Saturday, 13 December, 2008, 10:24 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
I want to talk to you today about a subject that is very rarely raised on Thought For The Day: the cult of celebrity. There are proper celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing, which I'm sure you're all fans of. Then there are the sobbing, pretend celebrities, with appropriately dismal life stories, on the X Factor. I'm sure you're all avid fans of that too. I mention these programmes because I'm a down to earth, man of the people, sort of reverend. I know that, with you all being far less spiritual than me [Ed. Except me - I'm a Rev. Dr. you know!], this is the kind of programme on TV that you habitually watch and connect with. Being the media savvy sort of chap I am, I know how important it is to talk down to you in terms that you will easily understand. Of course, by following the antics of these rather superficial, transient, celebrities, you're missing out on the greatest celebrity of them all. From his very first appearance on "I'm a Messiah, Get me Out of Here", Jesus proved himself to be an instant hit. If it's simple entertainment you're after, I recommend the Old Testament. With it's wacky stories and it's endless cruel punishments for seemingly trivial infractions, it's a laugh a minute. I don't really have anything to say, so I'll just come to a sudden stop.
Friday, 12 December, 2008, 09:25 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
This year's Children of Courage awards was an inspiring event. These brave young people were joined by a host of celebrities, and the Dean of
Westminster. I've been similarly inspired by the determination of children that we took to visit Auschwitz, or the Bar Mitzvah girl who didn't want presents, but wanted money given to charity instead.
Unlike everyone else, Judaism is a very child oriented religion. That's why we celebrate Passover: the mass genocidal slaughter of Egypt's first born by our ever loving Invisible Magic Friend. It's why Judaism has been so popular and had such an easy ride through history. You see we allow children to grow and don't just turn them into mini-consumers obsessed by the cult of celebrity, or even the cult of the Dean of Westminster.
Thursday, 11 December, 2008, 08:31 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The difficult subject of assisted suicide is being raised once again. To help you with this, I thought I would add two insights that only we Christians possess. First, the gospels tell us that we must alleviate suffering. When you first try this, you will need courage, kindness and humanity - so read the gospels thoroughly beforehand to understand how to do it properly. I thought Christina Odone, a Catholic journalist and therefore an expert on being moral, put it so well when she said that anyone contemplating suicide should just pull their socks up, stop feeling sorry for themselves and do what she tells them to. All such cases are ultimately black and white and amenable to the same simplistic moral formula, except Jesus, who was allowed to willingly commit suicide because he's God.
Secondly, as Baron Pentregarth, former bishop of Oxford, and honorary Professor of Theology at King’s College, London, let all of us just assure you that we Christians realise that people are dependent on others. There is no shame in not being totally self-sufficient. If you do find yourself permanently incapacitated, feel free to ask others to help you to do anything at all, except commit suicide of course.
Wednesday, 10 December, 2008, 08:22 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Happy 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone! Some muslims (not me) are having second thoughts about this. They (not me) think this is an elitist, secular, bit of western propaganda. They (not me) wonder who the hell you think you are promising rights to women, gays and other religions. Obviously they (not me) say this isn't what the Invisible Magic Friend wants at all. They (not me) want to promote freedom of expression by banning books, firebombing publishers, and gagging anyone who bad mouths Islam. True Islam, my Islam, is full square behind enlightenment values, and always has been. I'm only a Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow. How should I know why a few muslims here and there get confused about what the Invisible Magic Friend wants?
Tuesday, 9 December, 2008, 08:31 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
It would of course be quite improper for me to come on here unchallenged and use my privileged position to rail against our secular constitution, but everyone hates politicians so I'll do it anyway. We usually get elected dictatorships in this country, where parliamentary lobby fodder blindly follow the instructions of their party. The big problem with this is the "elected" bit. It means that we Reverend Lords are reduced to a tiny stump of 26 bishops in parliament. Hardly anyone pays any attention to us. You wouldn't believe how often their Lordships fail to follow our divine guidance.
What's all this got to do with Christmas, I hear you ask, for Christmas is indeed approaching. Well I'll tell you what it has to do with Christmas. Christmas, which coincidentally falls near the winter solstice, celebrates Christ being born. I won't actually sing from Handel's Messiah at this point, I'll simply quote from Isaiah, "And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." This is true. Christianity says it's true, so it must be.
Now you may have spotted the fact that Jesus has come and gone and we don't actually have world peace. That's easy: it's the second coming of Jesus that institutes world peace. Then we'll get some decent government; none of these messy elections and people debating things. We can get straight to the condemning of the unjust. Guess who's gonna be in charge then, eh? Proper Jesus-government will obviously need lots of Reverend Lords to carry out Jesus' commands. And with all that condemning going on I imagine a bishop of prisons is going to come in quite useful.
Monday, 8 December, 2008, 04:16 PMAs a child they were always my big brothers.
They played together.
They teased me together.
They looked after me together.
They went to football together.
They went to the pub together.
They buried dad together.
He was best man at the eldest wedding.
He looked after mum as she grew old and frail.
He looked pale mum said.
He was funny.
He was infuriating.
He was in pain.
He was my big brother.
[In memory of my brother Owen Hearty, who died of cancer yesterday, aged 53. Goodbye, and rest in peace Owen.]
Monday, 8 December, 2008, 09:05 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
We people of faith don't like to say we told you so, but we did tell you so. Or at least, we would have told you so, if only we had some prophets around to tell you so. You see your problem is you only ever react to things after the event. You don't listen to our prophets when they tell you things, or even when they don't. Take the prophet Isaiah who didn't prophesy overworked social services departments, or the prophet Amos who didn't prophesy our throwaway society with its rampant consumerism. Then there was the prophet Jeremiah who didn't prophesy global warming, resource depletion and planetary overpopulation. You can't blame us for that one. I mean it's not as if religion told you to go forth and multiply, is it? Now look where it's got you. If only you'd listened to all our prophets not prophesying all these things. With the benefit of hindsight it would be better if we didn't have to rely on hindsight.
Sunday, 7 December, 2008, 10:43 AMRead more...
Saturday, 6 December, 2008, 10:02 AMRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
You may think you've got a scary day ahead of you. It might be your first parachute jump, or your first deployment to Afghanistan. Well just spare a thought for me. If you think what you've got to do is scary then just try presenting Thought For The Day. What if I can't think of anything interesting to say? What if everyone out there is just anxiously reaching for the radio to switch to Radio 5 Live for three minutes? What if someone mocks me - and there are people out there who do that just to be beastly. The world can be so cruel (sniff). You mustn't show fear to your critics though. They can smell it. Let them see your weakness and you're done for. Here at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we work to equip Christians to engage biblically and relevantly with the issues they face, including Work, Capitalism, Youth Culture, Media and Communication, we know that Jesus is not afraid - although being 1/3 of the supreme being probably helps a bit there. So I'm not going to be afraid either. But if you are going to comment on today's TFTD, please say something (sniff) nice.
Does anyone have a tissue?
Friday, 5 December, 2008, 08:35 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Among the 195 deaths in the Mumbai attacks, were 6 Jews. Rabbi Holtzberg went there to provide Kosher food and Jewish rituals to Jews who were far from home. He encouraged Jewish people to do more Jewish things and so make the world a better place. He made sure the chickens were slaughtered correctly, in a land where very few chickens were slaughtered correctly.
The Chabad movement means that there are now little outposts of Judaism, the original (and in the opinion of many Rabbis, still the best) Yahweh club, all over the world. But I don't want to make it sound as if Jews have a monopoly on ancient wisdom. I've been to India and had dinner with the Dalai Lama. He turned out to have some ancient wisdom too, although he didn't know how to slaughter chickens correctly. I've also met Sikh leaders, who had some not-so-ancient wisdom, which again was sadly deficient in the chicken slaughtering department. I didn't find any atheists with any wisdom, even of the chicken slaughtering variety, and naturally I'm not going to mention another Yahweh club, some of who's members actually committed the atrocities in Mumbai, but are very good at slaughtering chickens as it happens.
I would like to mention The Holocaust and the nazis. That should prevent any smart ass from trying to take the piss out of my religion.