Why can't other people be more like me? I've had a long and happy marriage to the vicar. Lots of my relatives have had long and happy marriages too. That's because we're all fine, upstanding, decent, worthy Christian folk. Many of you are going around not being like us. You're breaking up unhappy relationships and going off to seek happiness. Well it's not good enough. You're just not trying. "It didn't work out." "We drifted apart." "I've found someone else who's so much better in bed." All lame excuses. You should get back together and put up with it, no matter how miserable it makes the pair of you.
There are two schools of thought on marriage. Some think people should be allowed to fall in love and marry whomever they choose. Others think you should marry who you're told to. If you're left to your own devices you might fall in love with someone unsuitable, from the wrong tribe, the wrong caste, the wrong gender, or worst of all, from the wrong religion. Arranged marriages often work out well. You gradually grow to love the person you've been forced to live with and the extended family all chips in to help, possibly by beating any disobedient female or just killing her if she dishonours the honour of the honourable males of the family.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff is happy with both approaches. The Song of Songs is quite big on the love way of doing it. Saint Paul on the other hand thinks women should do as they're told. Either way, just get married and stay married like I did (so far).
I want to talk to you today about spies. Naturally, we Canon Precentors are deeply involved in espionage. I'd love to tell you all about it but then I'd have to shoot you, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.
Is spying moral? What is the Christian view of spying? Are Ian Fleming or John le Carré's novels worse for you than Harry Potter? To answer these pressing questions we turn to the greatest spy novel of all: the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Spies get mentioned in the Book of Joshua. Joshua sends two spies to Jericho. Being spies, the first thing they do is go seek out a local prostitute. She does a deal to save herself from the subsequent massacre of Jericho. (Jericho belonged to the Jews because the Invisible Magic Friend said so, so it was therefore necessary to slaughter all of the current inhabitants.)
What does this tale from our book of moral guidance tell us? Well, it tells us that as long as we rely on human beings to resolve disputes and to build relationships between communities, we will fail. That's because humans are just rubbish at things like that. Don't even bother trying, you're wasting your time. If the Jews had trusted in the Invisible Magic Friend then they wouldn't have needed spies. (Just ignore the fact that they were actually acting on the Invisible Magic Friend's instructions. That doesn't quite fit with what I'm trying to say.)
So the fact that we now need spies to seek out terrorists, just shows how weak and hopeless human beings are. If only we'd place our trust in the Invisible Magic friend like the 7/7 bombers did.
Sunday, 4 July, 2010, 08:08 AM - Not TFTDLook at me! Look how Holy I'm being! Look! Look! Look! I'm praying for someone who disagrees about the nature of an abstract anthropomorphic almighty being. Look, I'm being Holy! That's what makes me better than him, me being Holy and all. He's not Holy. If I had throat cancer he'd probably spit on me or something, 'cos he's not Holy you see.
He's so very, very clever of course. As part of being Holy, I just want to say how much I admire him. That's what we Holy people do, we say how much we admire people who disagree with us. It's all part of being Holy you see.
And he's so intolerant. I met him once you know. He spent the whole night talking to me, being intolerant and not agreeing with me. If we hadn't been in polite company he'd probably have bashed me over the head or something, what with him being so intolerant and not Holy.
Holy people aren't intolerant. Look at any history book or any country today that's run by Holy people like me. You won't find any intolerance at all, 'cos that's what we Holy people do - we're tolerant we are - except for certain genders and sexualities, because they're not moral and they're definitely not Holy. There's a little intolerance of some theories (that are only theories after all) and other people who think they're being Holy but they're not really Holy 'cos they don't agree with proper Holy people, like me.
Not-Holy people go around saying things and making arguments and saying that we're not as Holy as we say we are - it's just pure evil isn't it? I'm so glad I'm not like him. I'm Holy and tolerant and just all round better than him, no matter how clever he is.
Holy people, like me, do so much good. We have clinics for people who got AIDS by using condoms. If only they'd do as we Holy people tell them to and don't wear them then they wouldn't get AIDS and wouldn't need us Holy people to look after them. See - we even look after people who spread AIDS by wearing condoms. That's how Holy we are.
Never mind that bloke with cancer. Look at me! Look how Holy I'm being! Look! Look! Look!
Saturday, 3 July, 2010, 08:58 AM - Not TFTDThe government is keen to hear about unnecessary regulations that could be scrapped. Well, here's one that's a no brainer. By law, all schools are required to hold a daily act of worship that is wholly or mainly Christian in character.
No one should be forced to worship someone else's Invisible Magic Friend. Those who wish to pray have plenty of opportunities at home or at their dedicated places of worship. School assemblies should be for school business and for fostering a sense of community within the school. This blatant indoctrination of children should stop.
You can add your voice on the government website:
http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/restoring ... in-schools
http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/repealing ... in-schools
Thanks to Alfster for alerting me to this.
Saturday, 3 July, 2010, 08:44 AM - ClemmiesThere have been a lot of valiant efforts this month. Reverend Angela Tilby pointed out that the Saville Report was exactly the same as the Book of Revelation. There was lots of stuff about football and how it's exactly the same as religion: kinda pointless but people seem to get very excited about it.
Reverend Canon Dr Giles Fraser was delighted with all the poverty that government cutbacks were sure to generate and what a great time the churches were going to have with all the subsequent new trade.
Mona Siddiqui used her 3 minutes this month to complain about being stopped by security at the airport by the horrible, racist, Islamophobic security staff.
Despite these worthy contributions, only two managed to score the coveted 5 out of 5 this month. Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings (an Anglican priest) told us what a lot of useless rubbish a "community" is and thank God the people of Cumbria have faith. Meanwhile, Akhandadhi Das (a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian) dismissed any possible scientific explanation for loneliness, because scientific explanations just demean and dehumanise things. Fortunately he had his own explanation for loneliness: it's because you have an invisible magic bit. And it's for that beautifully deranged non-sequitur that Akhandadhi Das (a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian) just beats Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings (an Anglican priest) to the post.
Rich people are living longer than poor people. This presents a challenge to doctors. You see doctors aren't very bright and generally just look in their big book of pills to see which one to prescribe. Doctors don't realise that they need the help of other professionals: psychologists, nutritionists, dieticians and Buddhists.
I see this all the time in my work with people suffering from chronic pain (which is very much the same thing as life expectancy). Very often, these people arrive wanting to be cured. They seem to think that, just because they're suffering in agony 24 hours a day, that there must be something wrong with them. I explain to them, in a very gentle voice, that there's absolutely nothing that anyone, anywhere, can do for them. They're just going to have to put up with it and get on with their lives and stop whinging about it.
You may find this surprising, coming from a Buddhist, but I recommend meditation for people with chronic pain. Meditation, perhaps with a little bit of incense, some nice Buddhist chanting playing on the CD, wearing your favourite pair of sandals, doesn't actually make the pain go away, but at least it doesn't make things any worse.
Very often, people who are desperate turn to drugs and alcohol. This is not a good way of addressing chronic pain. I just want to wag my finger and say, "tut, tut" to any chronic pain sufferers who try this. I most definitely do not approve of this. What you need is a good bit of meditation.
Lusciously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Isn't the crucifixion just brilliant? Even Jews think it's brilliant. Of course for a long time they didn't think it was brilliant. They thought it was horrible because Christians used to persecute them, but thanks to Hitler's attempted genocide, Christians started to wonder whether persecuting Jews was really a good idea after all. So something good came out of the holocaust in the end - every cloud has a silver lining. Now we're all best of friends and Jews think the crucifixion is brilliant too.
There are some really good paintings of the crucifixion, full of suffering and anguish. They're very artistic. Very artistic indeed. When I see Jesus, naked on the cross, full of suffering and anguish, I think to myself, "That's very artistic, that is."
There's an exhibition of crucifixions at the Jewish Museum in London. It's got a crucifixion by Graham Sutherland that's really nice - lot's of nice suffering and anguish there. There's not quite as much suffering and anguish in Stanley Spencer's but it's still very artistic. Maggie Hambling's, is very dark and evocative of suffering and anguish.
There's even a crucifixion by Chagall. This isn't the famous one. The famous one, the one that isn't on show at the exhibition in London, is really good because it shows the suffering and anguish of Jews, with Jesus looking particularly Jewish. That's one of the other good things that came out of the Holocaust - some really brilliant paintings of the crucifixion, with lots of really good suffering and anguish.
Of course, to we Christians, the crucifixion is more than just a symbol of suffering and anguish. It's a reminder that one third of the Invisible Magic Friend became temporarily visible so that he could experience a bit of suffering and anguish himself. Now he sits there, up in heaven, looking down omnipotently on all of us, saying "Isn't all that suffering and anguish just terrible?"
The Justice Secretary wants fewer people in prison. He has to convince critics that he hasn't gone soft on crime, as well as convince communities that those being released do not pose a threat. But his biggest challenge, if he is to achieve all these goals, is to rehabilitate offenders. They need to be given a sense of purpose in their lives, given help with accommodation and employment, and in many cases helped to recover from dependence on alcohol or drugs.
Some will achieve this through discovering a new relationship with the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend will tell them that they're human beings too, that they have the potential to become reformed characters. All they have to do is praise him and worship him and generally tell him what a great guy he is.
Thursday, 1 July, 2010, 05:23 AM - Not TFTDI'm sure I won't be alone in wishing Christopher Hitchens a speedy recovery.
Wednesday, 30 June, 2010, 10:13 AM - Not TFTD...that His Hollowness, Reichsführer Benedict the umpteenth will not be addressing us on TFTD. We will therefore have to forgo the supreme Ponstiffs' much needed moral guidance on such issues as child care, family planning, same sex relationships and whether your sin is original*.
I know this will be a tremendous disappointment to all of you. The Reichsführer is renowned for his way with words, delighting even his opponents with his friendly, affable, well considered opinions.
As you will see from the above piece in the Telegraph, TFTD is open to all faiths (except Scientologists, Wiccans, Pastafarians, Jedi, Satanists and of course, horrible, smelly atheists). I will continue to pray that the Vatican will change it's mind and not deprive us of this unique opportunity to summarise and comment on Benedict's singular wisdom.
[* With apologies to Tom Lehrer.]