"I DON'T BELIEVE IT!" Said Victor Bin Laden, the retired terrorist leader who just couldn't get the staff.
This is the way to deal with evil: to laugh at it. I know, I read it in Harry Potter, where it was written. If there's one thing people who take themselves too seriously can't stand, it's to be laughed at.
Naturally, Terry Eagleton, has something to say about it. As a Marxist Philosopher and an author almost as prolific as Barbara Cartland, he certainly doesn't take himself too seriously. He followed Saint Augustine, who used to think evil was a real force in the world, then he decided it wasn't, and it was this latter view that was correct.
Evil is not glamorous or powerful, it is cold and meaningless. Freud said something about evil too and Freud was terribly clever.
Evil isn't some supernatural reality in the way that other supernatural realities are. For that to be true there'd have to be some supernatural embodiment of evil, like a fallen angel or something. That's just silly.
Today is the most boring day in the Christian calendar, which I'm sure you'll agree, is really saying something. It's so dull. It's so drab and dull and tedious and boring. There's nothing for us priests to do. I know lots of you will be wanting to go to church today to enjoy a nice mass. Well don't bother, there isn't one.
It was even worse for the disciples. All they knew was that the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend was dead. They didn't know he was going to resurrect himself tomorrow. Such was their despair that they went shopping, or did some DIY around the home.
That's a bit like me after my resignation from St Paul's. I haven't done any proper priesting since then. I've been reduced to writing columns for The Guardian. You feel so useless when you can't do any priesting. Fortunately, I'll soon be doing a proper job again, bringing the Good News to the desolate waste of Newington, a place so remote that it's actually south of the river.
My career will be resurrected there, just as Jesus was resurrected. Yesterday's speaker foolishly said that this was all a fact. It's not a fact. It's more than a fact. It is definitely, unquestionably, 100% certainly as more than a fact than it is possible to be.
I'm not going to wish you a Happy Easter, because you're all still supposed to be miserable or bored, preferably both.
The situation in Greece continues to go from bad to worse. Government job cuts, high levels of unemployment and massive cuts in spending have resulted in poverty for large numbers of Greek citizens.
It's all very well to blame the bankers, politicians and even the Greeks themselves for overspending, but in a way, didn't we all do the same? We, and by we I do of course mean you, thought we lived in a world of unending growth, where bills never had to be paid and the good times would just keep on rolling forever. Should you really go around blaming the Greeks when they really just did the same as you did?
As always when we desperately need moral leadership, we look to the Vatican. With my career in the Church of England all but over, I like to fondly recall how Rome has always extended the hand of friendship to Church of England vicars willing to jump ships. The Vatican, whose own bank is renowned for such high levels of probity, is ideally placed to show the financial world the way to go.
As an emergency backup Rev Dr, I think it's time we all obeyed the biblical command: treat others the way you'd like them to treat you, and it is a biblical command, because the Big Book of Magic Stuff invented it and no one had ever thought of it before. It's time you all stopped blaming those in Greece who are suffering most, you rotters.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff says to beat your children into submission. This is an instance where the Big Book of Magic Stuff is, of course, wrong. That's why you need people like me around to tell you which bits are right and which bits are wrong. The bits that are right, are the bits that agree with the kind of modern, liberal point of view that I have.
David Lammy, a Christian who is committed, agrees with this wrong bit of the Old Tasty mint. He didn't go to my prep school, where all I remember are the incessant beatings and hot crumpets burning my cheeks with shame. Fortunately, it didn't do me any harm, look at me now.
There seem to be a lot of Christians who think that Christianity is all about the Invisible Magic Friend horribly punishing his visible bit to atone for the sins of mankind, and that this somehow elevates violence as a method of atonement. This is also wrong. My modern, liberal way of thinking tells me it must be wrong and so it is. Just because this is Christianity's unique selling point and pretty much every Christian teacher who has ever lived has said it's true, does not mean it is. True Christianity, real Christianity, my Christianity has got nothing to do with that.
So, in conclusion, all the bits of scripture that tell you to use violence to maintain discipline are wrong, and all the Church Fathers, Popes and theologians who said otherwise weren't really proper Christians.
Won't someone, please, please think of the children.
I want to start with the architectural theorist Charles Jencks. I know what you're thinking: is there in fact an academic discipline called Architectural Theory? The answer is yes, and Charles Jencks is one of them.
He said modernism ended.
Modernism was rubbish. It didn't produce any great art like religion used to. After Modernism came Post-modernism. It was rubbish too and didn't produce any great art like religion used to either. You can go to the V & A at the moment and you'll see what I mean. All the modern stuff is rubbish and all the old stuff, when there was lots more religion, is really good.
What this proves is that people need to belong to a tribe. How can you say that my tribe's better than your tribe (in a totally non-chauvinistic and multicultural way of course) if you don't have a tribe. Modern art doesn't have a tribe, whereas good art, the stuff we used to do in the past, is part of the Christian Tribe.
Scottish Nationalists, good fine, noble, tribal people, understand this and are looking forward to the tremendous fun we're all going to have sorting out who owns the oil and the debts of RBS and HBOS.
As ex-Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, I sense that people are searching for something bigger than themselves, like St Paul's Cathedral perhaps. They want a society where there was ethics, and morals, and no greed, or pain, or suffering. They want the good old days (in a totally non-nostalgic sense) when everything was just hunky-dory, and Christianity was in charge and produced art that wasn't rubbish.
Assisted dying is in the news today. This is one of those issues where people don't listen to one another. My own position on this is irrelevant. It just so happens that I think this will result on pressure for relatives to stop being a burden. It doesn't matter that I don't think this is a matter of personal choice, as if you ought to have some sort of say in how and when you die. I mean, how many of your choices in life have turned out to be disastrous, eh? All that is by the by, I'm not here just to put my own personal point of view on why assisted dying is wrong, the start of the slippery slope.
Others argue, or a purely practical basis, that in order to relieve suffering, a person should be allowed to slip away a few hours or minutes earlier.
You'll notice that I haven't mentioned any of the compelling theological arguments that are available to show why this is against the divinely instituted order of the Invisible Magic Friend. I'm beginning to realise that these can sometimes be just a tad counter productive.
More importantly, there are atheists and unbelievers out there who agree with me that assisted suicide is evil and must be resisted at all costs. Just because the Church has consistently been the largest block to reform in this area, is no reason to take a them-and-us approach. Atheists of the same opinion can work with us on this and Christians who believe in freedom of choice can be dammed to hell along with all their unbelieving friends.
It's nearly Christmas. There will be lots of Christmas presents. That's because giving and receiving gifts was invented by Christians, so it's a good job we were around.
Aside from all this giving and receiving that was invented by Christians, has anyone ever mentioned that the best things in life are free? No? Well they are. One of the best free things is love. It's a well known fact that you don't have to spend any money at all to win someone's affections. The best love of all is the love of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine recently? Saint Augustine said that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Saint Augustine was always right about these things, that's how we know that the Invisible Magic Friend loves everyone freely and equally. Other, lesser theologians, who are not even saints, are much less reliable in this regard. We know this because they're not saints.
The love of the Invisible Magic Friend, which he gives to everyone freely and equally because Saint Augustine said so, has a special technical name. It is what we theologians call "divine grace". It's a good job there are theologians like myself around, otherwise you wouldn't have known that. This, once again, proves the incredible usefulness of theology.
This "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians and that is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so, is something that we Christians give thanks for. It doesn't make any difference that we give thanks because "divine grace", as the love of the Invisible Magic Friend is technically known by theologians, is given freely and equally to all because Saint Augustine said so.
There's no point in trying to be self sufficient because you'll always need "divine grace", as the love of the etc.
It isn't easy being a priest. You can't just pick the nice bits from the Big Book of Magic Stuff. You'll doubtless recall all the stories of genocide, barbaric punishments, enslavement, religious absolutism and misogyny that were regularly read out in church when you were young.
Imagine my horror, yes Horror, when I was asked to read Luke chapter 6, blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. My heart sank as I realised that I would be forced, forced I tell you, to preach about precisely the issue I had resigned over.
I'd like to use the metaphor of tectonic plates to describe the predicament of Saint Paul's and the street protests. It lets me use phrases like "fault line", which conjures up images of unimaginable forces and sounds all sort of grand and sciency. It puts theology on a par with geology and makes it sound as if theology actually has something to contribute to the debate about human inequality. These are much more compelling images than one gets from words like "confused", "irrelevant" and "hypocritical" when one thinks of the wider Church of England's response to the protests.
I'm not against capitalism, at least not any more. Anti-capitalists are just that, they are "anti" without having an alternative. The Church isn't like that. Unlike anti-capitalists we are against vast inequality, against rampant materialism, against poverty and suffering. But we are not just against them, we are for whatever the opposite might be, without getting into any specific solutions to complex economic questions.
In a very real and definite sense, the Church believes that it would be nice if everything were better.
I went to a really nice do at the Guildhall the other day. I got to wear some fancy dress, not quite as good as my normal fancy dress, but pretty fancy all the same.
Now there are a few po faced killjoys out there, who ask awkward questions like, what would a poor carpenter from Nazareth have thought about all this pomp and ceremony? Well obviously he would have approved. You see, despite all the fancy dress, I'm not at all part of the establishment. All this fancy dress is all just part of the church's subversive, radical agenda.
When the rich and the powerful attend a big fancy do like that, they are forced to confront humble ministers of the cloth like myself. They are forced to look me in the eye and say, Giles (they call me Giles on account of the fact that I'm not really a member of the establishment), Giles, you are our conscience. Thanks to you we are accountable to each other and to the Invisible Magic Friend. Accountability does not come through balance of powers and democratic control, but through public displays of faith.
I find myself attending more and more lavish functions, ever more restricted to the country's elite. I don't know what greater proof there could be of my revolutionary credentials.
Yes, I'm quite convinced that if Jesus were alive today, he would have been standing right beside me in the Guildhall a few days ago. Absolutely no doubt about it.
After 22 years in prison, Troy Davis was executed for the murder of off duty police officer Mark MacPhail. There are all sorts of issues to explore here: why did most of the witnesses withdraw their testimonies, why was there no forensic evidence, is 22 years in prison sufficient punishment? Is the man who was executed the same man of 22 years ago? What about the huge imbalance of black men on death row?
I'm not going to explore any of those. I'm going to talk about the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Why did Jesus have to be sacrificed on the cross? I'm sure this is the pressing question that everyone desperately needs an answer to this morning. As a Rev Dr, let me just assure you that it was not, I repeat not as retribution for the sins of mankind. This is a common misconception, often held by those who don't properly understand Christian theology. In fact, we've known since Martin Luther that if there was any justice in this world, we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", would all be condemned to eternal misery.
Fortunately, Christian theology teaches that Jesus, whom you'll recall was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, is loving and merciful and forgives you. Which just goes to prove, yet again, how fantastically useful theology is.
As William Shakespeare's lesser known brother Archie famously said, "Couldst thou spareth not an schilling, dear brother Bill?"
As to why Jesus had to die? That's just too theologically complex to go into at the moment. Don't forget to tune in next time for some more vitally important Christian theology.