Rampantly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
52,000 Roman coins have been found in Somerset. They date from the 3rd century, which is a very long time ago. Even very longer ago though, are the 950,000 year old flints found in Norfolk. They're from a very, very long time ago. But even very, very longer ago, is the picture from the Planck telescope. This is a picture of the universe 13.5 billion years ago. That is a very, very, very long time indeed.
Yet with all this time around, we always seem to be short of it. There's last night's washing up to do (although I get my housekeeper to do that) and the boss wants a report on his desk by 11 am (although I don't really have a boss). There's just so much to do as a retired bishop and a busy professor of divinity. I just don't know where all the time goes.
Life is like a short fleeting thing. As the poet says, "Life is so very fleeting." As Bede the Venerable said "Life fleets like a sparrow doing a poop." As the psalmist says, "What is man but a very fleeting thing." The wonders of modern science, and I'm a big fan of science by the way, shows me how very insignificant you all are. Yet, despite your fleeting insignificance, you're also tremendously important on a cosmic scale. You see, there's a great, big, wonderful spiritual universe out there, of which you are a part.
May the Force be with you.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
It's terrifying! Women are becoming the majority of the workforce. They're taking over businesses. In China, the proportion of businesses run by women almost matches their proportion of the population. No wonder China's such a miserable business failure! They're getting better academic qualifications too.
But don't worry gentlemen, we're still not allowing women to do the really important jobs. Governments and the judiciary remain firm bastions of male dominance, so women need not worry their pretty little heads about them. Just look what happened when Cherie Blair was allowed to do some judging! Even where women are allowed to work, we make sure they only get paid about 80% what a man gets paid.
I think Saint Paul summed all this up nicely. When he said "Wives, submit to your husbands" we're obviously not meant to take that literally. I think what he was clearly trying to say was, men and women should be equals and men shouldn't beat women up when they get angry.
Thursday, 8 July, 2010, 06:51 AM - Not TFTDWe all know that the Invisible Magic Friend likes a bit of a laugh. Who can forget his hilarious little tease of Job, or all the fun that his chosen people have enjoyed throughout history. But you do have to wonder if there isn't just a smidgeon of vindictiveness in there. The mayor of Leicester made himself a hero to atheists up and down the country by banning council meeting prayers. What happens next? He stands up to thank the organisers of a library show and his trousers fall down.
Let's hope he remembered to wear clean underwear.
I've had to forgo my regular early morning glass of sherry as I'm going to another very important inter-faith conference. We important people of faith will discuss how very similar we are to each other, how much we have in common, and how we can bring different faiths together in peace and harmony. Why they're not already living together in peace and harmony is a bit of a mystery. I pondered this while I was co-chair of the Interfaith Network (along with my fellow co-chair, Dr G L Bhan, and the four vice-chairs: Dr Manazir Ahsan MBE, Hon Barnabas Leith, Dr Indarjit Singh CBE and Mr Vivian Wineman - currently gongless). How is it, that with so much in common with one another, people of different faiths are so distrustful and suspicious of one another? I mean, it's not as if we separate them as children, teach them that all other faiths are wrong and their followers aren't as good as we are and that they must never have anything to do with other faiths, is it?
Why? Why, we will all be asking today as we enjoy the excellent buffet lunch normally provided at our regular interfaith meetings. Why did four young men, born and bred in this country, choose to indiscriminately blow up themselves and fellow passengers on the London Underground, even after so many interfaith meetings? It's a mystery that, to this day, remains unanswered. What could possibly have motivated them? Suffering racial prejudice? An identity crisis between their ancestral home in Pakistan and their adopted homeland in the UK? Why?
We know it can't be because of the Religion of Peace. Islam, which means "peace" by the way, is renowned for its relaxed and easy going attitude to just about everything. Muslims worldwide are always laughing off criticism or mockery of their religion, with a happy-go-lucky, live and let live, joke and a smile. So what could possibly have motivated them? Their suicidal fanaticism, so totally uncharacteristic of the Religion of Peace, is reminiscent of someone convinced that there's an afterlife and they'll be guaranteed endless virgins, unlimited sherry and as many cuddly toys as they can throw.
Perhaps someone at the inter-faith conference will be able to figure it out?
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.