Inconceivably Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons  
Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 08:43 AM - Lessons of history, James Jones
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

To the delight of all Today Programme presenters, the official Scrabble dictionary now includes "innit", "grrl" and "thang".

A government apology has been called for after it was revealed that Asian women coming to Britain were subjected to virginity checks. Obviously any woman who was not a virgin must already be married and so is ineligible to come to Britain and be married.

Government apologies are all the rage at the moment, as Britain apologises for being responsible for just about everything. We're still waiting to get our own apologies from the Romans, the Vikings and the Normans, but it's only a matter of time.

What is the connection between all this and scrabble? Well, the Scrabble dictionary is a book full of words. "Apology" is a word. However, it's not a very good word for a government apology. We need something a bit stronger than "apology", which is just a bit too limp wristed and feeble.

So we ask ourselves, what's the Scrabble word that Jesus would have used? Jesus, whom I can speak for personally as I am Inconceivably Reverend, would have used the word "repent". "Repent" is a very good word. It may not score very highly in Scrabble, but it was a favourite word of the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and that's good enough for me. "Apology" just isn't good enough. Jesus says Britain must repent of ever wanting an empire in Asia ever again!

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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Thursday, 14 April, 2011, 08:52 AM - Lessons of history, Sacks
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Happy nearly Passover everyone! Passover happened in Egypt, which is right next door to Libya, which is in the news at the moment. Anyway, back to talking about Passover.

The Israelites fight for freedom wasn't like modern day rebellions. Moses' methods were somewhat unintuitive. There were the ten plagues, then the parting of the Red Sea, then the closing of the Red Sea, followed by 40 years wandering in the desert and finished off by the genocide of anyone who happened to get in our way. All without leaving a single identifiable artefact in the archaeological record - another miracle!.

Passover is all about children, unless you happen to be the eldest Egyptian child, when you got to be killed, which just served you right for being Egyptian. Because Passover is such a child friendly celebration, we always get the youngest child to ask the question "googoo, gagga, mama, oo, aaa, tee hee hee", which means, "Why are we celebrating the mass slaughter of innocent children?"

On this same night for 3,000 years, we remember the imaginary enslavement of our nation, the imaginary bitterness of our imaginary oppression, our imaginary fight for freedom and we join in imaginary fellowship with all peoples who seek to break the bonds of their bondage.

In keeping with this message of freedom from the bonds of bitter enslavement and unjustly, oppressive repression, I'd just like to say that education is a marvellous thing.

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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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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Friday, 25 February, 2011, 08:26 AM - Lessons of history, Sacks
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Well things are certainly happening.

This reminds me of a story from the Big Book of Magic Stuff Part I (the original and still the best Big Book of Magic Stuff).

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived which is why he built the Temple to the Invisible Magic Friend. Then he got himself 1000 wives, which just goes to show the benefit of being the wisest man who ever lived. Then Solomon died and Rehoboam became king. The people said,

“Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

So Rehoboam went to the wise elders and said.

"What shall I say to the people who say, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you'?"

And the wise elders said,

"Say to the people who say, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you', that you will lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on them, and they will serve you."

But having sought the wise advice of the wise elders, Rehoboam unwisely ignored their wise advice. He went to the less wise youngsters and said,

"The wise elders have said that I should say to the people who say 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you', that I will lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on them, and they will serve me.

"What do you say I should say to the people who say, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you'?"

And the unwise youngsters said,

"Ignore the advice of the wise elders who say you should say to the people who say 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you', that you should lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on them, and they will serve you.

"Say instead to the people who say, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you', that 'My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'"

Rehoboam unwisely took the unwise advice of the unwise youngsters. He went to the people who said, "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you," and said,

"Oh people who say, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you', I say unto you, 'My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'"

And the people who said "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you" said,

"Well sod you, we're off to seek freedom under Jeroboam, an alternative hereditary absolute monarch with a slightly different name."

Things never change do they? It's exactly the same today. Well, tut tut.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 31 January, 2011, 08:44 AM - Dont do bad things, Lessons of history, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

There's a lot going on in Egypt. Egypt is an ancient civilisation. So were Greece and Rome - they were ancient civilisations too, but Egypt was even more ancienter. In fact, Egypt may even have invented being civilised.

Which brings me to the 10 commandments which are so vitally important to us in knowing how to be moral. Without a proper set of rules like these, none of us would know how to be moral.

1. There's only one Invisible Magic Friend and it's me. You're not to make any images of me, 'cos I'm invisible.

2. Don't use my name in vain.

3. Set aside every seventh day so that you worship me properly.

Egypt was so civilised that it even had a brief flirtation with monotheism. That's how civilised they were. This was about the same time as Moses, whose birth and death certificates are well preserved. It may be where Moses got the idea for there only being one Invisible Magic Friend, Makes you, think, eh?

After Akhenaten died, Egypt went back to not being quite so civilised again, but despite not being so civilised they still had a list of 42 commandments, "42" being the answer to life, the universe and everything. This has confessions like, I have not killed, or I have not stolen. Sound familiar? Makes you think, eh? Makes you think that maybe these rules didn't come from the Invisible Magic Friend on Mount Sinai, that maybe we just know that they're wrong. No - forget that, it doesn't make you think anything of the kind.

Not blowing people up is also one of the 10 commandments, or at least it would have been if there were high explosives at the time. When some Muslims decided to blow up Coptic Christians, ordinary Muslims went to Coptic churches in their thousands to protect the Christians. Then some other Muslims cut off all contact with the Vatican for asking ordinary Muslims to protect Christians.

Egypt has lasted this long. It'll probably keep going.

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Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet 
Friday, 21 January, 2011, 08:46 AM - Interfaith, Lessons of history, Pepinster
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

In the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, Tube passengers were nervous. Police had begun shooting people on sight who had a slightly brown appearance and fellow passengers would edge away from any young Muslim wearing a rucksack.

Although people's wariness was understandable, it was unfair to consider all Muslims suspect, the vast majority of whom oppose terrorism as much as anyone else.

Baroness Warsi has warned that Islamophobia has passed the "dinner table test", where it is now acceptable in polite society to stigmatise all Muslims.

We Catholics know all about this because of our own persecution. But we gradually learned to stop saying the rosary in the high street and dropping to our knees every time a priest walked passed. We recognised that the other people's (wrong) beliefs and their unwillingness to obey the commands of the Pope, would just have to be accepted, for the moment. In this way we gradually integrated into society.

This was helped by the change in policy of the Vatican. By the 1960s, they had realised that democracy was a good thing and were well on the way to supporting human rights and even religious tolerance. That's how advanced Vatican thinking had become!

So it's important that dialog with Muslims continues.

While on the subject of the Pope, when the Pope was in Britain, he said that religion was so important. We have so many useful things to explain to the rest of you, that you all get so wrong.

Last night I saw a young Muslim woman struggling to get two babies and a pushchair onto a train. Two women immediately came to her aid. Momentarily putting religion aside, they were spurred on by their empathy for the Muslim woman, inspired by their common humanity.

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Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge  
Wednesday, 19 January, 2011, 08:13 AM - Lessons of history, Morality, Murad
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous - first 2 mins)
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous - final minute)

The campaign group Better History says we need some better history. Hardly any kids study history any more and those that do tend only to get disconnected studies of more recent history. There are no grand narratives to tell a national story.

It's partly the fault of History faculties that want to research serious history instead of focusing on popular history. So teachers don't focus on kings and queens any more. They say that kids can't relate to kings and queens, whereas 20th century totalitarian dictators are much easier to relate to.

As a result 10% think that Stonehenge was built by Queen Victoria and half think that Hadrian's wall was built to separate the English from the Scots.

It's nonsense to say that children can't relate to kings and queens. We only have to look at the success of the TV series Merlin or the Lord of the Rings films to see how popular these subjects are. There's similar political correctness gone mad when teaching British history to ethnic minorities.

The real problem is that people don't want to think about big ideas, like morality, any more. They just want to wallow around being immoral all over the place. Morality is the same as history, so there's no problem changing the subject. And where do we get morality from: religion.

Religion has got hundreds of fantastic stories of patriarchs and prophets, which are just like kings and queens, only without the queens, and most of the queens that there are are evil, seductive baddies. Yes, by studying the ancient history of the Middle East and the Arabian peninsula, children can get a real sense of feeling for how Britain got to where it is today.

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Reverend Rob Marshall, an Anglican priest 
Saturday, 1 January, 2011, 08:24 AM - Gibberish, Lessons of history, Marshall
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

It's the New Year, a time when we think about the future, but also about the past and how the past affects the future. We may have regrets about the past and be optimistic about the future, although some cynics have regrets about the future and are optimistic about the past.

The New Year is a very spiritual thing involving lots of complex theology about the past and the future and how the past leads to the future. It's about creation renewed, about resolution, transformation of the past into the future, a new heaven and a new earth, a new commandment.

Jesus thought the future was very important, so it must be. He also thought the past was very important too because the past leads to the future and he didn't come to abolish the past or abolish the future. The past is critical to the future because without the past there cannot be a future.

Early Christians learned from the past and had faith that there would be a future. Love endures in the future and is not weighed down by the negativism of the past. A famous Catholic theologian said not to ponder the failures of the past but to trust that the invisible Magic Friend would make the future better.

So as 2011 gets under way, why not resist your natural urge to cynically wallow in depression about the past, where you were such a miserable failure, and be optimistic about the past leading to a bright new future.

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Flabbergastingly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009 
Wednesday, 3 November, 2010, 08:50 AM - Democracy, Lessons of history, Secularism, James Jones
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly Platitudinous)

BLASPHEMY! BLASPHEMY! IT'S BLASPHEMY I TELL YOU!

I refer of course to those wicked blasphemers, American politicians. They go around, citing the Invisible Magic Friend as approving their policies. Who do they think they are, telling people what the will of the Invisible Magic Friend is? That's our job!

Oh such terrible, terrible blasphemy.

Fifty years ago, the big issue in American politics was that John F. Kennedy was a Catholic. Now it's whether Barack Obama is a Muslim. Nearly a fifth of Americans think he is, rising to a third if you restrict yourself to the Not Entirely Stupid and Selfish Party. Some people think even that party is way too sensible and have started the Completely Stupid and Finally Lost the Plot Party. I discovered all this recently on my bishop's fact finding tour of the United States.

All this despite the fact that the United States constitution requires the separation of church and state. Yet almost every recent president has worn his faith on his sleeve. Here, in the more sensible Great Britain, where our hereditary monarch is the head of the Church of England, politicians are a little more circumspect about religion. Although all agree it is a wonderful thing, they leave the actual preaching to people like me, who are properly qualified to do the job.

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Outlandishly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009 
Thursday, 7 October, 2010, 08:13 AM - Lessons of history, Materialism, James Jones
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Families are really good things. I definitely think we should continue to have Families.

However, I have my doubts about the commitment of politicians to The Family. Take the recent cuts in child benefit. Single worker households, struggling on a modest £45,000 a year, will lose the benefit, while couple where both work can earn over £80k and still keep it. Anyone would think that the Conservatives were favouring the rich.

It's all part of the me, me, me attitude to life nowadays. No one thinks about others in their Families any more and parents certainly never think about the good of their children. In the days of the Big Book of Magic Stuff (days that are now irretrievably gone but were nevertheless much better) they used to speak of "households". This would include, not only parents and children, but also members of the extended family as well as your live-in servants.

It would be presumptuous to predict the verdict of history, but historians will doubtless look back to the cutting of child benefit as one of the darkest, most wicked ways of cutting the deficit ever conceived. At least until the next darkest, most wicked way of cutting the deficit is conceived, when you can be sure that someone will be here to remind you of the injustice of it all.

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