Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Monday, 17 October, 2011, 08:55 AM - Health, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

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.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Monday, 10 October, 2011, 08:37 AM - Sex, Bell
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

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.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community 
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 08:27 AM - Bell
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

We all enjoy a good sing song. It's such an innocent pastime.

Or is it?

Only last Saturday we had the Last Night of the Proms, where people waved Union Jacks and sang patriotic songs. Well, call me mister picky, but it may interest you to know that there is no theological justification whatsoever for Britain to rule the waves. Remarkable, isn't it? Someone just completely made it up!

Then there are the sectarian songs that Catholics and Protestants like to sing to annoy one another. Anyone would think that the two beliefs, that the Pope is the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, and that the Pope isn't the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, are in some way mutually exclusive.

And now we have Julius Malema's jolly little ditty Shoot the Boer, which invites poor black South Africans to cheer themselves up by getting a gun and go shoot a white South African.

At this point, for no obvious reason, I'd just like to mention Satan, the Invisible Magic Baddy, and Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.

South Africa doesn't need this. It introduces division between black and white South Africans to a generation that never knew apartheid, and does so for the most cynical of reasons, to disguise the failure of political leadership in South Africa.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Friday, 2 September, 2011, 09:06 AM - Economics, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

With all the public sector cuts, in the health service, the police and the armed forces, we naturally think of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: for everything there is a season. The government really ought to wait for the proper season to make people redundant.

It's all the fault of the banks. The government wants to split the steady, level headed, retail aspects of banking away from the risky, reckless, casino aspects of investment banking. Some bankers have threatened to take their casinos elsewhere and let some other government insure them against collapse.

The Big Book of Magic Stuff is quite clear on this: thou shalt not use capital from retail savings to invest in futures, derivatives or exotic financial instruments devised by rocket scientists and that no one really understands. If only the banks had followed this simple advice from the Invisible Magic Friend, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff remains as relevant as ever.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 08:21 AM - Democracy, Lessons of history, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

I've got a Big Idea. Here's my Big Idea, which is mine, belonging to me and which I invented. This is what it is, my Big Idea.

The people of Libya should be allowed to set up their own government.

There, that is my Big Idea, that I invented and that is mine.

Other people in the past have set up their own governments. The East Germans set up their own government by having the same government as the West Germans. The Russians set up their own government after they'd let go of all the other bits of the Soviet Union. South Africans set up their own government without killing all the whites. They were able to do that because they were Christians (the South Africans that is - although come to think of it, quite a lot of Germans and Russians are Christians too). As Christians, they realised that a bloodbath of revenge might be a bad thing.

None of these involve my Big Idea, because none of these involve Libya. Libya has got a problem. It's not full of Christians for a start. It seems to be full of people from one of the other religions. The last documented good person from Libya was Simon of Cyrene, 2,000 years ago. Despite this, I hold to my Big Idea, that Libya should form its own government. That means that it should not be formed by China, or Russia, or Britain, or France, or Kenya, or Chile but by some good people from Libya, assuming they can find any.

And that is my Big Idea for today.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Thursday, 4 August, 2011, 09:22 AM - Democracy, Bell
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

I was talking to some people, American people, American people who were priests, American people who were Lutheran priests, American people who were Lutheran priests staying at Iona.

They complained that politicians in America are so dogmatic. They're completely intransigent, causing all debates to be polarised along ideological lines. They just can't admit that their way of thinking could be wrong, no matter how much evidence is presented to them. They just argue on and on and on about who is right, never compromising on what they believe to be principal. I can't think of any other body of thought that behaves in this ridiculous, unproductive fashion, said the American Lutheran priests.

And I don't just mean Republicans, Democrats do it as well. It just so happens that my totally non-partisan and apolitical example happens to be of a Republican. Rick Scott is the Governor of Florida and the founder of the largest private for-profit health care company in the U.S.. In a state bedevilled with unemployment and lack of health insurance, he refuses to apply for federal grants. The government helping sick people for free is decidedly un-American. What are the unemployed, the ill and the poor supposed to do in Florida? Radio 4 listeners, do not vote for the Governor of Florida, or anyone from the other party who leaves the poor, the ill and the unemployed without any help.

There's a story about Jephthah who promised the Invisible Magic Friend that, in return for a successful genocide against the Ammonites, he'd round it off by killing whatever greeted him on his return. Unfortunately it was his daughter, but since his honour was at stake, he had no choice but to slaughter his daughter. I think you can see that this is exactly the same as the Governor of Florida.

Isn't it curious how ideology and theology are both ologies?

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Friday, 15 July, 2011, 08:06 AM - Health, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Statistics, statistics, statistics. Yesterday we learned that over 40% of people get cancer. With that tenuous link to the news out of the way, here's another jolly statistic for you: you're all going to die. Every last one of you.

I don't mean to start the day with a bit of a downer, but many of you will die through your own gluttony, laziness, alcoholism, or other symptom of your degenerate lifestyles. It's about time you all started to pull your socks up a bit and started taking a bit more responsibility for your own health. You can't expect the NHS, social services, or even the Invisible Magic Friend to look after you if you don't look after yourself.

Speaking of the Invisible Magic Friend, his second bit, Jesus, who you'll recall was briefly visible for a few decades, became visible to show you he could just be an ordinary bloke, with all the problems of an ordinary bloke. As the New Tasty mint testifies, he had all the usual childhoods ailments... err... actually no it doesn't, but I'm sure he had them all the same. What's more, he didn't die of some disease of self indulgence. No, he died a proper death, being nailed to a tree. As deaths go, that has to be one of the best.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Friday, 27 May, 2011, 08:17 AM - Health, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Geriatric care is not sexy. Not in the same way as being a bowel specialist or a wart remover is. Concerned relatives will not be reassured by a report by the Care Quality Commission, where 3 out of 12 hospitals failed to provide the minimum legal level of care.

There's too many people in the health service sitting around filling in forms, doing paperwork, ticking boxes. Somebody ought to do something about all this pointless bureaucracy. Patients are treated as consumers, patient care is simply "throughput". All this data is good and well but nurses need more time to spend helping patients. We need more data to find out how much nurses' time is being spent doing paperwork. Perhaps they could make a note of how much time they spend filling in forms, so they can fill in a form to say how much time they've spent filling in forms.

Jesus didn't spend any time filling in forms, which tells you straight away that forms are a Bad Thing. If he'd spent time filling in forms then he wouldn't have had as much time to spend being the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Not like those wasteful Gospel writers. What a load of useless pen pushers they turned out to be. They spent all their time just writing things down, telling us about Jesus' performance as a miracle worker. Thanks to them, all we know is that Jesus was 50% more efficient at healing the sick than any previous miracle worker in the Big Book of Magic Stuff.

Why, oh why, oh why do we have all this stupid management paperwork to do, when nurses should be looking after patients?

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Friday, 20 May, 2011, 09:05 AM - Lessons of history, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)



Has anyone mentioned Britain apologising lately? It's a question that should be asked. Should Britain apologise to everyone for all the bad things it did while it was Top Nation, especially to the Irish?

The answer is no. If we did that then everyone would have to apologise to everyone else about lots of things. Europe would have to apologise to the rest of the world for not treating them like Europeans. Catholics and Protestants, who nowadays famously get along so well together, would have to apologise for their fractious past. Men would have to apologise to women, straights to gays and so the list goes on and on.

How do we know that there is no need to apologise for the wrongs of previous generations? We know this because Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, never apologised for the various genocides and enslavements performed by previous generations of Jews. We can't judge people of the past using modern moral values. Genocide was considered a perfectly respectable and proper thing to do in times gone past. Many of the most famous heroes of the day were genocidal maniacs. Just because leaders ordered the butchery of every single last man, woman and child who worshipped a false Invisible Magic Friend, there's no reason to believe that they weren't perfectly nice people.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 09:01 AM - Interfaith, Bell
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Two Scottish Catholics were repairing a road outside a brothel. They see a Protestant minister go in.

"Och, wid ye look at that, Jimmy!" said Jock. "Those Protestant reverends sinning in a house like that!"

Then they see a Rabbi dash in. "Did ys see that, Jimmy?" Jock asked in shock and disbelief, "Is nothing holy to those Jewish rabbis?"

Then they see a Catholic priest quietly sneak in. "Oh no, Jimmy, look!" said Jock, removing his cap and crossing himself, "One of the poor girls musta died....

That was a joke.

Sectarianism is Scotland is no joke as we see from the parcel bombs sent last week. The roots of Scottish sectarianism are deep and mysterious. By an astonishing coincidence, all the people on one side appear to be Catholics and all the people on the other appear to be Protestants.

There is no simple, quick fix to the problem. If there were a simple quick fix, such as merging Catholic and Protestant schools so that children weren't separated in their formative years and taught to treat the other as "other", don't you think we'd adopt it? It's exactly the same as in Northern Ireland, where once again, by complete coincidence, all the people on side are Catholic and all the people on the other are Protestant.

Some people in these sectarian groups seem to think they're better than the other side. I can't think why people who have been taught that they have the only true faith and the other side are heretics would come to this conclusion. It's all very puzzling. Some think that maybe we should all just get together and try to get alone. I don't want to dismiss that obviously silly idea, but just getting children to grow up together and makes friends with each other isn't going to stop them hating one another.

No what we need, is for people to be proud to be Catholics. Only that way can they learn to love the heathen protestants.

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