I want to talk to you today about the art of Ai Weiwei. Which brings me on to religion. Religion is very much like art. It is subversive, not at all part of the establishment. It asks all the difficult questions and even makes up some answers.
Believe it or not, there are control freaks out there who want to tell you what to think. That is why they are so afraid of religion. When you have a religion you are free to think what you like. Free, FREE, FREE I tell you! You are free to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Free to ask, what if there is more than this world? Eh? Eh? What if? Eh? Makes you think, eh? A famous poet asked that, so there. What a disappointment it would be if this dull, uninteresting universe was all there was.
I am free to have random thoughts rattling around in my Rev Dr brain. That's what makes me so dangerous. That's why "they" want to suppress me, to prevent me from coming on Thought For The Day. But they will not succeed. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.
And in conclusion, that's what the art of Ai Weiwei is all about.
"This call may be recorded for training purposes." Somewhere out there, there could be hundreds of recordings of me screaming down the phone at the call centre operator. Even now, trainees might be sniggering at the mad vicar from Cambridge.
Many of us are beginning to suspect that the banks aren't really on our side. OK, the banks need to make a profit, they're businesses after all, but there used to be a certain level of trust in our banks. Looking after people's money was a serious business. The bank manager was a respectable member of the local community, almost as respectable as the vicar.
Trust in the banks can't be restored by changing the rules. Bankers are cunning and are experts at getting round the rules. What we need is more morality in banking. The Big Book of Magic Stuff has the perfect prescription for morality in banking. By banning banking completely, the Big Book of Magic Stuff ensures that no bankers will ever by tempted to wander into the vault and award themselves a few million pounds in bonuses.
The Victims' Commissioner, Louise Casey, has spent a year listening to victims of crime and what they have to undergo in its aftermath. As well as the emotional problems, many suffer large legal costs, or financial loss through time off work. As it says in one of the Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff (of which we have many), "Any society where there is any badness is bad."
Someone should do something to help people who are suffering. There should be more caring, more support, more help. Someone should comfort them, give them more assistance, just do more for them and make more money available from somewhere. But since none of that's going to happen, there's always the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend has four arms, in which he holds four things. These are what the four things are: a copy of Woman's Weekly, a sausage roll, a toilet roll and an mp3 player. This is what the four things are for.
Woman's Weekly, to show that he is a modern Invisible Magic Friend who is in touch with his feminine side and therefore has authority over all, regardless of gender.
A sausage roll, to provide nourishment for himself and victims of crime.
An mp3 player, so that he can listen to music and soothe the troubled hearts of victims of crime, or play Schoenberg to the guilty.
A toilet roll, the universal symbol of comfort and relief, because with four hands it means that one hand can be permanently dedicated to using a toilet roll and doesn't have to share a hand with the one that eats sausage rolls.
It really is about time that somebody did something about victims of crime.
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!
Monday, 9 May, 2011, 08:58 AM - BrookRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned Osama Bin Laden yet? He's dead you know. Yes it's true, it happened only a week ago. Since then we've had a picture of the president watching the whole thing live on TV, and Osama Bin Laden watching himself, not so live, on TV. He didn't have access to Google so he had no other way of knowing what people were saying about him.
There's so much more to things than what we see on TV though. I expect we'll have a hit movie soon: "The Life and (mostly) Death of Bin Laden." You see, to get the full picture of what happened we have to make things up. Facts and accuracy can only go so far. That's why we need poets, film-makers and celebrity Christian writers like me.
Take Gore Vidal for instance, the author of "Julian", about the apostate emperor, and "Messiah" - how a cult can be transformed into big business. He wrote Live from Golgotha, a touching fictional account of a 400lb Jesus with an eating disorder, and Paul, a rampant homosexual and former Mossad agent who knows how to found churches and rake in the money.
Making things up is being spiritual. As the psalmist says I can't believe it's not butter - seems pretty made up and spiritual to me. If that weren't convincing enough, the Invisible Magic Friend knows everything. If that isn't made up and spiritual then I don't know what is.
Sunday, 8 May, 2011, 08:58 AM - ClemmiesThe award of the Clemmies is a time of the month that I always feel is particularly spiritual. I know that all my fellow people of faith out there will join me in praising (in a strictly non-idolatrous fashion) the many valiant contributors to Thought For The Day, who inadvertently do so much to make us laugh until our sides ache every morning.
Clifford Longley continues to excel himself, making an early shot at another Platitude of the Year. This time, he hoped that the revolutions in the Arab world would be inspired by the open, transparent, liberal attitude of the Catholic Church and its role in creating the European Enlightenment.
Lord Sacks quite shamelessly invited everyone to a place of worship, since, as most other routes to social mobility were now closed off, this was the one way you could get to meet and ingratiate yourself with your betters.
Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings gave us the most appalling mish mash of Martin Rees accepting the £1 million Templeton Prize, the importance of sectarian schools, and how of course atheists can be moral but...
Catherine Pepinster revealed that Kate Middleton has suddenly discovered the importance of her Anglican Faith by being confirmed shortly before marrying the future head of said church.
John Bell explained that people need to identify more with their religion in order to eliminate Scottish sectarianism. He forgot to add that we need more guns to eliminate the threat of armed robbery, more politicians to eliminate nepotism and more alcohol to eliminate drunkenness.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad pointed out that science can't explain everything, therefore god exists. This is called "theology".
Lord Sacks expressed the overwhelming joy that we all felt over the Royal Wedding, the completeness that it brought to our lives and how everything in the world is now just perfect.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad's effort, although fully meriting its extraordinarily platitudinousness rating, seemed to me to be such an old god-of-the-gaps argument that it couldn't possibly qualify for something as sacred as a Clemmie. Must try harder Shaikh.
Lord Sacks' Royal Wedding celebration was a fairly typical, "I'm going to the Royal Wedding, isn't it wonderful," type contribution. His "come and worship" to meet your betters entry was certainly original and, if it weren't for some stiff competition this month, would have had a serious chance of winning.
Catherine Pepinster tries hard to emulate her fellow Catholic, but I'm afraid she just wasn't in the same league as Clifford Longley this month. Clifford continues to ably demonstrate why he is the reigning champion. I feel that Clifford was only just pipped at the post this month by John Bell and his recipe to cure sectarianism in Scotland: more religion. Congratulations to Rev John Bell, the winner of this month's holy Clemmie. This is precisely the kind of eye rolling, head revolving, lateral thinking that makes the world what it is today.
It's been a week of closure: closure for the thousands of relatives of those killed in the twin towers, buried under tons of masonry with no due process or religious ceremony; closure after the London bombings verdict; the beginning of closure on the death of Ian Tomlinson.
Closure is all about drawing a line, closing the door, creating a sense of finality, putting the past aside, moving on, putting things in perspective, seeing everything in context, finding a sense of justice, having a judgement made. Oh, did I mention judgement? Oh, yes, judgement! This reminds me of the final judgement when all you sinners will finally get what you so undoubtedly deserve. Coincidentally, I've spent the last two years reading the book of Revelation - well, I'm a slow reader, and you do need to smoke quite a lot of dope for it to make any kind of sense.
The visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend said that you can avoid any further judgement by passing judgement on yourself. [Ed - Er, where exactly?]. For everyone else, there's the final judgement, just like it says in the Revelation of Saint John the Totally-Out-Of-It. For them their certainly will be a sense of closure, of finality, of closing the door. The number of modern euphemisms for burning in hell for all eternity are really endless.
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.
Thursday, 5 May, 2011, 08:48 AM - TilbyRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Hamas and Fatah have decided to be friends again. This seems to be inspired by the Arab Spring, where democracy and open government are breaking out all over the Arab world, except in Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and everywhere else except Tunisia and Egypt, and even there we aren't sure.
This could be the start of a comprehensive Middle East peace solution, even though the Israeli Prime Minister has condemned the move as a victory for terrorism. It illustrates that to attain peace you need people who want peace and people who don't. The people who want peace keep failing to have peace, but it's the people who don't want peace who eventually deliver peace by changing their minds and wanting some peace.
This is what happened in Northern Ireland and shows why we should ignore people who say, "why can't we all just get along?" When people who really hate each other make peace like that, it gives us something that we theologians refer to as "hope."
As well as the people who don't want peace making peace, we also get people who want peace asking for peace. Daniel Barenboim makes peace by playing Mozart. Mozart's music is divine and I leave it to you to decide whether the word "divine" is meant in a literal or metaphorical sense, or whether I'm just being deliberately ambiguous so that I can squeeze the Invisible Magic Friend in at the end.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter)
Wednesday, 4 May, 2011, 08:38 AM - MuradRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
Already people are talking about him: Osama Bin Laden - the Dark Lord. There are quite a few problems about the manner of his demise which are starting to lead to conspiracy theories, even amongst those not normally inclined to believe in conspiracies.
After World War II, the Nazis got a trial before their execution. It was one of the ways that America proved it was civilised. One of the nice bits of the Koran says that justice is important. So I think the Dark Lord should also have got a trial before his execution. That way we can see that he was executed properly.
Next there's this burial at sea thing. Crack theologians from Al-Azhar University, probably some of the very best theologians in the world, pronounced that the burial was not done properly and that he cannot be considered to be properly buried. The correct procedures for the burial of the world's most wanted terrorist, as laid out in the Koran's chapter, "Procedures for the Burial of the World's Most Wanted Terrorist" should have been followed. The dead have rights, including having a religiously valid burial.
It's possible that all the world's oceans may now be regarded as a shrine, as bits of the Dark Lord get bitten off, digested and dispersed throughout the world. Groups of ardent, but not really proper, Muslims are already kneeling on the seafront along Southend beach in pilgrimage to the Dark Lord. The Prophet himself, having killed his enemies, saw to it that they were properly buried. That's how kind and merciful he was. When he returned to Mecca, he even allowed the hitherto non-believers, but who had now converted in time, to remain alive. How's that for mercy!
I'm sure that all people of faith, but obviously not atheists, would agree with me on this.