And now the news from a faith perspective. It's been a while since anyone talked about football, so let's talk about football, because if there's any one thing that's nearly as important as religion, it's football. They're calling it the Hand of God - Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland.
What deeper meaning can we read into this? Is it just a random meaningless event, like the appointment of the European President? Or that other topical story that's in the news again, the lightning strike of Yorkminster Cathedral in retribution for the views of the Bishop of Durham? Is the Invisible Magic Friend punishing Ireland for its wickedness?
No, no, no, no, no. The Invisible Magic Friend doesn't work that way, even though my Big Book of Magic Stuff repeatedly says he does, everywhere from Noah to Job to the Babylonian Exile. The Invisible Magic Friend is a loving Invisible Magic Friend and doesn't go around smiting people in anger. There is still the tricky little problem of why the innocent have to suffer. There are no easy answers to this question (other than the Invisible Magic Friend not existing, but we can dismiss that explanation since otherwise it would mean I was talking nonsense).
When faced with the great questions of life, like why Ireland lost at football, we naturally think of the Crucifixion. The visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend definitely suffered, just as the innocent people of Ireland are suffering now. They can comfort themselves with the thought that Thierry Henry will go straight to hell, as indeed will anyone who is French.
There was a really good programme on the telly the other night about George Best's son Calum and his alcoholic father. It's very easy to blame alcoholics for their addiction, but we need to remember that alcoholics are people too. So how should we cure them?
Jesus had some novel ways of curing people. "Hi, I'm the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and I can forgive sins. Your sins are forgiven, so you should be able to walk OK now. As for you, just take some of this mud and spit twice a day before meals, that should heal your cataracts. And you, the loony, I'll soon fix you, just a matter of casting out some bad invisible magic bits and sending them into those pigs. That should do the trick."
But what do these stories actually mean? Obviously Jesus, who really was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, wouldn't believe that disability was the result of bad karma, or that mud and spit could cure blindness. And it's clearly risible that he'd think you can treat mental illness by casting out demons. That's just silly. No, clearly these are just metaphors for a much more sensible, 21st century, holistic approach to medicine, including alcoholism.
A lot of people are going hungry and not just in familiar famine areas such as Ethiopia, but also in the United States. Fortunately for them, there's just been a big Jewish festival. Happy week after Mitzvah Day everyone! While you lot have been loafing around not helping anyone, we Jews have been being generous and helpful for a whole day. And it wasn't just one particular theological sub-sect of Judaism that was being charitable, we actually put our theological differences aside in order to do something useful. Pretty impressive, eh?
We decided to spend the day being nice to people because our Big Book of Magic Stuff told us to. We are compelled, ordered, required, commanded, forced to act. This is we spiritual people at our very best. Doing good deeds on Mitzvah Day is incredibly important. It ranks right up there with such important commandments as not collecting wood on the Sabbath. Those of you who don't have a Big Book of Magic Stuff probably didn't bother helping anyone on Mitzvah Day. You probably don't realise that you're supposed to feed the hungry and save lives. You are not compelled, ordered, required, commanded or forced to help anyone, so it's lucky we're around to tell you all about it.
You should do what our Big Book of Magic Stuff says and do something to help other people. That way you can stop being selfish and self-centred and become as generous and charitable as we are. And we're so modest about it too, not telling anyone that we've done charity work for a day. If only more of you were like me.
We Jews have the humility to thank the Invisible Magic Friend for the food that we eat. Granted He didn't actually invent farming, or domesticate livestock, or plant food, or irrigate fields, or develop new crops, or harvest grain, or process the food, or distribute it to shops - humans did all that, but He was responsible for everything else.
Wednesday, 18 November, 2009, 08:06 AM - ButlerRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Lot'sh o' people don't have jobsh, like I do (hic!). Sh'terrible! They get up in th'morningsh and there'sh... there'sh... (hic!), nuffin useful for them to do. They jusht, sit around all day, throwin cuddly toysh out. The Archblishop o' Cantering knows all about thish. He'sh told the Tea You Sea how to fixsh it (hic!) fixsh it all.
And another thing! The Shalvation Army do shum bloody good work, they do (hic!). Damn fine organisha... organic sensation the Sally Annes. Good for them.
You can do your bit for unemployedsh. No, honeshtly, you can. Help them wif their grammar (hic!) 'n shpelling 'n shtuff, short've fing. If you're lucky they might give you jusht a teeny weeny sherry. I'm the Bishop of Shuffock. Sh'what I do (hic!).
Tuesday, 17 November, 2009, 05:16 PM - TFTDI bring glad tidings of great joy to my flock of sheep. Thought For The Day will continue in its present form! You realise what this means? Yes, Platitude Of The Day will also continue in its present form.
I knew that the good, noble, principled, unelected people of the BBC trust would not let me down. In similar light, we can expect Prayer For The Day, BBC Scotland TFTD and Pause For thought, all to continue to intrude in their respective programmes.
I hope you will all join me in my campaign to introduce TFTD into the Channel 4 7 o'clock news (a bastion of liberalism and political correctness if ever there was one). We can add it to Match of the Day and to Watchdog, where we can here about consumer affairs from a Faith Perspective. The sky really is the limit from now on.
Tuesday, 17 November, 2009, 08:11 AM - VishvapaniRating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
Yesterday Kevin Rudd apologised for the mass deportation of children to Australia and for the suffering they endured.
Apologies are important. They are a recognition of the wrongs done to people, a recognition of their identity. When someone has been stripped of their identity then an apology recognises that they are individuals. To return someone's identity, of which they had been previously stripped, an apology is just what's needed. When someone has been stripped of their identity and suffered as a result, their suffering can be acknowledged by something as simple as an apology. Yesterday we heard of someone who had been stripped of his identity, and suffered as a result. An apology helped a lot. My father was a refugee and had to leave his own father, whom he never saw again. He wasn't stripped of his identity so there is no need for Gordon Brown to apologise to him.
So, in summary, when you find someone who has been stripped of their identity, do the right thing and go and apologise to them. As we Buddhists say, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."
Monday, 16 November, 2009, 08:30 AM - BillingsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Happy Interfaith Week everyone! Yet again, different faiths all over Britain, will be having tea and sandwiches with each other to show how splendidly we all get along. This, unfortunately, has become necessary because some unscrupulous politicians are using people's religious faiths to highlight differences and set us against one another. When left to our own devices, the natural instinct of all people of faith is to be tolerant and understanding of other people's faiths, no matter how bizarre or crazy they might be. Time and time again, throughout the long history of the human race, we see different faiths coming together in a spirit of friendly cooperation, having a chat and generally admiring and respecting one another's beliefs.
Of course when I were a lad, people knew the place that the Invisible Magic Friend had chosen for them in society. They showed proper respect to religious leaders, like Reverend Canon Doctors. In those days there was no need to hold Interfaith Weeks to explain to people how nice and important we were.
Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 08:32 AM - WinterRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Questions are being raised about the release of a 16 year old rapist after the parents of one of his victims told the court that their Christian beliefs meant they must forgive him. They then smiled, clutched their bibles to their chests and repeatedly sang verses of "Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya", to the general admiration and appreciation of the court, while their son cried in the corner.
Should a judge take account of the opinions of a victim's relatives' Invisible Magic Friend? It's a tough one and just goes to show what a complicated business forgiveness is. In this case it's even tougher since the accused, who had been repeatedly involved in luring younger boys for sex since the age of 13, immediately raped a five year old upon his release.
What went wrong in this case? Well it's not my job to tell the courts how they should treat offenders. That's my Invisible Magic Friend's job. Those foolish parents and the equally foolish judge, didn't read the words of the Invisible Magic Friend properly. I'm amazed that anyone could read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and come away confused about how they should behave. I mean it's not as if there's anything ambiguous or contradictory in it. It's pretty clear forgiveness only comes after true repentance, in much the same way as the Invisible Magic Friend only forgives you once you've repented for being the way he made you.
Churches are doing their bit to combat the spread of Swine Flu. Vicars rub their hands in alcohol before handling communion and congregations are dunking their wafers in the wine, a bit like a Rich Tea biscuit in a cup of tea. One vicar has even invented a magic water dispenser, to prevent contamination.
We're not used to thinking of magic water or magic wine being the subject of infection. That's because they're magic. At root, this is because we tend to isolate the real world from the imaginary world. The real world has the washing up to do and is full of dirty things like germs and going to the toilet, whereas the imaginary world is all clean and sparkly and no one ever has to do the washing up ever again.
This, of course, is terribly silly. The imaginary world is just as real as the real world. Just because it's imaginary doesn't mean you can ignore it or forget about it, or pretend that it's not real. We have to live in the real world so that we can get to the imaginary world.
Did you see those lottery winners the other day? I mean, what have they ever done to deserve such good fortune? You'd think if the Invisible Magic Friend wanted to spread some luck around he'd give it to someone a bit more deserving, like me for instance. I know their type, they'll waste it all on fancy cars and loose living. They should be getting down on their knees in public and thanking the Invisible Magic Friend, who for some unfathomable reason has chosen to shower His blessings upon them.
It's pure wickedness. Have you any idea how many commandments these shameful good-for-nothings have broken? They've broken the 1st, 10th and 8th commandments. (I say 1st, 10th and 8th because, being a celebrity Christian writer, "1st, 8th and 10th" is a bit too ordinary. Quoting numbers out of order adds a little bit of spice and dramatic tension to my prose.) So that's worshipping the god of money before the real Invisible Magic Friend, and coveting thy neighbours ass. The 8th is all about stealing, or, depending on which version of the Invisible Magic Friend you worship, it's about not bearing false witness, or not offering the blood of a sacrifice along with anything containing yeast, and not letting any of the sacrifice from the Passover Feast remain until morning," (because the Invisible Magic Friend changed his mind about His commandments between the first and second times He wrote them down), or not committing adultery with another man's wife, both of whom must be put to death."
Gambling is wrong. Yes, I know they cast lots in the Big Book of Magic Stuff, but that was different. That was to find out the will of the Invisible Magic Friend. It wasn't just leaving things to chance.
The most I ever got was a thousand pounds stuffed anonymously through my letter box. This is when I was down on my luck and not yet a brilliant, successful, Christian writer and celebrity. But at least the money was given to me by someone who wished me well. It wasn't just thrown to some pointless nobodies.