Homer Simpson says the Bible doesn't have any answers. He is of course entirely correct. However the Bible does say that you should look after widows and orphans. Obviously this is not meant to be taken literally and refers to all manufacturers of dairy produce. In particular, it means that you should be nice to poor people. I know this because I'm sure that's what it means.
The modern theological term, "preferential option for the poor", means "be nice to poor people". From this profound insight we learn that we should be nice to poor people. Not everyone works in the city or has been able to find work as a distinguished religious commentator. All you people who are not nice to poor people should read the bible more, from which you will deduce that you should be nice to poor people. Except poor people that the state is nice to. They are disabled benefits scroungers who deprive you of your biblical right to be nice to poor people and are subhuman trash that you should spit on.
So you see the Bible actually does have answers for everything and what I said at the start was really just a rhetorical device to make me sound like a modern, reasonable, sceptical, non-Bible thumper.
Sunday, 4 October, 2009, 07:57 AM - Not TFTDThe Catholic Church in Africa is acutely aware of our continent's many and severe problems: war, hunger, disease, especially HIV infection, religious and tribal rivalry. With a view to addressing these manifest problems and inspired by the Holy Spirit and the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Synod of African Bishops therefore resolves as follows.
- To educate Catholic congregations and make available to them, sensible family planning methods.
- To encourage the use of condoms as the most effective proven method of preventing HIV infection.
- To uphold a woman's right to choose when and if to bear children.
- To give women equal rights and an equal voice both within the ministry of the Church and without, to the extent of all priestly offices of the church.
- To recognise that the vow of celibacy taken by priests is an unreasonable and largely unattainable goal and that priests should therefore be free to marry and have the same healthy and enjoyable partnership as all God's children.
- To ensure that, where a priest abuses his or her position of trust and is accused of abuse of any child, that that priest will immediately be handed over to the civilian authorities and the civilian authorities shall be given the full cooperation of the Church. The safety and rights of the victim will, in all circumstances, come before the reputation of the Church.
- To celebrate love in all its forms whether heterosexual or homosexual and to ensure that equal rights and opportunities are enjoyed by all.
- To make the Church more democratic and accountable to its members.
- To make it clear that no human being, or institution comprising human beings, is infallible and to humbly apologise for past wrongs.
- To welcome people of all faiths and none, recognising that all people are equal and that no sacraments or special prayers are needed to be a good person deserving the same respect as any other.
Well done Rio! But saying you're going to do something and doing it are very different things. Look at the problems London is having sorting out transport. Obviously, people as important as the International Olympic Committee can't be expected to slum it for two whole weeks in the East End of London where the games actually are. So they've block booked the Dorchester, thus making it necessary to reserve all the roads between Hyde Park and Stratford for their exclusive use.
We always get these little problems when we take on commitments. As the bishop used to say to me. "Why did I agree to do this? Have you any idea how much work is involved in a hard day's bishoping?" As the poet said, "Why did I become a poet? Have you any idea how much work there is in a hard day's poeting?" Saint Paul agreed. "Why did I agree to do this? Have you any idea how much work is involved in a hard day's monotheistic religion founding?"
And cynicism is a bad thing.
Faith in people, by which I mean faith in the Invisible Magic Friend is a good thing.
Join me next week for some more random, disconnected good and bad things.
Let's talk about the tragedy unfolding in Indonesia. Was that enough? Good.
There's a big Jewish festival coming up! Gosh there's so much to say. We'll be going to live in our holy huts, being holy for a couple of days. It recalls the 40 years the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert, because the one thing the Jewish faith doesn't do is dwell on the past, even a fictional one.
Why do bad things happen? Why isn't the Invisible Magic Friend nicer? Our holy huts offer no easy answers. In fact they offer no answers at all. It's all about deluding ourselves that the Invisible Magic Friend loves us, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It's about sticking our heads in the sand and denying the obvious. It's about pretending that the resilience of the human spirit is predicated on a belief in the supernatural. In other words, it's all about faith. That's why we have to go live in our huts for a couple of days. See?
The Invisible Magic Friend isn't going to come and provide assistance to the people of Sumatra. Anyone who thinks that is just being silly, but let's hope He's there anyway, which He is, looking around at the devastation He has brought, safe in the knowledge of a job well done.
Thursday, 1 October, 2009, 01:03 PM - ClemmiesThe competition from our contributors has been truly superb this month, with a an excellent level of platitudinousness from many of them. It's been slightly spoiled by one or two who have produced moderately sensible thoughts that have been scarcely platitudinous at all. To them I can only say this, you're letting your listeners down, you're letting the side down but most of all, you're letting yourselves down.
As is traditional I will announce the top three in reverse order. However, such was the standard this month that I really do feel that honorary mentions are due to the following.
Chief Rabbit Sir Jonathan Sacks for his The one thing the Jewish faith doesn't do is dwell on the past.
Reverend Lucy Winkett, Canon Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral, for her Wearing clothes is evil, no it isn't, well possibly, or maybe not.
Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham for his A remembrance service in a Cathedral? Who'd have thought it?
Congratulations to the above, all of whom scored a highly respectable 3.9, and to those who didn't make it into the top three, better luck next time. And now, with all due solemnity, let us move to the important business of this month's prestigious Clemmie award.
In third place, with 56 votes from the Academy and a top notch score of 4, is Wallopingly Reverend Tom Butler, Lord Bishop of Southwark with his How to choose an Aposhle? (Hic!)
In second place, with 107 votes and what would normally qualify as a winning score of 4.3, we have Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge and his Some people will believe any old rubbish.
But with a truly astonishing 172 votes and a record breaking score of 4.9, it is my honour to present this month's Clemmie to:
Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham and his God provides no evidence that He exists, thus proving that He exists.
Well done Rev Dr Dr Wilkinson. His achievement is all the more remarkable for being a new boy on TFTD. I think this demonstrates beyond all doubt, the value of having two PhDs.
Thursday, 1 October, 2009, 08:23 AM - TilbyRating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
Adjectives are just a bunch of show offs. They flaunt themselves shamelessly in political speeches, business and town hall mission statements and on government web sites. Speaking of which, I have to link this to recent events somehow. Let me see, the nearly Supreme Court starts work today, with the same judges, with the same powers, presiding over the same cases as they did before, but now in a completely different building across the road. They're run by the Ministry of Justice which has a web site and the web site has adjectives on it. The hussies, they get everywhere.
That's why, in really important documents, like scientific papers and the Bible, you don't get endless lists of meaningless buzzword bingo adjectives. You get good, proper, decent, hard working words, like nouns and verbs, doing their best to uphold meaning in sentences. OK, you might get the occasional "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the bible, but you can never get too many holies.
As we listen to politicians making their speeches in party conference season, try cutting out all the adjectives and see what's left.
The story of Fiona and Frankie Pilkington is a harrowing one. Literally hounded to death by yobs, the details of their ordeal is almost too difficult to listen to. It is too easy to say that this is just another example of Broken Britain and to blame the police and social services for neglect, but I blame the police and social services for neglect. Naturally we feel uncomfortable about such stories. After all, which of us hasn't nearly hounded someone to death at some point? I know I have, you must have too. This, of course was before I became a famous writer, celebrity and Christian and thus qualified to lecture you all on morality.
I'm now a respectable chap
And shine with a virtue resplendent.
Although I still can't be bothered with that weirdo neighbour of mine who gets you into long conversations about all his problems. Everybody in the street knows who I'm talking about. They'll be nodding their heads as they hear this on the radio this morning. I may be a famous writer, celebrity and Christian, but I'm not that Christian. All of you on the other hand, who've got nothing much to do with your lives, ought to take a bit more interest in your local community and look out for vulnerable neighbours.
Saint Paul says so, so I guess it must be a good idea.
wonderful lectures on theoretical physics. I just want to publicly thank Prof. Susskind. It takes a tremendous amount of work to put those lectures together. He'll never know the joy that all that work is bringing to people like me. I'd like to try and explain some of it in a relatively non-mathematical way.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, the international director of Micah Challenge
I'm here today to tell the people of the UK that it's OK to vote Democrat. Don't be embarrassed about it. Come out of the closet. Some of my best friends are Democrats. If you're into gay "rights", or a woman's right to choose, or scientists experimenting on babies, or providing healthcare to lazy, poor people, then please, please don't worry. I'm sure Jesus will eventually forgive you.
I flew to the States recently, as we busy, jet setting International Directors of Micah Challenge do, to speak to another evangelical Christian. He whispered to me in confidence that even he had voted Democrat once - a confidence that I am happy to share with you all. It is simply not true that because the Republican party is the only party of morality that it is sinful to vote Democrat.
As a Reverend Doctor (Hon) Doctor (Hon), let me just assure you that the Invisible Magic Friend is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. The Invisible Magic Friend can find ways to work, even through a Democrat administration. We people of faith, and remember, faith is so important, can still insinuate our beliefs into every corner of public policy. And if you have remained true to the good, upright, moral teachings of the Republican party, I feel I must wag my finger at you and point out that you should not, I repeat not, attempt to assassinate the President of the United States. That would be a very naughty thing indeed.
Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, 07:37 AM - Not TFTDThere's a big atheist festival coming up. Tomorrow is Blasphemy Day International. As a Reverend Doctor I couldn't possibly give my blessing to such a ridiculous celebration. So I don't want any of you coming on here denying the Holy Spirit, or posting links to blasphemous pictures of a well known prophet, or making any jokes about "the disciple that Jesus loved", or pointing out that the well known prophet had a predilection for young girls that made Roman Polanski look respectable. Got that?
(OK - I might be prepared to say "I deny the Holy Spirit", but there's absolutely no way you're ever going to get me to look in a mirror and say "Candyman" five times.)