Tuesday, 6 September, 2011, 08:21 AM - TilbyRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
British security services aided in the rendition and torture of one of the Libyan rebels, despite always denying any such involvement. That MI5 should be so duplicitous comes as a great shock.
This damages us politically, but also because it challenges our values. Baroness Elizabeth Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, stated that torture was against the law, but was also immoral and wrong. She maintained this even when it was suggested that torture might save lives.
Many of us claim to support free speech, human rights and the rule of law, but when our own self interests, or our lives are under threat, we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", are quick to make exceptions.
It isn't easy being a Christian you know, which I expect is why so many less dedicated people give it up. For example, Christians like me must follow Jesus' words, that anyone who saves their life will lose it, but anyone who loses it will gain it, but only if they lose it while gaining it for him, i.e. Jesus. If they lose it for any other reason, i.e. other than Jesus, then they've lost it and they don't get to gain it after all. Saving it for him, i.e. Jesus, doesn't count as saving it and you still lose it, even though you saved it for him, i.e. Jesus, and not for yourself.
So, as you can see, Jesus was all in favour of standing by our values.
Monday, 5 September, 2011, 08:41 AM - WilkinsonRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's coming up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It's important to hear the individual stories of all the thousands who died on that day and in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, although it's very unlikely you'll hear many personal stories from the victims of the wars.
There are also personal stories from the people affected by the recent riots. Their personal stories are important too.
This is where the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend is so important. You see the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend really cares. He listens to everybody's problems and them mostly ignores them.
As the psalmist said, "Oh Invisible Magic Friend, hear what a rotten time I'm having." And then in another psalm, "I'm sure you were listening before, but I still seem to be having a rather rotten time. You really are just fantastic you know." Then in yet another psalm, "OK, I know you're really busy, but if you could just help a little bit with the really rotten time I'm having. Praise be to you, you're wonderful, you really are, I'm not just saying that."
Jesus, the visible bit of the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend, spent lots and lots of time listening. It just so happens that the New Tasty mint mostly describes the time that he spent talking.
The personal stories of the victims of apartheid are really important. Lots of Christian South Africans listened to their really important stories, just like Jesus.
So if you get the chance this week, listen to the personal stories of the 9/11 victims.
Sunday, 4 September, 2011, 07:33 AM - Clemmies
Not a lot to choose from this month. Must be the holiday season
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad went on about Ramadan and how holy it made Muslims.
Rev Rob Marshall managed to squeeze in three separate points.
1. Young people wouldn't go rioting if they were Christian.
2. Isn't Pope Benedict just fantastic?
3. Russell Brand thinks things should be more spiritual.
Any one of these would normally rate a 5 out of 5. To include all three really is a special work of genius.
Rev Roy Jenkins told us how dangerously delusional Anders Breivik was, before explaining the importance of the Invisible Magic Friend.
Respectable efforts by Murad and Jenkins, but Marshall was in a class of his own this month. He walks nonchalantly away with this month's Clemmie.
There aren't enough houses in Britain. Last year we built the fewest houses since the 1920s. Some people own their homes. Others would like to to own a home, but they haven't got the money. Some are trying to save the money but aren't quite there yet. Some of the people who've managed to get themselves a nice home in a nice area, don't want any more homes built there, spoiling the nice area.
Where your home is is important to people. It was important to people in the past, whether they lived in an isolated dwelling, a hamlet, a village, a small town, a slightly larger town, a small city, a big city, or a vast metropolis. It's important to people today too.
You'll recall that Jesus of Nazareth came from somewhere. It was a place called Nazareth. That's why we call him Jesus of Nazareth, owing to him coming from Nazareth. Many other famous religious people came from places too.
In a place like Britain, I think everyone should have a right to a home. Otherwise they won't have anywhere to come from. Some people are just getting married and moving into their new homes. I do weddings you know. Other people die. They usually move out of their home when they die, making it available for somebody else who has saved long enough to get the deposit. Their invisible magic bits then move into their new, eternal, home, where they'll be happy forever, or possibly not. I do funerals as well you know.
With all the public sector cuts, in the health service, the police and the armed forces, we naturally think of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: for everything there is a season. The government really ought to wait for the proper season to make people redundant.
It's all the fault of the banks. The government wants to split the steady, level headed, retail aspects of banking away from the risky, reckless, casino aspects of investment banking. Some bankers have threatened to take their casinos elsewhere and let some other government insure them against collapse.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff is quite clear on this: thou shalt not use capital from retail savings to invest in futures, derivatives or exotic financial instruments devised by rocket scientists and that no one really understands. If only the banks had followed this simple advice from the Invisible Magic Friend, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff remains as relevant as ever.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Years ago, a Muslim friend who had died, had expressed a wish to be buried in India. This caused some concern among UK friends and relatives. How could they pay their respect?
Yet there are other ways to pay respect to the dead, as we see in the people of Wootton Bassett. Now the military cortèges will no longer pass through the town, one resident remarked that maybe the town will be a little happier.
Individuals and communities are not defined by their deaths or by passed conflicts, but by their willingness to forgive the past and move forward.
I celebrated Eid in Yorkshire with my brothers and sisters, their partners and their children. Old tensions were soon forgotten. In the end it is always better to forgive, we will be happier for it. More important still, it creates a happier future for our children.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, councillor Susan McCaffery, a self-confessed Christian, tabled a motion at Billericay town council to introduce prayers at the start of the council meetings.
"When you see the stories about the stock market crash, when you get the riots, the killing, if you have not got God what have you got? I just felt it was so apt," said Ms McCaffery.
The London Stock Exchange must be kicking itself. All those billions knocked off shares. If only Billericay town council had had the foresight to introduce prayers to their meetings, the impending economic collapse could all have been avoided. And what about all those riots in Billericay? Er - there weren't any, despite it's obstinately decadent, secular council.
"If you are contacting God in your deliberations you have His wisdom and guidance in the decisions that you make," she said.
Presumably the council just tosses a coin the rest of the time in order to make decisions.
The chair of the council, John Buchanan, another self-confessed, pointed out that the House of Commons always starts with prayers, and we all know how honourable, upright and careful with taxpayers' money they are .
The council very sensibly defeated the motion by seven votes to three.
"I was a little disappointed, it is something that is part of our tradition," said Mr Buchanan, even though it isn't part of their tradition and never has been.
Wishing to offer a compromise to the poor persecuted Christians, Councillor Edgar Guest suggested that those who wanted to pray could arrive at the meeting early to do so. A perfectly sensible solution you might think, but local Christians don't seem to think so.
One Christian commented that Britain was "like a despotic communist country" for not forcing people to pray to the Christian god.
Another wrote that he was "disgusted", and that "These sorts of attitudes only create cultural divides and alienate the Christian population of this country and those who uphold our time-honoured traditions."
So apparently Christians are feeling disgusted and alienated because they can't force everyone else to pray. But even feeling disgusted and alienated was not enough. A letter in today's local newspaper, expresses "dismay at Billericay council's decision to abandon prayers at council meetings," which of course they haven't - they've simply voted not to introduce them. "One of the ideas behind prayer is to subvert one's own petty bigotries," said the dismayed, disgusted, alienated Christian, "and self-seeking ambitions to a superior will known as God. In my experience politicians are not very good at doing that."
I think the writer may be confusing the debauched Billericay town councillors with its former MP, Harvey Proctor, a notoriously right wing Tory until he was forced to resign in disgrace after his S&M sessions with teenage boys. He was on the Executive Council of the Conservative Monday Club, one of whose values is "The embracing of Christian teaching and morals."
Pay no attention to that man yesterday who said you were never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you are with a beggar. In fact you are never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you are in the countryside, with or without beggars. The countryside is where people are the most spiritual, which makes you wonder why we bother having churches.
There's a big fuss just now about building more electricity pylons in the countryside. The countryside isn't really the countryside, it's more a sort of agricultural industrial landscape. Hedged fields and thatched cottages are not what nature originally intended. They were created by humans and must be tended by humans in our efforts to tame nature and feed ourselves.
I may not be a fully paid up member of the Pylon Appreciation Society, but I like pylons: great big brooding metal giants bringing heat and light into our homes. Many of you may even by listening to Thought For The Day thanks to the power provided by a nearby pylon, and if that isn't an argument in their favour then I don't know what is.
I'd just like to finish an otherwise mostly sensible piece by talking about "communion", the City of the Invisible Magic Friend and the Garden of Eden.
Good morning Justin, good morning John and good morning to you all.
Well, back in the good old days of World War II, I was evacuated from my cosy East End flat to the countryside. The countryside was horrible. It had all these big wide open, spaces covered in green stuff and it was full of animals. I can't tell you what a relief it was to get back home to The Blitz.
I learned all I need to know in the University of Life, on Whitechapel High Street. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive? I don't think I have, so I'll mention it now: it feels better to give than to receive. You don't believe me? Honestly it does. If you've never given anything before, give it a go, you'll be amazed how good it feels.
In the good old days, when hot buttered scones could be bought at a dozen for a farthing, my granny used to tell me that you're never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you meet a beggar. Who would have thought that the Invisible Magic Friend would be accompanied by such a distinctive aroma? In the good old days there were rather a lot of beggars on Whitechapel High Street. I believe they still have them in the more godly parts of eastern Europe.
You should never pass a beggar without giving them a penny. In the good old days this consumed all my pocket money, but I felt better for giving it away. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive?
Anyway, let's end with a little joke. A woman meets a beggar and the beggar tells her he hasn't eaten in three days. "Force yourself," she tells him. "Force yourself."