Aren't things just terrible at the moment? All this unemployment and the rising cost of living. Everything's just terrible.
But just cast your mind back to the good times. They were terrible too. It was just work, work, work all the time. Busy ordained Buddhists like me were just rushed off our feet. Everyone was so terribly materialistic. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", were constantly comparing ourselves with everyone else on the greasy pole, forever trying to outdo others. What you need (and I'll bet you never expected to hear this from a Buddhist) is a bit of meditation.
Me and the NHS have been busy trying to get people to slow down for years. I spend all my time rushing from one hospital to the next, desperately trying to get people to meditate or be mindful. It just never stops. When I'm not at a hospital I'll be at some doctor's surgery, or at a health centre. In between all that, there's Thought for the Day to squeeze in as well. I can't tell you what a relief it is that my Blackberry's gone down and I'm finally getting a bit of free time.
My advice to you is to meditate a bit, then quickly dash off for a walk in the park, look at the sky, watch the pretty birds, then quickly get back for some more meditation. Don't forget to get in at least half and hour of mindfulness before your next meditation session.
I'd love to help you out a bit more but you wouldn't believe the number of therapy sessions I've got lined up for today. The "slow down" business is really booming, even in these gloomy economic times.
And if you're unemployed? Well, just sort of enjoy the free time I suppose. Think of it as an opportunity to not be materialistic.
The youth unemployment figures today are going to be just terrible. They're going to be even worse than last month's youth unemployment figures. They were terrible too.
This is a terrible thing. To be young and unemployed is just terrible. Being constructive and useful is something that people like me take for granted, but just imagine how awful it must be to wake up every morning and actually realise that you had no useful purpose in life?
You may not believe this, but young people need to feel appreciated. They need to have ambition and a sense of direction in life. You should be at least 35 before you realise you're not going to satisfy any of those ambitions. It's a terrible waste to allow young people to be struck by this so early on. Somebody, somewhere, ought to think up a clever solution to this terrible problem.
Faced with this terrible problem, this is where Christianity is so terribly, terribly relevant. In the early days of Christianity there was a great deal of slavery. Slaves may have had very few rights but at least they didn't suffer the misery of youth unemployment. Christianity also invented the idea of human dignity. Before that, no one had ever had any human dignity and since then, everyone has had human dignity, even the unemployed youth.
Isn't it all just so terrible?
The Archbepop of Cadbury met with Robert Mugwewe yeshterday. (hic!) Robert Mugababy started off with the besht of intenshums. "Let'sh all be lovely (hic!) 'nd happy and let bygones go bye bye," he shed. "No more black aginst white or wheat againsht (hic!) block. Jusht one big happy family." Before he immediately started shending out gangsh of (hic!) armed thugsh to beat up anyone who dishagreed.
D'ye know what? I'll tell you what. Shum of those gansh've been beeting up Anglicansh! (hic!) Yesh, (hic!) no, really! Ye see there'sh thish renegit... rene martin... webel bishop Nolbert Kunonga. He's bad. Oh yesh he's very bad. He's a very bad bishop indeed. (hic!)
So our nice Arshbishup hash gone out there to (hic!) to have a word with Mishter Muvuzela. E'sh told him all about all the bad thingsh that've been happening to Anlicans. Mishter Mugbabies didn't know anything about it! No, nuffin (hic!) at all. Sho now it'sh all gonna be fixed and every'fin in Zimbabwe's gonna be alright from now on.
Brilliant bloke our Archbish. You now, I think thish calls for jusht a teenshy weenshy celebratory sherry. Why not indeed. (hic!)
There's a bit of a <some-Scottish-word-that-even-though-I'm-from-Glasgow-I-have-never-heard-of-but-which-I-infer-from-the-context-may-mean-a-bit-of-an-uproar> in Scotland at the moment. The Bishop of Paisley has come out strongly against gay marriage. This will shock many of you, I know, as the Catholic Church is renowned for its support for gay rights.
The Bishop has threatened to get all 800,000 Catholics in Scotland to vote against the SNP, although as the Scottish Lib Dems and the national Conservative Party have both come out in favour of gay marriage, it would seem that the number of Catholic approved political parties is diminishing rather rapidly.
The few biblical texts prohibiting same sex relationships have been argued over ad nauseam. Psychiatrists long ago stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease. There is increasing scientific evidence to suggest that sexual preference is genetic. It is no more than nature doing what it always does, producing variation.
Civil partnership takes care of the legal side of things. Marriage is a public declaration of fidelity and love.
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.
Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Whether you have a faith or not, whether you have black hair or not, whether you have blue eyes or not, whether you have any other irrelevant characteristic that I care to mention or not, the question all are asking is, how long will this continue?
In the Old Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, worshippers of the Invisible Magic Friend frequently asked how long the suffering must continue before the Invisible Magic Friend will be a bit more friendly. This means that it is perfectly valid and natural to ask the question, how long? So please don't be worried about asking it.
In the New Tasty mint, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to love your enemy. We'll definitely get around to loving our enemy any day now, just not at the moment. It would be rather inconvenient to love our enemies right now. Loving our enemy is a fine, noble, worthy aspiration that we plan to achieve when the situation is right.
Back to the Old Tasty mint. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that we will all turn our swords into ploughshares. This will definitely happen, since Isaiah prophesied it, and Isaiah has a pretty good track record prophecy wise. We certainly do intend to beat our swords into ploughshares. It's all planned for, and when the conditions are right you can be sure that we'll go straight ahead and do it. Just not right now. The conditions aren't quite right at the moment.
It's important that we keep these aspirations of love and peace, otherwise we might start to believe that these wars might go on forever.
Wallopingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
I'd like to start by discussing clowns, the relevance of which will shortly become apparent. Georges Rouault liked to paint clowns - clowns and judges.
It isn't easy being a judge, having to judge things. It isn't easy being a juror either, having to judge things. That's the difficult task that the judges in the Amanda Knox appeal had to do. It couldn't be easy, faced with a mass of contradictory evidence, to decide on guilt or innocence. They decided to go for innocence, so the only person left in prison for the crime is the black guy.
Jesus said not to judge others. Some think this means that we shouldn't judge others, but as with anything in the Big Book of Magic Stuff that doesn't make sense, this is not meant to be taken literally. What Jesus meant, and I can speak for Jesus on this as I'm a Wallopingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, is that you can still judge guilt or innocence, but you can't judge the moral worth of a person.
Just because a person was caught red handed stealing all the handbags from a grannies' day out, does not necessarily make them a bad person. You don't know what pressure that person was under. Can you honestly say that, given the opportunity to steal grannies' handbags you wouldn't do the same? Well can you?
We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", are weak, frail, fallible creatures, made in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend, except that we are weak, frail and fallible. We are certainly fit enough to judge guilt or innocence, certainly fit enough to deprive someone of their liberty for the rest of their lives, or even send them to their deaths. What we are not fit enough to do is to think harshly of them. Only the Invisible Magic Friend is allowed to do that.
Thursday, 6 October, 2011, 08:39 AM - PriestleyRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
The airwaves are abuzz with tales of the human rights of cats. This was later "put into context".
To find out what human rights are really about, we need to consult a theologian. In this case, the prize winning theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, whose theology was so amazingly theological that the only thing for it was to give him a great big prize. He pointed out that different people around the world have different human rights, depending on what human rights the people in charge thought were good for them.
In China you have an inalienable human right to a new laptop if you can afford one. In Saudia Arabia you have an inalienable human right to be a Muslim. If you're the leader of Russia you have an inalienable human right to be Vladimir Putin.
Human rights were invented after World War II to make sure that all the things done by the Nazis never happened again. Many people think that only rich people are allowed these human rights but I think poor people should have some too. The Old Tasty mint agrees with me. "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up" depending on what sort of capricious mood he's in. Just make sure you don't worship the wrong Invisible Magic Friend or your human rights might be abruptly cut short.
The New Tasty mint also agrees that poor people should have human rights. "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel" and I think you'll agree there haven't been any unjust rulers, large scale hunger or problems for the Jews ever since.
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011, 07:15 AM - SacksRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Happy nearly Yon Kipper everyone!
Happily, and by one of those amazing coincidences that always happens, there is a news story that illustrates Yon Kipper perfectly. The Nobel prize for medicine is to be awarded to the dead scientist Ralph Steinman, even though the rules forbid a posthumous award. It reminds us that we need to remember what we want to be remembered for. So I'm not going to mention what Ralph Steinman's work was, how it will help people or why it deserved the ultimate scientific accolade.
Lots of people don't become famous until after their death. Van Gogh lived in poverty but now thousands of people make a very nice living out of buying and selling his works, writing books, giving lectures series and generally milking his talent and reputation for every penny they can get. Van Gogh will be remembered because he gives employment to so many.
On Yon Kipper the Invisible Magic Friend asks, what do you want to be remembered for? I want to be remembered for being the Big Chief Rabbi, but few of you will be remembered, if you're remembered at all, for rising to such exalted ranks. Many of you won't even win a Nobel prize. No, you must be contented with more humble achievements, the little everyday acts of kindness and love, known only to you and the Invisible Magic Friend. Then when you die, you can slip into well deserved obscurity (although if you've done any masterful paintings, be sure to leave them to well deserving art dealer).
Party leadersh depend on lotsh of people to do the actual work. (Hic!) Ash it shays in Eccleshiashticush (not to be conf... (Hic!) confooshed with Eccleshiasteses, which is quite a nice book too but not the shame one) let ush now praise famous men. (Hic!) As well as being from a book that ishn't in the Proteshtant Big Book of Magic Shtuff, "Let us now praise famoush men" ish also the title of a (Hic!) book by James Agee. It's all about poor people.
Do you know there are lots of people who help poor people? Yesh, there are. (Hic!) They come from churchesh and moshques and sinalots and (Hic!) temples, and there'sh even shum people that don't come from shurches and mohawks and singalongs and templesh, but shum other faith inshtead.
DID YOU KNOW? No, lishen. Did you know that The charity Fair Share, that rerishtributes unwanted food, has sheen a 20% increase in (Hic!) demand? (Hic!)
Sho we need more people from shurshes and mosques and sinnylogs and templesh to get out there and be charit-ibal. Not famush people like me - ordinary people, anonymous people, (Hic!) boring people. You need to get out there and do a bit more sharity. (Hic!)
All these bloody little poor people. 'Shenuff to make ya want to turn to drink. (Hic!) Oh, yesh, well maybe jusht the one then. (Hic!)
Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010
Happy six months to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens everyone! Has anyone mentioned it yet? No? Good job I got in there first then.
Charles Dickens' books were all about the hypocrisy of Victorian England, which is exactly the same as the book Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, which is all about Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. I asked a small girl what she thought about it and she said it was a really good book.
Life and Fate was last week's Book of the Week. OK, it wasn't really, but it was on Radio 4 and it is a book, which is pretty close to the truth by religious standards.
Back to Dickens, whom you'll recall was writing in a different century about different things, but is otherwise absolutely identical to Grossman. Dickens wasn't renowned for his religious fervour, but I think it's fair to say that he was nevertheless a big fan of Christianity. Dickens undoubtedly took his inspiration from the Big Book of Magic Stuff.
Who can forget the fantastic Abraham, who shortly after attempting to sacrifice his son to the Invisible Magic Friend, became famous for his generosity. He was so famous for his generosity that his tent had no sides. Or possibly he was just a bit short on cloth. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of tales of people being generous, except to those who worshipped the wrong Invisible Magic Friend, for whom extermination or enslavement was the appropriate response.
Now I have to admit, Christianity hasn't always been the warm, cuddly, compassionate religion that it is so well known for today. There was a time, before secular authorities took all our power away, when we sometimes abused that power. But that's all in the past, and I think you can rely on religion nowadays to speak about every human being as being equal - except those that the Catholic Church doesn't think should be equal.