We can't keep putting more and more people in prison, says Ken Clarke.
What's prison for? Punishment? Justice? At this point I'd just like to quote Portia (she's a character from the Merchant of Venice, that's a play by William Shakespeare - a very famous Elizabethan playwright, whom we classically educated people know off by heart). She says,
"For, as thou urgest justice, be assured
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest."
Many of the people in prison were brought up in care, or have mental health problems or learning difficulties. Obviously human beings can't take this into account, which is why we just stick them all in prison. Only the Invisible Magic Friend can look after them properly. On the Day Of Judgement he'll have a good look at their probation reports and take any disadvantages that he gave them in childhood into account before committing them to eternity in hell fire. So that's the justice argument out of the way.
Then there's prevention. If all the criminals are locked up then they can't be committing crimes, can they? Trouble is, this is exactly the same argument that people use to lock up anyone who might commit a crime. I would give you some references for the people who are always saying this, but shortage of space prevents me.
Finally there is rehabilitation. People can change and very often prison is a good place to keep them until they do. If they're really lucky they'll discover Jesus and be born again. I expect this is why there are so many Christians in prison.
Shum times you jusht have to compromise (hic!). I mean, take women bishopsh. Shum people, on a matter of prinshipal, they think (hic!) they think, on princpipal, that women are jusht the shame ash men and of course they can be bishops. OK, they can't quite handle their sherry the way we men can (hic!), but 'part frum that, they're jusht ash good ash blokes.
Then there are shum other people. They think (hic!), they think women are jusht as good ash men, jusht as intelligensh, jusht ash capibible. They jusht can't be bishopsh, that'sh all. It'sh not b'cause they're bigoted or any'fin like that. No, no, they say so on prinpineapple ash well (hic!). It'sh a theologicable thing you she. God shaid only men can be bishops. Well, he doesn't actually shay it, obvioushly, but all the bishopsh for the lasht two thoushand years 'ave all been men. They've made the Shursh of England what she ish today (hic!).
Sho now we're gonna get shum women bishops. An' cosh on princh'bl they don't want'em (hic), they 'fretn'd to fro out all the cuddly toy'sh, 'cos they're so prince (hic!) princessabled. Sho we've compr'ised. Tho'sh that want women bishopsh 'll get'em, but tho'sh that don't on prinz'bl 'll get shum other bishop.
That'sh called being principled you she?
Saying sorry is so important. I really can't stress how much it matters to say "sorry". Michael Gove has said "sorry", and a jolly good thing too. Maybe politicians should say "sorry" a bit more often.
Then again maybe they shouldn't. We might not feel like forgiving them. But forgiving other people is also a jolly good thing. In the Invisible Magic Friend's prayer, it says that we should forgive others. Before that prayer was invented, no one had ever thought to forgive anyone. Naturally we just want to throttle other people. That's what nature's like - nothing nice or kind or good ever comes naturally. We can only forgive people by being spiritual, which we are, so we can.
Pre-recording apologies for things you're going to do to people is not a good thing. That smacks of insincerity. When the train company announces that they're "Sorry for the inconvenience caused" by stranding you in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, they're not really sorry. They will go to hell for not really being sorry and not caring whether you forgive them or not.
Some people don't forgive people who are sorry. I have no wish to judge them as I have no idea what they haven't forgiven, but that is a very bad thing indeed. It is not very spiritual at all.
So if you want to be a bit less natural and a bit more spiritual, go ahead, have a go at forgiving someone over something.
Monday, 12 July, 2010, 04:14 AM - Not TFTDA new blog has started, sending up The Times' Credo column. Can't think where an idea like that might have come from.
Looks like it might be fun.
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in todayís world. Hi.
It's a beautiful sunny summer morning. The sky is cloudless and blue, the roses are in full bloom and the birds are singing their little hearts out. So I'd like to ask you, have you considered your own death lately?
Several people have. Seve Ballesteros has. The writer Mike Riddell has thought about it too. He says we should practise dying, so that when the big day comes we'll be ready for it.
We have to prepare ourselves because dying is just so awful. Leaving our bodies so that our invisible magic bit can live for ever in eternal happiness in heaven, where we are reunited with all our friends and relatives who have gone on before, is just too utterly dreadful to contemplate. In the Big Book of Magic Stuff Jesus says we should hate life. I think this just reinforces my message that we should be so very, very sad to leave it.
It's this entirely consistent view of death and the afterlife that assures us Christians that we have such a firm grip on reality.
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).