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 today’s world. Hi.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us that brothers invariably kill, or at the very least, detest one another: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and everyone else. Eventually these petty little family squabbles break out into civil wars. Let's hope the Miliband brothers (who come from a musical family so large that they must be measured in thousandths of a Band) will bear no such animosity to one another.
Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, asked who is my brother or my sister? Why everyone is and wouldn't it be nice if we could all just get along? That's where great religions like Christianity really help out, bringing people together rather than dividing them along silly tribal or dogmatic lines.
Today, when one of the Thousandths of a Band brothers assumes the leadership of the Labour Party, and the other becomes his lowly slave, they will have the opportunity to lead by example. Unless Dianne Abbott gets it of course.
The 15th Robot World Cup was dominated by Far Eastern teams last week. Speculation is rife, that by 2050, these robots will be good enough to challenge human players.
As androids become more and more skilled and their cognitive abilities increase, philosophers will have new questions to address about the rights and expectations of electronic brains. Theologians will be tasked with important questions such as, do androids have souls.
The answer is "no" - the Koran says so.
Banks need to do things the right way, says Lord Turner. Many banks have been doing things the wrong way. People who thought they were really clever and had eliminated risk from their financial products, sold those products around the world. Well who's laughing now, eh? The markets collapsed and all those clever people had to say sorry. Then they gave us all the money back.
That's what happens when people do things the wrong way. The Nazis believed they could improve things by killing all the people they didn't like. With the benefit of hindsight, this turned out to be a wrong belief. Communists also believed they could make things better by killing large numbers of people. This also turned out to be the wrong belief.
I have to admit, that on occasion, the Church has sometimes tried to improve things by killing large numbers of people too. However, thanks largely to the fact that we're not allowed to do it any more, we have now come to believe that this is the wrong thing to do.
Banks, Nazis, Communists, and the Church gone past but not the Church today, have all believed wrong things. Experience tells us that it is much better to believe right things. Believing wrong things can have terrible consequences.
Has anyone mentioned Blessed Cardinal Newman yet? He was a very wise man who understood that we often believe wrong things and that it is much better to change our minds and believe right things. In fact he changed his mind about being an Anglican and became a Catholic, so he ended up believing the wrong things.
We have to constantly test our beliefs in the light of new evidence, just like the Church does.
Wednesday, 22 September, 2010, 08:14 AM - SacksRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? I got to meet him you know? It was very nice. We smiled and said "Hello" and said a few soothing words to each other.
Why were we all so nice, when we used to raise vast armies to fight wars and persecute one another? It would be nice to think that we had grown up and recognised a core of spirituality, but in reality, nobody much bothers about religion any more. We just can't muster the vast armies to wage war any more, so we've got no real option but to be nice to one another.
I think this is very nice. It brings the niceness back to religion, because religion isn't about being powerful. Apart from Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Judaism in the few brief centuries where it exercised real power, Christianity for the vast bulk of its history, the Islamic Caliphates of Baghdad, Cordoba and the Ottoman Empire, religion has never really been about power. It's all about helping poor people and being nice.
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. You'll recall I told you all about it last year and the year before that and the year before that. Happily, on each and every occasion there's been a major event that just so happens to perfectly illustrate the true meaning of Sukkot.
Hash anyone menshoned the Pope yet? (Hic!) Yesh the exshitement and plomp of the Pope'sh shtate visit's over and it's time to get back to the everyday, humdrum world of ex-bishopping.
Ishn't poverty just (Hic!) jusht terrible, eshpeshally when it'sh foreigners who are poor. I shaw a cartoon once you know. It washn't (Hic!) about poverty. It wash about thish bloke in a pinstripe suit bashing a wall down. And there wash thish other bloke. D'ye wanna know what he did? Well, I'll tell you what he did, he jusht shat there (Hic!) waiting for him to finish.
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking (Hic!) "Yesh, that'sh (Hic!) jusht like being poor that ish." That'sh what your thinking. And ye know what? You're right, absholutely shpot on you are.
There need'sh to be more help for poor people. All thish keeping people poor'sh jusht terrible it ish. Y'know it'sh (Hic!) not what God want'sh. No sirreee. God want'sh nobody to be poor any more. He want'sh evr'body to have a glash of sherry or two now and again.
Oh, yesh please. (Hic!)
Monday, 20 September, 2010, 07:16 AM - BillingsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the Pope or Cardinal Newman yet?
Cardinal Newman was a really, really important Anglican theologian, who changed the world forever with his ground breaking discoveries of new bits of theology. Then he became a Catholic and the Pope was so delighted that he made him a cardinal. The current Pope was even more delighted. So much so that he has now promoted Newman to being nearly a saint.
In today's godless, spiritual wilderness, where people aren't really that bothered about religion, it's difficult to understand what all the fuss was about. But back in more godly Victorian times, changing religion was a really big thing. To go from wearing an Anglican dress to wearing a Catholic dress was considered a betrayal. It meant the severing of friendships, the break up of families and the sowing of discord and bitterness. Them were the days!
Nowadays people seem to wander aimlessly from one religion to another and even in and out of religion altogether. There's no sense of loyalty to a particular brand any more. I've had people in my congregation from all sorts of weird, mangled versions of proper Christianity. I suppose they bring a kind of novelty in perspective.
There was even an agnostic in my church that came just to listen to the music and soak up the atmosphere. How bizarre! I'll never understand these unbelievers. I mean, why would anyone come to a church just for the music?
Cardinal Newman was seen crying outside his old church once. I like to think that this was him being miserable for being such a treacherous turncoat against proper Christianity.
Two events of major significance take place tomorrow. One is the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where the RAF denied air superiority to the Luftwaffe and so prevented a Nazi invasion of Britain. And that would be bad because the Nazis were all atheists. We know this because the Pope said so. The Pope even needs extra security because of the usual gangs of Algerian atheists and secularists trying to kill hem.
But enough about that. Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? Come to think of it, has anyone mentioned Cardinal Newman yet? The other great event is the beatification of John Henry Newman by the Pope. Yes, Cardinal Newman has done just enough miracles to get his foot on the ladder to sainthood. Newman was an intellectual. In fact he was so intellectual that he decided to become a Catholic. That's how intellectual he was.
Newman wrote about the primacy of conscience. We can all see what happens when people ignore their conscience. Hermann Goering even said that he had no conscience, Adolf Hitler (a famous atheist and secularist) was his conscience.
But what happens when a Catholic's conscience conflicts with what the Pope says? Fortunately, the Pope is told what to say by the Invisible Magic Friend and is therefore infallible. We know this because he told us it was so. Thanks to this, the Pope is never wrong and no Catholic conscience is ever troubled by a conflict with the Pope's teachings. All Catholics are in complete agreement with the Reichsführer on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, women priests and the fact that the entire German nation from 1939 to 1945 was entirely populated by atheists (except the young Joseph Ratzinger, who only pretended to be a Nazi atheist).
Friday, 17 September, 2010, 07:05 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet?
John Henry Newman wrote that paper arguments aren't that great. Truth comes from getting to know one another better. Well, as the Pope addresses MPs and both Catholic and Church of England bishops in Westminster Hall, the event will be filled with symbolism. You see, despite a few niggly little differences, over women priests, contraception, the authority of the Pope, whether I'm a real bishop or just a bloke who likes to dress up, we're really all one big happy Christian family.
Nowadays we get on like a house on fire. There's no need to burn, hang or decapitate one another any more. The Pope has stopped asking for his palaces back and we've stopped calling him the anti-Christ and the whore of Babylon.
It all started when Pope Paul VI said to Archbishop Ramsey, "I know you're not a real priest, but here's a pretty ring to make you feel better."
Jesus was a big fan of authority and would undoubtedly have approved of all these blokes in dresses getting together and being so nice to each other.
Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 07:33 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? Some bloke, from something that's not really a religion, dressed as a priest, was on about it earlier but he doesn't count. Good job I was around then.
So just to fill you in about a few details. Today the Pope will meet the Queen. This is a historic occasion because it is the first time the Pope has met the Queen. It's also a historic occasion because we've had a lot of history in the past.
It all started in the 4th century when the Roman Empire, including Britain, became Christian. Then things went down hill a bit after that but started to pick up again in the 7th century. Out of politeness we won't mention the 16th century, when all those not really religions got started.
Then came the 19th century, when a Catholic came here and made the country much better. He turned John Henry Newman from being a follower of the not really a religion into a proper person by making him a Catholic. Newman realised that the Pope was the holiest person on the planet, and not the Archbishop of Canterbury as he had previously, mistakenly, thought.
But what exactly is it about religious people, and by that I mean the whole Catholic Church, that makes us so much better than everyone else? Well, we have friends and family and a sense of community. This is what people who go around asking for rational arguments and evidence of the immaculate conception just don't understand. Unlike them, we have a heart.
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? I'll be getting to meet him you know? In order to understand how tremendously important this is for the Pope and me, I'll need to delve into a little bit of history.
First of all there was the Jewish faith, the original, and some would say best of the Abrahamic religions. Then came a kind of spin off, call "Christianity". It had three people who were all the same Invisible Magic Friend. The Christians thought their faith was a lot better than the Jewish one and couldn't understand why we didn't want to join it, so they decided to persecute us for a couple of millennia to see if they could change our minds.
Then came another spin off: Islam. They went back to just having one person as the Invisible Magic Friend. They thought their faith was a lot better than either Christianity or Judaism. They called themselves the religion of peace and invaded anyone who didn't agree with them.
Then there was the Holocaust. That hasn't been mentioned for a while, so I thought I better just bring that up. During the holocaust, one of the really nice Catholics helped a lot of Jews. He went on to become Pope John XXIII. You mustn't confuse him with the previous Pope John XXIII, who wasn't a nice man at all. Although the previous Pope John XXIII was really only Pope John XXII, since there had been no Pope John XX due to Pope John XIV also selfishly becoming Pope John XV.
Pope John XXIII (the nice one) decided to have a big meeting of bishops who came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church should be a bit more modern and nice. And so, after 2,000 years of persecuting the Jews, the Catholic Church concluded that Jews probably weren't going to change their minds after all and maybe it'd be best just to leave them alone.
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Yon Kipper is the Jewish Day of Atonement and it starts just when myself and other important faith leaders get to meet the Pope. Isn't that Just great? We're all friends now, which just goes to show how fantastic and really, really relevant, religion is today.