Oliver McTernan here, from the NGO Forward Thinking, a proactive, demand-driven, facilitative organisation that works to promote in the UK greater understanding and confidence between the diverse grassroots Muslim communities and the wider society including the Media and the British establishment, to promote a more inclusive peace process in the Middle East, and to facilitate a global dialogue between the religious and secular worlds. Hi.
Climate change is really, really, really bad. I mean really bad. Some think this is all the fault of Genesis, where humans are given dominion over creation. But I prefer to ignore this bit and concentrate on its instruction to act as stewards of the planet, which it definitely implies, in a roundabout sort of way, somewhere. I just find it difficult to believe that changes in my own lifestyle can make any difference. What about all those Chinese, selfishly making things for us? Or all those big fat Americans? I think they need to cut back first.
The Copenhagen summit gives world leaders the chance to sit down and work together, laying all national and ideological agendas aside, cooperating for the sake of the planet. Finally, we'll all agree meaningful incentives to cut consumption, waste and energy use, no matter how painful it may be personally or to our economies, taking the short term pain necessary to secure our long term future. Yep, I'm sure that's what'll happen.
The trial of Radovan Karadzic refocuses the world on the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. But while we refocus on this, let us not forget that it isn't just Muslims who get massacred. In 1984 we Sikhs were massacred too, in retaliation for two Sikhs murdering Indira Gandhi, in retaliation for the storming of the Golden Temple, then occupied by alleged Sikh extremists, who just happened to be in possession of a large cache of automatic weapons, anti-tank missiles and rocket launchers at the time. Not only that, but they were forced to unleash all this weaponry that they found lying around inside the temple on a day that is much holier than most other days. I should point out, that despite the subsequent massacre of Sikhs, there were still some nice Hindus.
We Sikhs, as with all great religions, aren't ones to dwell on the past, endlessly going over old scores, using events of the past to keep alive old rivalries and bitter inter-religious feuds. We've been not dwelling on the past since Guru Nanak witnessed the first massacre of Sikhs, this time by Muslims rather than Hindus, in the 16th century. The ninth guru even went so far as to die protecting Hindu rights. That's right, when Muslims were trying to impose Islam on both Hindus and Sikhs, and they faced a common enemy, Guru Tegh Bahadur even went so far as to stand up for people of the wrong religion. This is another historical event that we don't dwell upon and certainly don't hold against modern Muslims, or resent the betrayal of their ungrateful Hindu descendants. We don't do any of that. I just thought I'd mention it, that's all.
The sad thing about all these inter-faith massacres, is that they'll happen again and again until people of all faiths learn to live in happy co-existence with one another, which I'm sure is bound to happen one day.
The Church of England is the great compromiser. It is both Catholic and Protestant, even though both Catholics and Protestants say otherwise. It is the Liberal Democrats of religion, taking neither one position nor the other, but always seeking a happy middle ground. It allowed people of all varieties of Christian faith to worship together, except for real Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Puritans and dozens of other non-conformist faiths, many of whom emigrated to America where they could impose their own religious dogma on everybody.
Apart from the odd persecution of heretics and the occasional civil war, it was a compromise that worked well. England became a happy, contented nation, where religion was largely ignored. Now however, religion is back, doing what it does best, dividing people from one another.
As the world heads for its peak population and faces the crises of peak oil, peak global warming, peak everything, as the national debt spirals into the trillions, as the recession continues and unemployment heads inexorably ever higher, the Church of England is tearing itself apart over the most pressing issue of our times: is it possible for women to inhabit middle management roles? This is very important. Not letting women into middle management is a matter of principle. Just how do we accommodate people who think women are second class humans?
Hundreds of my fellow priests are being driven to drastic action as they realise the full horror that they may have to take instructions from a woman. They may be forced to give up being a compromise and actually become real Catholics - a church where women know their place. This is such a tragedy. We'll be losing all our misogynists to another Catholic Church. It almost makes you want to cry. This is, of course, all the fault of secularism.
Women eh? You can't live with 'em, you can't without 'em.
Monday, 26 October, 2009, 05:44 AM - Not TFTDThis is both insane and frightening. In July this year, Norwich City Council allowed a Gay Pride parade in the city centre. 67 year old "committed Christian", Pauline Howe was there. Whether she was one of the regular placard wielding "Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve" brigade, or whether she just happened to be out shopping that day, I don't know. Either way, she received some verbal abuse from some of the marchers. That in itself is pretty unusual. In my experience Gay Pride parades tend to be quite good natured affairs, but you never know, someone could have been guilty of hurling insults at random strangers along the route.
Mrs. Howe sent a strongly worded letter to the city council. You might have thought that the council officials would write a letter back, defending equal opportunities and equal rights. They did. They also accused her of a hate crime and sent the police round.
Even if you assume the very worst about Mrs. Howe, that she was part of a demonstration that heaped insults on the marchers, even if she wrote a letter filled with invective against sodomites and how they caused the downfall of the British Empire, even if she's an uncompromising bigot through and through, sending in the police is completely over the top. I've learned to be wary of these "persecuted Christian" stories, we seldom get the whole truth at the start, but no matter what Mrs. Howe said, she has a right to say it.
We pretty much have equal rights for gays now in this country. We have an equal age of consent, we have all the benefits and protection of civil partnerships, we are increasingly accepted by the wider community. I don't need the state to protect me from little old ladies, I'm no longer a victim. I certainly don't need the police to be ordered to stamp out all dissent and contrary points of view.
Have we abolished the law of blasphemy only to introduce a 21st century blasphemy law to replace it? Is anyone who doesn't like gays, or blacks, or muslims or Methodists now to be carted off to prison or undergo multicultural awareness training by someone with a lower second in Minority Studies?
This is really scary. How long will it be before my rants against the Catholic Church get classified as a hate crime? The Catholic Church is big enough and powerful enough to argue back. The gay community is also more than capable of defending its corner. Let the free flow of ideas continue. And if the exchange becomes heated and some of us get offended, well that's just tough. It's a small price to pay for freedom of speech.
Mrs. Howe is entitled to her opinion and I'm entitled to laugh at that opinion. The only contribution of the state should be to protect both our rights to speak our minds.
Sunday, 25 October, 2009, 03:14 AM - Not TFTDRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
Is your church thinking about treating women as equals? Fed up with the lack of implacable hatred towards gayness? Sick to death of all this tolerance and discussion and democracy? Worried about remaining in a defective, and not really proper church? Then why not join the Roman Catholic Church - the Church for misogynist, homophobic bigots. We're nearly as vitriolic and regressive as Islam, despite being founded a whole six centuries ahead of that other, wrong, religion. It's time to throw away centuries of theology that up 'till now you claimed to believe in and come join the undemocratic, hierarchical, patriarchal, intolerant, intransigent organisation that you previously claimed held no unique divine mandate. Don't worry if you look like a petulant hypocrite, you'll feel right at home with us.
There's a whole host of reasons to join the modern Roman Catholic Church. Under the benevolent leadership of His Holiness Fuhrer Rottweiler the umpteenth, you'll be told exactly what to think, do and say by real priests - proper, male, celibate* priests with genuine magic powers. Just think of it, no more struggle with conflicting principles or moral conundrums. When you join the proper church, your old conscience will be instantly removed and replaced with a nice, new, standard, cardboard cutout Catholic conscience. It'll be crystal clear to you that condoms are the work of Satan and that the last people who should decide when women have babies are women themselves. You'll no longer be embarrassed about hating gays and all the evil that they do.
We know how awful it must be to be in a (not proper) church that keeps trying to keep up with the times. With the Roman Catholic Church, we guarantee that nothing ever, ever, changes. In the whole history of the (proper) church, no pope has ever contradicted a predecessor or revoked or changed any act of dogma. (Well technically usury is still on the statute books, but it makes the Vatican bank kind of difficult to run without it, so we prefer not to mention that one. Then there was Pope Formosus whose remains were exhumed and put on trial. And hardly anybody knows about the filioque and how it was definitely out, then definitely in, and now we're kind of at the shake it all about stage. Limbo used to be real but good Pope Rottweiler abolished it, letting all those innocent little babies into heaven. Thankfully most people have forgotten Pope Honorius who was anathematized as a heretic. But apart from little things like that, no pope, who is after all infallible, has ever, ever, contradicted any of his predecessors.)
What's more, we'll even pass on some of our magic powers to you. You'll be able to perform real, fully guaranteed, genuine transubstantiation. No more play acting at being a priest. No more dressing up in late 4th century Roman fashions for pretend masses. Just think about the first time Jesus really smiles at you from a communion wafer. I'll bet you just can't wait to hold his body in your hands and drink his bodily fluids.
It's so easy to join. Just raise your right arm and repeat after me, there is only one proper church, one male hierarchy and one infallible, holy pope.
Ein Volk! Ein Reich!
(At this point, the Vatican would just like to formally complain that, despite being the most famous former member of the Hitler youth in the world, Fuhrer Ratzinger has not yet been asked to appear on Question Time).
*Priests may occasionally not be entirely celibate, but teenage boys don't really count and besides loads of other churches do that as well.
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.
Getting dark, isn't it? Don't forget to turn your clocks back.
Invisible Magic Friend, Jesus, Dylan Thomas, a famous theologian and another poet.
Dauntingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
We Christians invented equality. Everybody should be equal, even slaves. So, Today Programme slave owners, you just remember that. We should all be equal regardless of race, gender or... you know, thingy... people of a certain, er... disposition.
Of course we don't mean equality in an evil, communist sense. That's bad equality. We mean equality in the sense that some people are free to be a little bit richer than other people, just not as much as they are now. Free to be slightly better off, in a sort of retired Bishop of Oxford, Gresham Professor of Divinity sort of way. We don't want people to be free to become like American billionaires. That's just being tasteless and vulgar.
This is not the view of Lord Griffiths. Speaking in a totally non partisan fashion, Lord Griffiths informed an audience at Saint Paul's,
"Heaping vast amounts of your money on a few selected individuals, such as oneself, is good for the economy. I can then spend that money as you wait on me in a fine City restaurant, or wash dishes, or are employed as a doorstop. Why change a system that has made Britain the industrial and financial power that she is today? Besides, if you don't let us take all your money then we'll just go abroad and take somebody else's money. Then how stupid are you going to look? Who you going to be a doorstop for then?"
This is a utilitarian argument and therefore bad. All utilitarian arguments are bad because they don't rely on the Invisible Magic Friend. It's the same sort of Invisible Magic Friendless argument that lead to that dreadful cry of "Liberty, equality, fraternity". They thought that simply abolishing the French hierarchy would solve all their problems. As a Dauntingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, I think I should point out that we want to keep a certain amount of hierarchy. We don't want that much equality.
Friday, 23 October, 2009, 04:27 AM - Not TFTDApparently, even though it took place years ago, my radio debate on Intelligent Design with Dr. Tom Woodward is still one of the top ten downloads on the Unbelievable website (at number 10, I just scrape in). I'm still a long way behind the P.Z.Myers and Richard Dawkins shows, but I'm just chuffed to appear on the same list.
I enjoyed that chat. Dr Woodward is a thoughtful man who would often pause to listen and think.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Well now's your chance to do something. Nick Griffin is on Question Time tonight. Don't just sit there and take this. Remember to look after your own. "Love your neighbour" means "get in there with knuckle dusters and crowbars, beat him to within an inch of his life". Don't worry if he insults you, that'll stop as you keep beating him up. As it says in the Book of Proverbs, "representative democracy is the ideal form of government." Or as Moses famously said, "Say 'No' to fascist, authoritarian, hierarchical, institutional violence, and stone to death anyone who says otherwise." Jewish sacred texts are a big fan of open discussion, everything's open for debate, except the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings and the Talmud. Don't forget that Moses stood up to nasty Pharaoh (and those silly Egyptians, notorious for not keeping records, forgot to mention it). Don't stand up to thugs and bullies because it's the right thing to do, do it because the Invisible Magic Friend, who never bullies anyone, commands it.
There's a big Hindu festival just finished. Happy week-after-Diwali everyone! Diwali isn't about homecoming, like I told you last year. That was wrong, wrong, wrong. Vaishnav Hindu theology has advanced in leaps and bounds since that old fashioned, and wrong, theory. No, Diwali is actually about credible leadership. And it just so happens there's a story about credible leadership in the news right now. If there hadn't been a story about credible leadership then I suppose I would have to talk about something other than Diwali.
Poor President Karzai has to have another election. While we're on the subject of Afghanistan, I just want to point out that I'm not going to express any opinion about the western troops there. Instead, I will simply "wonder" if it is a good thing. I won't even go so far as to "wonder" whether military force alone can ever defeat a bunch of Muslim fanatics ('cos we all know what they can be like).
What President Karzai needs to do in his Muslim country, is to institute a system of government derived from ancient Hindu fables. He needs to become a benevolent dictator like Lord Rama. Everyone knows that a benevolent dictator, ruling over people who know their place in the caste system, is the best possible form of government. Provided he listens to criticism, there'll be no danger of corruption, nepotism or the temptation to wield untrammelled power.
And it's not just in politics. Anywhere where you're in charge and your underlings have to do what you tell them to because you could sack them or send them to bed early, it's important that they all know who's boss.