From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Bewilderingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Dictators are toppling all over North Africa. They're not toppling in Zimbabwe however. Robert Mugabe, a member of a totally different branch of Christianity, and therefore nothing to do with us, recently lost one of his political rivals in an "accident" - this tends to happen to his political rivals rather a lot.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is going to Zimbabwe next month, so that should sort things out. As well as sorting out Mugabe, he'll also want to deal with the renegade Anglican bishop, and full time Mugabe supporter, Nolbert Kunonga who likes to beat up Anglican priests for a hobby.
People seem to understand the concept of "justice" even when there is very little of it in their society. Anyone would think it was instinctive.
It says as much in the Old Tasty mint. Right there in the Psalms it says, "Oh your mighty incredibleness, could we have some justice please? It's just there hasn't been a lot of it about lately and if you could give us just a little bit, we'd praise you even more - not that we weren't going to praise you an awful lot anyway."
So there you have it, it says in the Big Book of Magic Stuff that people yearn for law and order, so it must be true.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Staggeringly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
And in breaking news, we can announce that the Roman Empire has fallen. I repeat, the Roman Empire has fallen.
The great Libyan city of Leptis Magna now lies in ruins. As I'm sure you will all recall, North Africa was the bread basket of the Roman Empire. It was intellectually rich too as it had many Christians even before it became officially Christian. These great Christian intellectuals, intellectualised a great deal about Christianity. It's thanks to them that Christianity is as intellectual as wot it is today.
One citizen of Leptis Magna even went on to become Roman Emperor: Septimius Severus. He died at York. He told his sons, "Get on with each other, be generous to your soldiers and scorn everyone else." Septimius Severus, despite coming from North Africa, which was just packed full of Christian intellectuals, was not himself a Christian intellectual and so can safely be ignored.
Libya shows a shocking lack of Christian intellectuals these days. The new leaders of Libya should take some advice from the New Tasty mint, where Saint Paul wittered on, as ever, about Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Here we have no enduring city, but wait for the city that is to come.
The fall of the Roman Empire reminds us that all things pass. Fortunately, its great Christian intellectual tradition didn't die with it and I am still here to remind you of it.
New guidelines for school trips have just been released. Teachers are recommended that they use their common sense in relation to pupil safety. The previous 150 page guidelines dwarfed the ten commandments, although the Big Book of Magic Stuff as a whole was rather larger.
Children have to be allowed to take risks. Sticking their hands in boiling water teaches them that steam contains a lot of energy. Sinking below the water in a bath reveals Archimedes principle. Injecting themselves with pus from cow diseases will eventually allow them to discover the benefits of vaccination.
I took a risk once. My children persuaded me to try out a water chute at a water park. As I careered down the chute, the words of the great Kierkegaard came to mind "Weeeeee!!!" I took this risk because I had faith, faith in the engineers that constructed the water chute.
In a similar vein, the protesters in Syria are taking risks. Like me, they too have faith, faith that together they can dismantle dictatorship and build a new tomorrow. You see what a good thing "faith" is. Saint Paul agreed with me about this, so I must be right. As we're all agreed that "faith" in general is such a good thing, faith in an Invisible Magic Friend must be a good thing too.
I've mentioned engineers, scientists, naturalists, theologians and saints. I've just got time to throw in a quick philosopher: Plato.
It's people who take risks that make the future. If bankers hadn't taken risks with other people's money, where would we be today?
Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 08:37 AM - JamesRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
And in today's reflection on the news from a faith perspective, I'm going to be meeting some future priests today! Why do people still want to become Church of England clergy? Is it the comfortable accommodation? The guaranteed pension? The constant invitations to weddings, wakes and other ceremonies with tea and sandwiches? The fancy dress? The Church of England is certainly not fashionable or glamorous. As churches go, it's one of the dullest there is. You wouldn't believe how drab and uninteresting the Church of England is.
Like teachers, lawyers and doctors, priests are professional people with a vocation, a calling. Teachers have a calling to pass on learning, lawyers have a calling to squeeze as much money out of their clients as possible, doctors have a calling to heal the sick. It's the same with priests. Not everyone wants some amateur humanist performing their funeral, eating their cucumber sandwiches and sipping their Earl Grey. They want a fully trained professional who knows how to hold a sandwich properly, who knows how to sip tea without making those horrible slurping noises, who doesn't get nervous around fine bone china tea cups.
Church of England priests do all this because they love their jobs. They don't do it for the money or the prestige, or the fact that they get to come on the Today Programme and tell everybody that they don't do it for the money or the prestige. It's such a shame that the people who do things simply for the sake of it aren't appreciated any more. The word "amateur" should be cherished and celebrated... er... except in connection with funerals, where you definitely want a trained professional and not some clumsy amateur who just does it because they like doing it.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Swashbucklingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
A recent study suggests that women need to speak more forthrightly in the testosterone filled environment of British board rooms. There is also evidence to suggest that women are less risky investors.
It's not so much this alleged male/female divide that should concern us. As a Swashbucklingly Reverend Lord Bishop, what bothers me is that aggressive, spontaneous style of leadership is regarded as decisive and strong, when more thoughtful, questioning management is thought of as weak and dithering.
Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, sometimes chose a male style of leadership and sometimes a female style. It all depended what sort a mood he was in really. "I'm God, so you just do what I tell you to," he would sometimes say. At other times he preferred to maintain his air of mystery and ineffableness by answering a question with a question and not really saying anything. Then there was his famous self deprecating style. "I'm such a lousy visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend," he would say. "I'm not at all sure I'm going to be any good at dying to save the world."
We need more leaders like Jesus in our investment banks.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Flamboyantly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
After 10 years, several hundred thousand lives lost, several trillion dollars spent, Osama Bin Laden is finally dead. Many people have been out partying and generally having a good time celebrating his death, something which I find in very poor taste.
It's not very fashionable to talk about "sin" these days, so I won't. The last thing I want to do is appear unfashionable. So let's talk about "evil" instead. It seems to be perfectly acceptable to describe people as evil these days and not at all unfashionable. Newspapers often refer to murderers or paedophiles as "pure evil." This is a theological claim, so I presume these headlines are drawn up by the papers' resident theologians, illustrating once again the vital importance of theology in everyday life.
This brings us to the important question: was Osama Bin Laden the personification of pure evil? Note that being the personification of pure evil is more than just being bad. On the scale of badness, being the personification of pure evil is as bad as you can get. This is more than forgetting your anniversary bad. It's more than not going to church on Sunday bad. It really is very bad indeed. It's so bad, that as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you start looking for evil things to do, because you're just so bad.
To answer this question we turn to Saint Augustine, everyone's favourite 5th century Carthaginian theologian. Through his detailed theological investigations, Saint Augustine was able to discover that evil is caused by people being free to be evil. It's not a tangible thing. You can't go down to the shops and ask for half a pound of the best pure evil. Evil is caused by people doing evil things. That's what evil is.
If Osama Bin Laden was the personification of pure evil, then he just couldn't help doing evil things. So we shouldn't think of Osama Bin Laden as being the personification of pure evil. He was secretly a little bit good, but occasionally decided to do something that was pure evil.
Let us not gloat over Osama Bin Laden's death. Instead, let us pray to the Invisible Magic Friend, that some good will come from the death of this occasionally pure evil man.
One in four Britons will see their 100th birthday. Yet this startling fact was not greeted with the expected glee. When teenagers were asked if they were looking forward to being 100, surprisingly few of them said yes.
What these teenagers fail to think of is all the lovely wisdom they'll collect on their way to being 100. I've collected 60 years worth of wisdom myself and am now so wise that they made me a Lord. Of course, not everyone accumulates wisdom at the same rate, which is why not everyone gets to be a Lord like me. Jesus, for example, was the wisest person there ever was. He was so wise that they had to crucify him. He was only 33 when he died.
Oh, Happy Good Friday by the way! This is the day when we celebrate the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend being tortured to death, which is why we call it "Good" Friday.
Methuselah - he was very old indeed and so was probably very wise, assuming he didn't suffer from dementia.
The Invisible Magic Friend is the Ancient of Days. That really does make him incredibly wise. He definitely doesn't have dementia. You wouldn't believe how wise that makes him. He's even wiser than me - that's how wise he is.
Of course you don't have to be old to be wise. Many people become wise through suffering. Suffering can be a tremendous way to acquire wisdom. If you suffer for a very long time and grow old suffering, just think how much of that lovely wisdom you'll have.
Tuesday, 8 February, 2011, 08:23 AM - JamesRating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
The book What's Mine is Yours describes the internet phenomenon of hiring out goods that are otherwise being unused: renting a room, hiring a bicycle or a car from someone else.
We all have such unused goods. The average power drill gets used for just 12 minutes in its lifetime, so it makes sense to share what we've got. ebay alone trade £1,800 every second. We buy goods we've never seen from people we've never met and send them the money first. The internet has built trust in a world where it's been diminishing in almost every other way.
Having exclusive access to our own goods used to be seen as a sign of our independence. As the population rises, with much of the world's wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, collaborative consumption makes sense. Of course, religious communities invented collaborative consumption long before the internet arrived. It makes everyone equal before the Invisible Magic Friend. The first Christians all did this, until Christianity went mainstream, when most Christians decided they weren't going to share any more.
The vast majority of ebay users have discovered that you really can put your faith in other human beings.
Tuesday, 1 February, 2011, 08:09 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned Antony Gormley recently? It's certainly been a while, so how about I mention his new sculpture in Canterbury Cathedral. It's a model of the human body that looks a bit like Pinhead from Hellraiser, only with a few more nails in it.
A lot of people don't like their bodies, and to be honest if it feels like Antony Gormley's new sculpture, who can blame them. Don't be taken in by the fashion models, the movie stars and the sporting athletes. We can't all look like that. Learn to love your bodies. Caress it, run your hand down your soft, smooth thigh, make it feel wanted. If you're short, fat and baldy with an interesting skin condition, be proud of your appearance.
Gormley's Pinhead stands above the tomb of Thomas Becket, who wore a hair-shirt to make himself feel uncomfortable and stop all those terrible carnal desires. He probably felt a bit like Pinhead himself. I can't imagine where some clerics got such strange ideas from. Saint Paul was a big fan of the human body and was always encouraging Christians to go out and fondle one another.
Friday, 17 September, 2010, 08:05 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.