Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Wednesday, 7 December, 2011, 08:03 AM - Christmas, Bell
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

News, news, news. The news is just full of news these days. However, a lot of news is not news at all. It is in fact, old news, news that has been announced before it was news and that by the time it became news was no longer news.

There, no one can accuse me of only tangentially mentioning the news today. I've done nothing but talk about news, future news and past news.

Which brings me onto past and future tense and the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we haven't had it yet. You're not supposed to be jolly yet. You're supposed to be miserable. There's lots of death, suffering, injustice and wealth disparity to dwell upon. Believer and unbeliever alike, ask why does the Invisible Magic Friend not do something? Simplistic answers like, he doesn't exist, are automatically excluded because it would make religion look silly.

The birth of the Invisible Magic Friend is something that happens NOW, that is to say, in several weeks time. It wasn't announced in advance, except by the prophets who announced it in advance. That is why Christmas is real news, or at least it will be when it happens. When it does actually happen, which is NOW, in several weeks time, we'll all be jolly grateful that it's already happened in the past, unannounced and NOW.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Tuesday, 6 December, 2011, 08:22 AM - Women, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

I was once asked if cultural traditions could be used to excuse a particularly violent case of honour killing. It cannot. Murder is murder and is always wrong.

Honour violence in this country is nearly always perpetrated by Muslim men against Muslim women. Family honour is often interpreted as narrowly as a woman's chastity.

Last year, there were nearly 3,000 reports to the police of honour violence. This is not something that we Muslims can afford to ignore. It is a culture intended to impose obedience in women through fear.

Religion cannot pretend to maintain the dignity of all human life while ignoring the murder of women. The mindset of Muslims must change. We cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of a liberal society while ignoring this oppressive behaviour. It is time to speak out against Muslim violence against women. If we do not then all Muslims will harbour some responsibility for the consequences.

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Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 5 December, 2011, 08:19 AM - Be nice, Lessons of history, Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Good morning Evan, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.

Well here we are in another crisis. It doesn't really matter what it is because there's always a crisis of some sort, this is just the latest one. It's mostly our own fault, whatever it is, for not learning lessons from the past and being too short sighted about the consequences of our actions.

Many crises ago, back in the last century, people sought scapegoats for their crises, and for once that really is how Nazi Germany started.

We were poor but happy back then. We left our front doors unlocked, because quite frankly, there was nothing worth stealing.

So here are some of my personal tips on how to deal with the latest crisis.

Don't worry about things that might never happen. There are much worse things that probably will happen and that you haven't even thought of yet.

Now some jokes.

How many Jews does it take to change a light-bulb?
Two, one to change the bulb and another to tell him how to do it better.

How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light-bulb?
One, provided the light-bulb really wants to change.

How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light-bulb?
None, don't worry about me, I'll sit alone in the dark.

Don't be afraid to ask for help or courage. The best things in life really are free: friendship, kindness, complements and kisses. This isn't shmaltz but personally tested.

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Rev Rob Marshall, an Anglican Priest  
Saturday, 3 December, 2011, 08:09 AM - Marshall
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Ambassadors are in the news. Iran and Britain have decided to stop having ambassadors. The 2012 Olympics, on the other hand, have decided to have some royal ambassadors. They'll royally tell everyone that the 2012 Olympics are really royally great.

This got me thinking about ambassadors. Here is what I thought.

An ambassador is someone who speaks up for someone or something and says, "Someone or something is really great." They usually arrive at the place where they're going to do their ambassadoring and say, "Hello, I'm the ambassador for someone or something. Now it's time for me to get on with the job of saying how great someone or something is."

In the New Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, Saint Paul mentions "ambassadors" twice: once in his second letter to the Corinthians and once in his letter to the Ephesians. That's how important ambassadors are: Saint Paul mentions them twice. He doesn't mention them in his letters to the Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, in his first letter to the Corinthians, in either letter to the Thessalonians, or to Timothy, Titus, or Philemon, but that doesn't reflect on how important ambassadors are.

As an Anglican priest I know that a person who is really good at saying how really good someone or something is, will be really good at being an ambassador for that someone or something, because a really good ambassador is really good at that.

That's my thought for today.

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Radiantly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...  
Friday, 2 December, 2011, 08:23 AM - Harries
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Isn't everything really gloomy at the moment? The economy is in meltdown. (Mervyn King said so yesterday. There, that's the news out of the way.) All over the planet there is violence and disorder, injustice and the poverty. It all seems so hopelessly catastrophic and irreparably horrible.

This is perfectly in accord with the teachings of Christianity. Christianity is an inherently gloomy religion, always expecting the very worst from humanity and never being disappointed. There was a good person once, in 17th century England, but he died and ever since it's been downhill all the way.

On the other hand, there's the invisible magic afterlife to look forward to. So always look on the bright side of death. Don't despair, for that is a sin. No matter how terrible everything is, and it really is terrible, your life after you die is going to be really amazing, unless it's really terrible.

In this particularly gloomy season of Advent, we can reflect that one of the advantages of all this evil is the large number of opportunities it provides to do good, bringing joy into the gloomy lives of our children and our children's children. You can do this even if you're not a Christian. That is surely something that we can all agree on, although it's still much better to do good while being a Christian.

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Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian  
Thursday, 1 December, 2011, 08:39 AM - Gibberish, Akhandadhi Das
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

The chancellor's autumn statement says things are going to get worse before they get better.

This is exactly what it says in one of the Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff. Just hang on in there for another five or six years, a decade or two tops, and it'll soon be party time again. The future will be brighter for our children, and our children's children. Hope springs eternal. Where there's a will there's a way. Nothing venture, nothing gained. In for a penny in for pound.

I will now introduce you to four exotic sounding Hindu words, whose mystical eastern sounds lend gravitas and authority to their meaning. These words are as follows.

Darn socks - the ethical values that help us to repair damaged hosiery.
Arthur - the King of Camelot who provides the stability necessary for our economic prosperity.
Calmer - the state we need to be in to enjoy material things.
Mocha - the delicious coffee and chocolate mixture that makes us so spiritually fulfilled

All four are needed. If Arthur does not darn socks then we won't be calmer to enjoy our mocha. While Arthur may be a bit idle at the moment and outside our control, this is no reason not to darn socks or enjoy a calm, soothing mocha. We look forward to the day when Arthur returns to unite all of Britain in darning socks and have a calmer Mocha. That day will happen and it will take all four to make us truly fulfilled and better off.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge  
Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 08:21 AM - Life after death, Banner
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

A death by suicide affects us all. We wonder what depths of despair and hopelessness they must have felt to push them to such lengths. We wonder if there wasn't more that we could have done to bring them just enough hope, enough consolation, to bring them back from the brink.

Naturally we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", turn to Christianity to find out what it has to say about this. Well it mostly says "don't do it", it's a mortal sin and you really don't want to die with a mortal sin on your soul. Then it argues quite a bit about how culpable the person who committed suicide is and how extensive their punishment in the afterlife should be.

If they had taken advantage of the Christian facilities for confession and forgiveness they may well have decided not to commit suicide. Alternatively they could have consoled themselves with knowledge of the wonderful invisible magic afterlife and how important it was to delay getting there as much as possible.

In this way, modern Christianity faces up to the reality of depression and despair.

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Canon Angela Tilby, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford 
Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 08:27 AM - Economics, Materialism, Secularism, Tilby
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

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.

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Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 28 November, 2011, 08:04 AM - Spirituality, Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

WAKEY WAKEY LIONEL!

What? Oh yes.

In the good old days, when I were a lad and life had not yet emerged onto land, I wanted to grow up to be a Marxist revolutionary. But it turned out Marxist revolutions were all rubbish so I gave up on that.

So I decided to become more spiritual. Spirituality without materialism is just some bloke waffling piously on the radio. Conversely, materialism without spirituality is just materialism. We need more spirituality.

Capitalism is very good at producing wealth - just not very good at spreading it out. That's where spirituality comes in to it. It, whatever "it" is, is very good at spreading it out.

Wealth does not bring happiness. Just look how miserable all those wealthy people are. Just ask yourself, have you ever seen a happy rich person? I think that says it all.

We don't just have an economic problem, we have a spiritual problem. If only people had been more spiritual we wouldn't be in this mess.

There are still some spiritual people about though, even among bankers. They give us all hope.

Well it's time to have a nice hot cup of hot chocolate and snuggle down under the sheets.

Night night everyone.

Night night Invisible Magic Friend.

NIGHT NIGHT LIONEL.

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Rev Roy Jenkins Baptist Minister in Cardiff  
Saturday, 26 November, 2011, 08:21 AM - Christmas, Justice and mercy, Materialism, Jenkins
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

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!

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