of some sort, a comfort blanket, something to hold onto when we feel alone and afraid in the big scary world, something greater than us who'll be able to deal with the misfortunes that life may throw at us.
Here in Durham we've been singing Christmas carols. Yes, there's only 49 weeks to go until Christmas. Unlike the silly Chinese with their imaginary dragons, we have the real saviour of the world, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The book Religion for Atheists (available from all good book-stores and a certain well known online retailer) points out all the good things that religion does while dismissing all the silly superstitious bits. What the author fails to realise is that we need the silly superstitious bits, whether it's dragons or the baby Jesus.
Happy Blue Monday everyone!
But I know that well educated Radio 4 listeners don't believe in pseudo-scientific nonsense like that. How about some astronomy on the telly. Isn't the universe just amazing? It's so big. Do you know who I think of when I see how big the universe is? Go on, guess. No, you'll never get it, it's the Invisible Magic Friend!
Science-and-faith both think the universe is amazing. A 3,000 year old poet agrees with me. "Oh, everything is sooooo BIG. Thank you, thank you, Invisible Magic Friend, for making all this just for me!"
Christians, with their hearsay evidence written down 30 years after the totally amazing resurrection, are just like astronomers. Science-and-faith are always saying how big it all is. Lovell called it "immensity", with is a bigger word for "big" and so makes it sound as if I'm saying something different and not just constantly repeating myself. He mentioned the Invisible Magic Friend too which further legitimises science-and-faith.
Science-and-faith can't answer everything of course, but still science-and-faith both say everything is very, very, very big. This makes science-and-faith very exciting as both agree about the overall bigness of it all. So I'll be cheering myself up by looking at some stars, confident that science-and-faith both say how very big it all is.
Did I mention that science-and-faith say how
So Dame Vivienne Westwood has been addressing the anti-capitalist protesters outside Saint Paul's on the emptiness of consumerism. And so I stood around watching the Durham Lumiere Festival. There were lots of bright, happy colours, lighting up the town and especially the cathedral.
And so it begins, the Cathedral was adorned by pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels. These unique Gospels were produced at enormous expense. Going forward, they were definitely the designer Gospels of their day and highly desirable artefacts in their own right - no hint of abject consumerism or the ostentatious display of wealth there.
Do you know who all this reminds me of? Go on, have a guess. No, I knew you wouldn't get it. OK, I'll put you out of your misery, it was Jesus! Yes, that's right, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend! Jesus is like light, a great big multi-coloured neon display of tubular light, who now reigns supreme in the great fluorescent bulb showroom in the sky.
So science and religion don't have all the answers. (I put them together because they don't have all the answers in roughly equal amounts.) And so there's no art any more, For Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine, except in Durham, where we have 1,300 year old Gospels projected onto the Cathedral walls - that's art.
The OPERA experiment at CERN seems to have detected neutrinos travelling slightly faster than the speed of light. If true then this will overturn one of the foundations of physics, Einstein's Theory of Relativity. One physicist has even promised to eat his boxer shorts live on TV if it turns out to be true.
But this is how science works. We perform experiments, gather data, consolidate the data using theory, make predictions and do the whole cycle over and over again. Theory is developed using skill, judgement and intuition. Which is exactly like faith, isn't it? Michael Polanyi as good as said so. He was a Christian you know?
So what about the Invisible Magic Friend? Well, science is no good at telling you about the Invisible Magic Friend because he's invisible and magic. Theologians explore invisible magic things in exactly the same way as scientists do with visible not-magic things, apart from not doing experiments, not collecting data, not having to restrict our theories to being consistent with the data (because there isn't any), but in every other respect it's exactly the same.
The planet Kepler 16b orbits two suns, just like George Lucas predicted in Star Wars. It makes you wonder whether there's intellegient life somewhere up in space.
Hundreds of extra-solar planets have been found now, many be the Kepler space telescope. When their atmospheres have been examined we'll be able to tell whether some of them might support life. What effect will this have on religion?
Absolutely none is the answer. We'll go on saying exactly the same stuff as we've always done. You see, the Invisible Magic Friend didn't make the universe just for our benefit. Christians don't believe that. No Christian has ever said that. The Christian Church has always believed in extra-solar planets and has always been very nice to anyone who wanted to talk about them.
You can trust me on this. I started out as an astrophysicist you know, before abandoning it for the far more interesting career as a theologian. Kepler was a Christian himself, which just goes to show how right Christianity must be, although he also believed in astrology, which is wrong, so you can ignore that belief.
Monday, 5 September, 2011, 08:41 AM - WilkinsonRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's coming up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It's important to hear the individual stories of all the thousands who died on that day and in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, although it's very unlikely you'll hear many personal stories from the victims of the wars.
There are also personal stories from the people affected by the recent riots. Their personal stories are important too.
This is where the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend is so important. You see the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend really cares. He listens to everybody's problems and them mostly ignores them.
As the psalmist said, "Oh Invisible Magic Friend, hear what a rotten time I'm having." And then in another psalm, "I'm sure you were listening before, but I still seem to be having a rather rotten time. You really are just fantastic you know." Then in yet another psalm, "OK, I know you're really busy, but if you could just help a little bit with the really rotten time I'm having. Praise be to you, you're wonderful, you really are, I'm not just saying that."
Jesus, the visible bit of the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend, spent lots and lots of time listening. It just so happens that the New Tasty mint mostly describes the time that he spent talking.
The personal stories of the victims of apartheid are really important. Lots of Christian South Africans listened to their really important stories, just like Jesus.
So if you get the chance this week, listen to the personal stories of the 9/11 victims.