Satish Kumar - Editor of Resurgence magazine and Buddhist scholar  
Tuesday, 28 December, 2010, 09:02 AM - Environment
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Fifty years ago, I read that Bertrand Russell had been jailed for organising mass acts of civil disobedience against the bomb. Thus inspired I decided to walk to all the then four nuclear capitals. Everywhere I went I was greeted by friendly faces, kindness and friendship. Each of the leaders of the nuclear powers received me graciously. When I asked them never to build any more nuclear bombs, and to get rid of their existing ones, they smiled and said they would think about it before pointing me in the direction of the next city.

What I learned most from my walk was the connectedness between indigenous peoples and the great earth mother goddess. We are all one, the people, the sky, the birds, the mountains, the forests, the rivers, the deer, the earthworm, the tiger, the storm, the volcano, the earthquake, the flesh eating bacteria - all are one. In the great mid-Western plains, I sat in a teepee with a young man of profound, ancient wisdom and primeval dignity, who had opted for a simpler life and who subsequently died due to lack of an appropriately profound, simple, ancient medical intervention. This wise intelligent way of life has much to teach us about living in harmony with nature, of which we are all part.

Today, nuclear proliferation is everywhere. Some might say that my 8,000 mile walk was therefore a failure. Not at all, I say. If I hadn't walked to all those cities, the Environmental movement, with its campaigns to oppose atmospheric Chloroflourocarbons and man made global warming would never have happened.

We are all connected and interdependent. So excuse me while I take the car from this radio studio where I have broadcast to thousands. There are trees in desperate need of a hug.

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Reverend Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Benet's Church in Cambridge  
Monday, 27 December, 2010, 09:25 AM - Tilby
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Words are so important, especially truthful words. There are words at the beginning of Saint John the Evangelist's Gospel (as opposed to Saint John the not an Evangelist, who didn't write a Gospel and therefore doesn't get called an evangelist). There are words like "The Word was with the Invisible Magic Friend, and the word was the Invisible Magic Friend". This is all very theological and stuff. It's because the Invisible Magic Friend doesn't want to be mysterious that we have all this theology about him being a Word.

Just before Christmas, two famous journalists died. Brian Hanrahan and Anthony Howard were both dedicated to words, especially truthful words. We used to say a prayer that people who talk or write a lot of words would be guided by the invisible Magic Friend, who always uses truthful words.

We need more journalists who speak the truth, but we also have to be able to listen to the truth, to absorb facts, like Saint John's Gospel. There's too much argument that is simply emotional, designed to play to our prejudices, instead of giving us good, reliable information, like Saint John's Gospel, which never resorts to hyperbole or exaggeration.

Good journalism should challenge us like Saint John's Gospel does.

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His Infallible Holiness, Reichsführer Benedict the Umpteenth, Archbishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Pontifex Maximus, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Sovereign of the Vatican, Servant of the Servants of God and all round best guy in the whole wide world 
Friday, 24 December, 2010, 09:51 AM
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

(Tezting, tezting. Dast speaking zis zoftly zound too kreepy? Nein? Dast goot.)

Heil der my zittle Englander folks oom I iz very very fond of. Izt me, mein Holiness. Ve are preying on zu all, especially zoes non-Catholiks vich do not recognize uz as der top boss man unt all round szwell guy. Ve prey ont zur familiez, unt ve ezpecially prey ont zur children, ze little teazers. Unt ve prey unt anyvon ist zick or ist totally dependent on uz.

Ve gives zanks tu ze Invizible Magik Freund für all iz goodnez to uz, coz ve is doing very very vell zank you.

Chriztmaz greetingz to zu all, unt indeed to all peoplez throughout mein vorld, as ve avait ze return ut ze little baby Jesuz. Ze baby Jesuz vost born in Bethlehem. Zu can be zure of siz as ve are telling zu siz unt ve ist intfallible.

Ze little baby Jesuz brought ein liberation to ze vorld, (nicht ein Liberation Theology ist ein very very bad unt commie unt strictly verbotten). Das Juden vost expekting unt great military führer. Vell, vould zu Adam unt Eve it, ze Invizible Magik Freund zent unt poor carpenter inztead. Jesuz brought uz freedom unt ein Catholik Church, unt me as ze head of itz, unt ein catechism, unt ein Canon Law vich muzt be obeyed vizout question!

Jesuz ist ein überführer fur ze vorld. Iz cruzifiction zaved zu all unt everyzine haz been very much better zinze then, vif no vars, or cruelty or perzecuzion or anyzine like zat. At leazt not againzt any von who matterz.

Zo, az ve ponder zis great myztery of ze hope unt ze light unt ze good newz zat zu ich free to do az ve tell zu to, may ze graze of ze Invizible Magik Freund be upon zu all. May zu all haz unt very peazeful unt joyful Chriztmaz, zittle Englanders peoplez and may ze Invizible Magik Freund blez zu all.

(Voz at OK? Ve do our very very bezt not to mention ze condoms, or ze homozexual people or ze baby murderers or ze zecularists. I zink itz go very well.)

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Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, just down from Fortnum and Mason  
Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 09:02 AM - Democracy, Winkett
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

That naughty Telegraph has been getting more Liberal Democrat ministers to say bad things about the Tories. They tried to get the Tories to say bad things about Liberals, but they all remained perfectly discrete and polite and think the Liberals are just wonderful.

Disagreements among politicians, even those in the same government, are inevitable. Collective cabinet responsibility says that ministers argue for their point of view but back whichever view emerges as the government consensus. If they cannot back it, then they resign.

Politicians are not alone in this. Others sometimes have to support decisions that they may disagree with. Parents and teachers will often support one another even though they may have private qualms about things. They do this for the sake of consistency. But we are not children or pupils and we should expect both disagreement among cabinet members and a willingness to support one another once a decision has been made.

Disagreement, in a mature way, is a healthy sign of democracy. Sadly, it is a lesson that many religious people have yet to learn. For many, devotion means intolerance, and tolerance means lack of commitment. The opposite should be true. We should be able to argue our case without condemnation of opposing points of view.

Let us hope that collective responsibility has not been damaged by the recent revelations. Learning to disagree well is a value worth learning, practising and defending.

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Rev Dr Colin Morris, a Methodist Minister and (coincidentally) former head of religious broadcasting and BBC controller in Northern Ireland  
Wednesday, 22 December, 2010, 08:40 AM - Morris
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Christmas yet?

The bad weather means that we won't all be handing out our ideal Christmas presents this year. People will be frantically trying to decide what to give the vicar. There's always the Manchester United keyring, unless he's an atheist who supports Chelsea (just a little Rev Dr joke there - you see anyone who supports Chelsea must be as bad as an atheist, titter, titter). Oh, didn't you realise that people buy presents for the vicar? Well, good job I was here to let you know. I mean, you wouldn't want to be the only person who didn't buy him one, would you?

It's important that at least one of your gifts should be useless, although you can wave that rule in the case of vicars, where cash alternatives or book tokens are perfectly acceptable. Useless gifts show someone that you love them. Look at the very first Christmas gift, the baby Jesus. Now there was a useless gift if ever there was one. The true meaning of Christmas is to bring some colour and sparkle into the darkness and gloom of winter. It's about bringing cheer, not practicality.

What about the song the Twelve Days of Christmas - each featuring increasingly useless gifts, although the five gold rings on eight consecutive days could add up to a tidy sum. Come to think of it, the geese-a-laying, colly birds, French hens, turtle doves and partridges might come in handy for a few Christmas dinners. Even the swans-a-swimming might end up that way provided nobody tells Her Majesty, but the lords-a-leaping definitely sound useless.

Many Haiti rescue workers searched for children's toys. Many people think the children of Haiti shouldn't be allowed to have any toys until food, clothing and medical supplies have been fully restored - that any child found with a toy should have it abruptly snatched from their hands in exchange for a Red Cross ration parcel.

As a Rev Dr, let me just assure you that children need to play. They need to be reminded that they are children, not just victims.

So don't forget to include something useless in your gifts this Christmas (vicar excepted).

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Happy Winter Solstice everyone! 
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 09:27 AM - Not TFTD
It certainly feels like the shortest day here in a very dark and gloomy Southend.
9 comments ( 919 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 521 )

Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 09:03 AM - Fraser
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

And in the big news today, my wife got a free taxi ride from Euston to Saint Paul's, where I'm Canon Chancellor and Lucy Winkett isn't, at 3 o'clock in the morning. The driver said it was his "Christmas good deed".

The book On Kindness asks why people are so suspicious of kindness. We expect everyone to be selfish and think kind people must have something wrong with them. The authors argue that Christianity hijacked kindness, rather than see it for what it is, a natural part of humanity.

Hobbes thought that acts of kindness were really just acts of selfishness, doing good because it made us feel good. So kind people are really just selfish people and the taxi driver was actually an evil, greedy swine for helping someone.

These "anti-kindness" people, think they are realists, but it's the other way around. Portraying ourselves as innately selfish is a way of distancing ourselves from kindness, because in order to be kind, someone else must be vulnerable and vulnerability in others implies vulnerability in ourselves. We yearn for the kindness of others, but fear rejection and so choose to categorise everyone as selfish.

Fortunately, the taxi driver mentioned Christmas, so there's no need for me to find some other excuse to talk about it. The true meaning of Christmas is the kindness of a mother to her child and the dependency of the child on its mother. Kindness cannot exist without vulnerability. It is pretending that we are all selfish that is unrealistic. We must face the possibility of rejection with courage in order to keep kindness alive.

I think we can all agree, this is precisely what Christianity is all about.

And the therapy's going very well, thank you. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Monday, 20 December, 2010, 08:23 AM - Environment, Materialism, Bell
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Everything's just me, me, me nowadays isn't it? Children want all the latest gadgets, games and fashions. Every single one of them is just totally selfish and self-absorbed.

I'll tell you where they get it from, they get it from their parents. Recently we've seen grown ups throw tantrums over not getting the World Cup or not being guaranteed to win the Ashes (whatever they are). Now we hear people complaining about the snow.

People go out, selfishly trying to get to work and making a fuss when the "authorities" fail to keep the roads clear. Doctors, nurses, midwives, bakers, truck drivers, gritters, shop assistants - you name it, they're all driving around and getting stuck in the snow, instead of leaving the roads clear for really important people, like TFTD presenters getting to the BBC studio in Glasgow.

Well I've got news for you, you're not omnipotent, you weak, mortal, foolish nothing you. Only the invisible Magic Friend is omnipotent, and you know what, he's having a good laugh at you all just now. If you're digging the car out to do some shopping for the old lady next door, or desperately trying to get to the hospital because your mum's slipped and broke her ankle, he thinks it's hilarious.

Whether you're a believer in Darwin or seven day creation, both of these equally valid theories say that you're a nobody that got added in after the rest of creation. You're not in control, there's nothing you can do about the weather, so just accept it.

And as if your own personal selfishness was not enough, you've all ruined the planet with global warming and none of you care.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

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A Christmas Circular from Steve 
Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 07:12 AM - Not TFTD
A recent discussion got onto the subject of round-robin Christmas emails from Christians. Apparently quite a few people get these every year.

I don't. So, not wanting me, or indeed any of my flock of sheep, to feel left out, Steve has kindly put together his own Christmas circular for us all to enjoy.



Hello [insert name of dear friend or relative here]

Well, what a year it has been since the last time you heard from us. If you recall (and why wouldn’t you), 2009 was a great year for our family, but 2010 looks like it might be even better. Our investment portfolio had outperformed the market by 0.34%, which is truly a blessing from God. This additional profit (tax free owing to some creative use of the grandchildren’s trust funds) has enabled us to buy a new car this year, a Mercedes SLK convertible, the 230 supercharged version. 150mph and 0-60 in a fraction under 7 seconds, it certainly turned a few heads in the Salvation Army car park when we went to do our annual morning of soup kitchen volunteer work. In a year when very many people have lost their jobs and are struggling under the weight of the government’s austerity measures, it is heartening that we were able to help at least one part of the (German) manufacturing sector.

Sadly not everyone has been so blessed. Our next-door neighbours, and fellow congregants at St. Prendergast’s, were burgled in June by a gang of drug-crazed madmen bent on violence and destruction. As I’m sure you can imagine, the weeks afterwards were extremely traumatic as we tried to come to terms with the fact that it could well have been us. But I guess that God was looking out for us that night. The neighbours felt soon afterwards that they had to move away, not least to be closer to the mental hospital that his wife has been confined to since the raid. The new neighbours seem like a very nice family, though, so all’s well that ends well.

Of course, you’ll be desperate to know how the children have got on this year. Samuel has been able to employ another secretary – that’s six in all now, although he did have to lay off all of his other staff. Times are rather hard in the organic marmalade business (I’ve included an order form, minimum order twelve dozen boxes – Samuel always lets me know who has bought things from him). Ruth’s law firm has gone through some tough times. She recently had the stress of telling everyone that they’d have to take a 20% pay cut, although fortunately she and the other partners were able to maintain their own salaries. Ezekiel is “up”, as they say, at university in Scotland, which just leaves Brian. He recently dropped out of his course in fashion design, and is now living in Brighton with his very good friend Jeff. Goodness me they hardly seem to be apart, these young boys. They’ve recently come back from a coffee-tasting holiday in Amsterdam. We think Brian must have a secret girlfriend that he hasn’t let on about, as Ruth overheard him and Jeff discussing registry offices recently. So maybe there will be wedding bells in the New Year – we do hope so.

We know you’ll be dying to hear about the charity jumble sale we hold each year. We always think that with all the blessings we have from God, it’s right that we put some small thing back, to try to make sure that others can share in the bounty and plenty that God has granted to us. However, this year it clashed with Wimbledon, so we had to cancel. But we made sure that the charities in question didn’t lose out, by asking the vicar to add them to the praying list for that Sunday’s service.

So all in all it’s been a great year. Of course, the loss of our dear mother in August, followed by the loss of our dear father in September, then Ruth’s divorce and the fire last month, have been reminders that it’s not always rosy in the garden. But I think what sums up the year for us is winning tickets for Centre Court on Ladies’ Finals Day in the tennis club auction (a tactical masterstroke, we were sure that those council estate kids wouldn’t be able to beat an initial bid of £2,000 a ticket, and we were right). Truly God is looking down on us and granting us all of his blessings.

Peace and Goodwill to Thou Allst at this Time of Yuletide and Cheer to All God’s Children in His Blessed Sight of The Lord.
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Reverend Rob Marshall, an Anglican priest 
Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 10:26 AM - Education, Marshall
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

It's really important to learn to read. The younger the better.
Michael Gove says it's really important to learn to read.
Victor Hugo said it's really important to learn to read.
C.S. Lewis said it's really important to learn to read.
I say it's really important to learn to read.
Learning to read can open up young minds to all sorts of possibilities.

Then, as soon as it's open, we'll fill it up with stories of angels and shepherds and wise men, that we'll tell them is the truth and they shouldn't ever question it.

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