From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Stupefyingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Saint Paul's Cathedral remains closed. This is a direct consequence of the land disputes in the Middle East. Libya, on the other hand has got lots of land, but will they have peaceful elections? Which brings me to the money changers in the Temple, where Jesus got angry and quoted Isaiah.
The clergy in Saint Paul's are united in their support for the protesters that have caused it to close. They just rather wish they'd go and protest somewhere else. There are arguments between neighbours about fences. Which brings me straight back to Libya. United by their hatred of Gaddafi, will they remain united now? Or will they not be united but still remain loyal to Libya?
From this we see that bankers and traders are not gentiles, which means that health and safety is not the issue. We need to make more space.
I trust I make myself clear.
Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 05:02 AM - Not TFTDI hereby publicly challenge William Lane Craig, the world famous philosopher who never seems to get beyond Christian apologetics, to a debate in my living room last night. I kept an armchair sitting empty for him all night but of the cowardly Craig there was not a sign.
Now some may object that issuing such a challenge the day after the debate is being just a little bit unfair. I would remind you that William Craig has an Invisible Magic Friend who is all knowing and all powerful and could therefore have been expected to pass my challenge onto Billy Craig well in advance of me thinking of it. Billy's failure to show can therefore only be explained by one of two reasons: either Bill was terrified of the devastating arguments he would face, or Bill's Invisible Magic Friend does not exist.
The debate commenced at 7.30 pm, in front of a packed audience consisting of myself, my other half, our pet labrador Molly, and the goldfish. As the visitor, Dr Craig went first. We listened attentively as he didn't explain how the universe needs a creator and that, after many years of study and thought, he had concluded that the creator was none other than his very own Invisible Magic Friend. Five minutes into his address, he didn't point out how the universe is fine tuned to create Christian apologists and therefore had to have a designer. In his final argument, he didn't bring up the subject of how understanding morality as an evolutionary necessity makes morality complete rubbish and therefore his Invisible Magic Friend must have created it instead.
Prof Craig's silence was met with polite applause. He didn't sit down and was immediately followed by his opponent in the debate: our goldfish. Goldy swan around in her tank for half an our, eloquently opening and shutting her mouth and, I have to say, utterly crushing Craig's theories. As she nibbled a fish flake, we were reminded that the arguments that Billy Boy didn't expound were all based on logical fallacies that anyone who thought about it for more than ten seconds would see the holes in. In common with all debates in which Craig actually did appear, he presented not a single piece of observable evidence to back up his claims.
Goldy received an enthusiastic ovation. With his tail firmly between his legs, the humiliated Craig was not sent packing back to Oxford, where he faces his next big challenge of facing a chair which will not be occupied by Richard Dawkins. We can only hope that, having been so thoroughly vanquished by our goldfish, Dr Craig will find a more fitting opponent debating an empty chair. The tension, wondering whether he will survive this encounter, should make for a highly entertaining evening.
I'm a vicar in Sheffield. Sheffield has two universities you know? As a vicar in Sheffield, I do Sunday services. It's one of the things a vicar in Sheffield does - Sunday services.
Sunday services in Sheffield, where I am a vicar, are attended by a huge and diverse range of Anglican Christians. The young Anglicans who attend the services in Sheffield, which has two universities and where I am the vicar, come from all over the world. This is largely because the young people born in Sheffield, where I am the vicar and which has two universities, don't generally attend Sunday services.
Many of these young people who attend Sunday services in Sheffield, where I am the vicar and which has two universities, come from places like Syria and Libya, where great political turmoil is taking place. I ask them how they have had the courage to take part in their respective revolutions. To which they reply that they are actually in Sheffield, attending one of its two universities and speaking to me after Sunday services where I am the vicar.
However, had they not been in Sheffield, attending one of its two universities and speaking to me after Sunday services where I am the vicar, they say they would be inspired by the words of Jesus, who is the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, and who famously said, "Don't accept military dictatorship. Be a revolutionary. Fight for Democracy and liberal values," shortly before being carted off by the Roman military dictatorship and being executed.
It turns out that the revolutions in the Arab world are being led exclusively by people inspired by these inspirational words of Jesus. Where else could these young Arabs have got their inspiration from?
I am inspired by the words of these young Anglicans, attending one of the two universities in Sheffield and speaking to me after Sunday services where I am the vicar, as they recall the inspirational words of Jesus as he calls for violent revolution against dictatorships. It shows just how relevant the Anglican faith is today, even in the Arab world.
Sumptuously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Gaddafi is dead - somewhat muted hurrah!
In an ideal world he would have been tried for his crimes and given an opportunity to defend himself, but toppling a tyrant isn't easy and we can understand if he somehow accidentally got shot in the process.
We humans have an inherent sense of justice and fairness that no other animal has. It clearly couldn't have evolved so it must be because we are made in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend. Of course the Invisible Magic Friend is perfect and everything he does is just brilliant. We're not quite that good. We're frail and weak and flawed and imperfect and just hopelessly useless and drab and awful. When he was making us in his image he obviously made a few mistakes. No, that can't be right, forget that bit.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of cries for the Invisible Magic Friend to provide justice. As a Sumptuously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just assure you that he fully intends to do that some day. Don't let the fact that he hasn't done it in the last two and half thousand years in any way put you off. Jews, Christians, and I'll even include Muslims, all believe that the Invisible Magic Friend is going to bring perfect justice into the world any day now - a year or two tops.
In the meantime, we confused, mistaken, utterly rubbishy humans will just have get by as best we can. Even though we don't live in that ideal world where tyrants are brought to trial, I'm sure those who have suffered under Gaddafi's ruthless regime, those who have needlessly lost loved ones as he desperately made everyone fight to the bitter end, will probably feel a small sense of justice this morning.
Human egg donors are to get more money. Hurrah! The more egg donors we can get the better. At the moment, donating eggs to create a new life is done mainly for altruistic reasons. Financial considerations don't really come into it. We don't want women selling their eggs on eBay do we?
The creation of a new life via IVF is something to be celebrated. If generosity and selflessness are part of this then so much the better. This is fully in line with the philosophy of Honey Nut Cornflakes Buddhism. Honey Nut Cornflakes Buddhism says that you should be sweet, crunchy and ever so yummy. You should be loving and generous and give all your possessions to the poor. This will make you very happy. The poor however will be very unhappy as they will now have all your possessions and won't be happy and destitute any more.
That's all great and fine and stuff, but given the happiness that a baby can bring let's encourage even more egg donations. So what's the big deal if someone makes money out of it? Sell them on eBay after all!
Tomorrow on Thought For the Day, Catherine Pepinster and Clifford Longley on why IVF is evil, sinful and a barbaric product of the Culture of Death so typical of the godless West. If only the Catholic Church were in charge to prevent this vile holocaust of murdered embryonic babies.
Wednesday, 19 October, 2011, 07:15 AM - Winkett
No Platitude of the Day today. If you Google for the grim video of the Chinese toddler Yue Yue, referred to by Rev Winkett, you'll see why. There are some things you just don't joke about.
Yue Yue is reported as dead by some news organisations, others report that she remains stable. Let's hope it is the latter that have got it right.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
I just got back from Sydney and very nice it was too. For we International Directors of Christian organisations the globe trotting just never stops, especially when it starts to get a bit chillier here in the UK.
I spoke to an Anglican vicar in Sydney. We both agreed that the Church has always been the best place to be for women. When it comes to advocating feminism, I think everyone would agree that Christianity has always been at the forefront.
Imagine my shock therefore, when I returned to the UK, only to find the trampling of women's rights was all over the papers. At home, in the supermarket, cleaning the church, and various other places where one might find a woman, we find that women are struggling in this era of cutbacks.
It really is quite appalling that secular society finds it so hard to keep up with the church and its enlightened views on women. As early as 700 BC, the prophet Micah mentioned a woman, which just goes to show how seriously the Big Book of Magic Stuff takes women's rights. (One advantage of being called the Micah Challenge is that, with only seven chapters, it is a relatively easy book to memorise. The Isaiah Challenge, with 66 chapters, would have been rather too much of a challenge). The New Tasty mint is just choc full of hand maidens, maid servants, virgins, prostitutes, adulteresses and all the traditional roles of women.
Speaking as an ardent feminist myself I am the first to admit that the Church has not always been as perfect as it is today. Still, with it's long record of empowerment of women, I think we are in a strong moral position to lecture the rest of society on how it should treat its women.
And in the big news today, I was speaking at an important medical conference at the weekend. Famous authors, poets, lawyers and philosophers gathered to discuss medicine in front of an audience of health professionals. Modesty forbids me from mentioning that I was speaking too, but I was, which is how I know so much about it.
I must say it was very refreshing to see doctors willing to listen to me, and other lawyers, poets, authors and philosophers, telling them how to do their jobs. If only more professions were so open to being told how to do their jobs by me, and other philosophers, poets, authors and lawyers.
You see, patient care isn't just about administering medicines, it's about whole patient care. This is where Christianity is so very relevant to modern medical practise. In the New Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, was always going around healing people. His techniques, of touching them, spitting on them, casting out demons and demanding ritual sacrifice, were somewhat unorthodox by today's standards. It's also not entirely clear how his techniques work, although being the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend suggests that magic may have been involved.
Jesus clearly believed in this holistic approach to medicine. In at least several cases he told the patient to go home and rest, although in many others he had done such a great job curing them that he let them keep on following him instead.
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.
The Care Quality Commission's recent report unearthed shocking levels of care among the elderly in English hospitals. It's the kind of thing that makes most of us very angry. There's a tendency to point fingers and scapegoat nurses for the deplorable way elderly patients are being treated.
Then I asked myself how many elderly people I knew. The answer was not many. Despite the increasing age of our society, I only really knew one elderly person and that was the old lady next door. I never help with her shopping or gardening. I rarely think about her, except when her TV is too loud.
There is no manual to learn kindness from. I realise now that I learned a lot these things from my grandparents, but that was at a time when generations tended to live closer together and had more interaction on a day to day basis. It never does harm to show more compassion. As a famous religious person put it, "The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better."
If we all show a little more care for the elderly then perhaps, when our time comes, there will be people who look out for us.
Abundantly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Friday, 14 October, 2011, 07:51 AM - HarriesRating 3 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Isn't it great to have Friends. No, I don't mean the TV series, I was thinking of people we know who are, well... friends.
The Defence Secretary has a friend. David and Angela Dawes have suddenly discovered they have far more friends than they knew.
We can meet friends in lots of different ways: at university, at work, at the drama society, down the pub, as neighbours, doing charitable activities, on the bus, on the train, on the internet, at church, in the House of Lords. There are many, many ways to make new friends.
Friends bring fun and laughter into our lives. Friends can also bring consolation in time of need. Jonathan Swift had a friend, but she died. He was very upset because he liked his friend. Jesus had a friend called Judas, but he turned out not to be a very nice friend. We are all friends with the Invisible Magic Friend, which is nice because it means everyone has got at least one friend on Facebook.
And now a short poem.
I had a friend, he was gentle and kind,
He even was nice to my mother.
He sat on a stool with his ample behind,
Falling over one way or the other.
The Invisible Magic Friend really is the bestest friend you can ever have.