Tomorrow there's going to be a big public sector strike.
This is what happens when people constantly struggle to work, work, work all the time. Why can't everyone just relax and be a vicar like me? We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", are always trying to earn more money to buy more things, hoping that more things will make us more happy. Life just becomes one never ending labour of trying to get more money to get more things. It's the (spit) secular way and as we all know, "secular" means "bad".
Without wanting to speak in clichés, we all want to work hard and play hard. We've been living beyond our means for too long now. We cannot pay ourselves more than we earn. It's time to tighten our belts, to face the harsh economic reality. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It's all swings and roundabouts. What goes around comes around. If we take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.
As you all rush to the secular shops to buy more secular things for Christmas that nobody needs, let's not forget the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we should all be properly gloomy and morose until we go to a nice midnight service at our little local church, or in my case, a very large cathedral, of which I am now a canon.
Happy four weeks to go 'till Christmas everyone!
You know that bloke in the high street with a sandwich board saying "repent, the end is nigh," well, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Phew, what a complete religious nutter. He's as bad as an environmentalist." But he's right, the end really is nigh.
The true meaning of Christmas is that Christ is going to return any day now and judge us all. Father Christ is going to appear at the foot of your bed in a blaze of glory and say, "Have you been good little boys and girls? Or have you been naughty?" All the good little boys and girls will get lots of lovely eternal life and get into heaven, but all the naughty ones get eternal damnation with demons sticking red hot pitch forks where you'd really rather they didn't.
You can always cast yourself down before Father Christ and plead for his infinite mercy. A bit of grovelling certainly won't do you any harm when you consider the alternative, but on the whole rules is rules. You had your chance and you messed it up. See if you're laughing at us Christians then, eh?
On judgement day, tyrants will be overthrown, even in Syria and the Eurozone economic crisis will be solved. There, that's one of the most tenuous connections to the news, ever, out of the way.
And don't think you can get away from either the rampant commercialism of Christmas or judgement day by going on a nice, relaxing cruise. Father Christ knows where you are and will judge you anyway.
Like I said, happy four weeks to go 'till Christmas everyone!
So Dame Vivienne Westwood has been addressing the anti-capitalist protesters outside Saint Paul's on the emptiness of consumerism. And so I stood around watching the Durham Lumiere Festival. There were lots of bright, happy colours, lighting up the town and especially the cathedral.
And so it begins, the Cathedral was adorned by pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels. These unique Gospels were produced at enormous expense. Going forward, they were definitely the designer Gospels of their day and highly desirable artefacts in their own right - no hint of abject consumerism or the ostentatious display of wealth there.
Do you know who all this reminds me of? Go on, have a guess. No, I knew you wouldn't get it. OK, I'll put you out of your misery, it was Jesus! Yes, that's right, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend! Jesus is like light, a great big multi-coloured neon display of tubular light, who now reigns supreme in the great fluorescent bulb showroom in the sky.
So science and religion don't have all the answers. (I put them together because they don't have all the answers in roughly equal amounts.) And so there's no art any more, For Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine, except in Durham, where we have 1,300 year old Gospels projected onto the Cathedral walls - that's art.
Aren't things just terrible at the moment? All this unemployment and the rising cost of living. Everything's just terrible.
But just cast your mind back to the good times. They were terrible too. It was just work, work, work all the time. Busy ordained Buddhists like me were just rushed off our feet. Everyone was so terribly materialistic. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", were constantly comparing ourselves with everyone else on the greasy pole, forever trying to outdo others. What you need (and I'll bet you never expected to hear this from a Buddhist) is a bit of meditation.
Me and the NHS have been busy trying to get people to slow down for years. I spend all my time rushing from one hospital to the next, desperately trying to get people to meditate or be mindful. It just never stops. When I'm not at a hospital I'll be at some doctor's surgery, or at a health centre. In between all that, there's Thought for the Day to squeeze in as well. I can't tell you what a relief it is that my Blackberry's gone down and I'm finally getting a bit of free time.
My advice to you is to meditate a bit, then quickly dash off for a walk in the park, look at the sky, watch the pretty birds, then quickly get back for some more meditation. Don't forget to get in at least half and hour of mindfulness before your next meditation session.
I'd love to help you out a bit more but you wouldn't believe the number of therapy sessions I've got lined up for today. The "slow down" business is really booming, even in these gloomy economic times.
And if you're unemployed? Well, just sort of enjoy the free time I suppose. Think of it as an opportunity to not be materialistic.
Children in the UK are the unhappiest in the world and it's all my fault! I should have been spending quality time, playing with my children. Instead, I've been working all hours being a busy Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian. I tried to buy them off with flash gadgets and shiny toys, but there was only so much a 3 year old could achieve with a Blackberry. Now look what's happened, they've turned into materialistic consumers.
If only I'd listened to what I was teaching and theologising about. Hindu teaching definitely says to spent time with your kids. And they grow up so fast, don't they? Gandhi himself pointed out there just weren't enough hours in the day for all the fasting and praying and theologising and spending quality time with your children.
As if spending time with the children weren't enough, we've got to find quality time to spend with the Invisible Magic Friend as well. Now there's someone you really can't buy off with a new xbox.
Don't make the mistake I made. Don't put your busy life as a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian before the well being of your children. Won't someone please think of the children!
The vicars' report has recommended splitting retail from investment banks and raising the level of capital they maintain.
This brings me neatly onto why the Chinese government is so keen on Protestantism. China, the up and coming place to be in the modern world, wants to encourage thrift, hard work and the making of as many material goods as possible that people shouldn't want. That's why China, a fine upstanding, hard working, moral country favours Protestantism.
The West, a lazy, decadent, materialistic society, has turned its back on Protestantism. You only have to look at the very worst debt laden countries: Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - not a Protestant country among them. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", have abandoned the sensible path of prudence and frugality, we have lusted after immediate material gratification, purchasing all those clever gadgets manufactured by those noble, industrious, Protestant Chinese.
We won't see a return to the glory days of the West until we return to the one true faith: Protestantism, whether it be in the form of Anglicanism, Lutherism, Calvinism, Baptist, Anabaptist, Methodist - all of which are the one true faith.
Protestantism, the only belief in an Invisible Magic Friend endorsed by the Chinese government.
And that's why the vicars' report is so important.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Isn't the world economic collapse just terrible. Awful. Tut, tut, tut. It really is very bad indeed. Very bad.
Ireland, Greece and Portugal were bad enough, but now Italy, Spain and even the United States. It's like a toothache that just won't go away. As we sit here in the waiting room of sovereign debt, we hear the wizzing drill of economic hardship only a room away. Except, even the dentists are broke and there are no more dentists.
I won't bore you with complicated graphs, sum and percentages. All you need to know is that everyone is now broke. Your pension is worthless. If you're not already unemployed then you soon will be. You and your family are about to become destitute. It's going to be terrible for you, awful, absolutely appalling.
But cheer up. Look on the bright side. Money isn't everything you know. Look at me, I'm doing all right. During these harsh economic times, we Rev Drs come into our own. Business is booming in the spiritual consolation industry. I can offer you phrases like "spiritual reality" with a perfectly straight face, or even accompanied by a beautifully patronising smile. Everything else has gone belly up. The only thing left is invisible magic stuff.
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again.
It's impossible to comment on anything else today: the hacking paper, the News of the World is to close. Isn't it great. I mean, I'm sure none of us are gloating or anything - nothing so un-Christian, after all, we all do so love Rupert Murdoch and his son James, who luckily for him, turned out to be the best person in the world to take over from his father.
Of course, no one at News Corporation knew anything about what was going on. The editors, executives, board members are all shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that such underhand tactics were being employed by this paragon of journalistic integrity. Even the hacks who were doing the hacking were astonished to learn that they had done it.
It's very easy to point fingers and to say that this was just a few evil journalists, private investigators and bent cops. But in reality, aren't we all responsible? And by "we", I do of course mean "you". Today Programme listeners, with there well known habit of reading sleazy tabloids, and there voracious appetite for all the outrageous details of celebrities' sex lives, are really what drove these poor, innocent journalists to do it.
If you weren't all so obsessed with all the salacious gossip about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, these sort of rags wouldn't prosper. Honestly, I don't know how you can live with yourselves at night. Aren't you even in the least bit ashamed for poking your noses in like that? Still, that's what you get for living a life of sin. If only you were a bit more like the Invisible Magic Friend, who famously never pays any attention to peoples' private lives, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.
Well I just hope you've all learned your lesson, that's all I can say.
A Chinese teenager has sold a kidney to buy an iPad. I know what you're thinking. That's shocking, especially considering that there are far cheaper Android based equivalents.
But, in a sense, aren't we all (and by "we", I do of course mean "you" ) like the Chinese boy? Aren't you all so superficial that you think having more stuff will make you happy? Yes of course you are.
Many of you will be stuck in boring, tedious, dead end, meaningless jobs. You have to suffer a long, often frustrating commute. You may be undergoing that long, frustrating commute even as I speak. To those of you in your early twenties who have already realised this, I say, don't worry, there's only 40 years or so to go. Then you get to retire.
Of course many of you have to prostitute yourselves to your pointless jobs in order do things like eat. What a shame.
This reminds me of Pentecost, which by a marvellous coincidence just happens to be this Sunday. Those early Christians held all their goods in common. They shared everything and only bought and sold for the common good. We don't do that nowadays. That kind of collective ownership is all a bit suspect and communist and not at all the way that respectable Christians behave, but I think it would be a very admirable way for some of you non-Christians to behave.
I want to talk to you today about the art of Ai Weiwei. Which brings me on to religion. Religion is very much like art. It is subversive, not at all part of the establishment. It asks all the difficult questions and even makes up some answers.
Believe it or not, there are control freaks out there who want to tell you what to think. That is why they are so afraid of religion. When you have a religion you are free to think what you like. Free, FREE, FREE I tell you! You are free to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Free to ask, what if there is more than this world? Eh? Eh? What if? Eh? Makes you think, eh? A famous poet asked that, so there. What a disappointment it would be if this dull, uninteresting universe was all there was.
I am free to have random thoughts rattling around in my Rev Dr brain. That's what makes me so dangerous. That's why "they" want to suppress me, to prevent me from coming on Thought For The Day. But they will not succeed. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.
And in conclusion, that's what the art of Ai Weiwei is all about.