Thursday, 13 May 2010

Paxman interviews Jesus

I’ve just come across this interesting record of Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Jesus of Nazareth, recorded in a dead BBC scroll discovered by Michael Gove (yes, that Michael Gove).

JP: So, we're months into your campaign for the role of Messiah, and what are people saying about you? Here's just some of the comments we've heard from those who've seen you close up: "A jumped-up carpenter's son who thinks he's born to rule"; "born out of wedlock, an illegal immigrant as an infant, a known associate of prostitutes, wholly incapabPaxole of leading any sort of revival in our fortunes"; and, crucially, "a man who won't give a straight answer to a straight question". How do you respond to these damning criticisms of your record so far?

JC: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

JP: So you don't deny that these criticisms have real purchase? Because we hear that the Pharisees and the Saducees, whose support you'd been counting on, are now turning against you. How can you possibly win in the country if you can't win over your own people? Aren't you just another of these failed here today, gone tomorrow prophets who've done so much harm?

JC: You have said so.

JP: And you haven't yet produced a single fact to contradict me. Your campaign hasn't got a prayer.

JC: That's one thing we do have, actually. Our Father . . .

JP: Never mind all that personal stuff, dragging your family in. People have had enough of that. They want to examine your record so far. Judas Iscariot is one of your key supporters. His name is on your campaign literature. He's been with you since the beginning. But now he says you lack the necessary zealotry to transform Judea and Samaria for the better. That's a pretty damning criticism, isn't it?

JC: He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.

JP: More than just a heel - it's a body blow. You'll need a miracle to recover now. With your supporters deserting you, and apparently even your campaign manager Peter wobbling, the real focus is now on your words. Can they be trusted? When you said recently, and I quote, "the meek shall inherit the earth", was that a firm promise?

JC: It was a prophecy.

JP: A prophecy? But what's your timetable for that? In your first term? As conditions allow? What if there's a war? Or a flu pandemic? Or a plague of locusts? Won't that wreck your plan to hand over the earth to the meek - a pledge many might say was reckless in itself given how untested the meek are.

JC: Truly, I say unto you, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven .

JP: Oh, puh-leese. Here you are, spraying pledges around, or prophecies as you prefer to call them, promising people the earth one moment and then offering entry to Heaven the next. Let's get down to brass tacks here. You're an untested figure in your thirties with no experience of life outside the cosy world of Nazareth, you come to Jerusalem and after just one Sermon on the Mount you've got people saying you're something special, but under close questioning you've shown you're clearly not as clever, funny, aggressive or well-paid as me. How on earth do you think people will follow you if you can't even get the better of me?

JC: I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

JP: Oh, come off it!

Well, He’s still got my vote.

h/t Julian Glover of The Guardian.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Christianity’s hijackers sent packing

During the 1990s I was Team Rector of a parish on the Becontree Estate in Barking and Dagenham. I had the privilege of serving as Mayor’s Chaplain in 1997 following Labour’s historic victory on May 1st. One of the people I got to meet on several occhodgeasions was Margaret Hodge, elected MP for Barking in 1994. I remember chatting with her at the Mayor’s dinner about the new Labour government’s priorities for education.

Towards the end of my time in Barking and Dagenham I became very aware of an insidious menace establishing a presence in the borough. The BNP opened an office and began to target the borough as a base for its local and national operations. They sought to feed on the uncertainty and confusion in communities trying to come to terms with massive economic, social and demographic changes and eventually established a foothold. As a result 11 BNP councillors were elected to the borough council in the 2006 elections. While this was deeply depressing the upside was that people experienced just how useless the BNP councillors were and quickly became disillusioned.

At this year’s General Election Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, stood against Margaret Hodge in Barking. One of the highlights of the election results was hearing the news that Griffin had been trounced by Hodge as the electorate made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with the BNP’s odious policies. Griffin left the election declaration with Hodge’s words ringing in his ears:

The message from Barking to the BNP is clear — get out and stay out. You're not wanted here, and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Tomorrow you're going to lose councillors and tomorrow we're giving you a clear message — pack your bags and go.

Hodge’s prediction proved accurate as the BNP went on to lose all 12 seats they had held on the council and so they were completely wiped out in the borough. It now looks likely that Griffin and his lackeys will relocate out of the area and there is much speculation as to Griffin’s future. This defeat of the BNP is testimony to all the hard work done by party activists, local churches, other faith communities and residents in the borough. It is also a victory for the sam campaign headed up by Hope Not Hate. I am particularly pleased for Sam Tarry, son of my friend Revd Canon Gordon Tarry (Team Rector of Barking), who was elected as a councillor and is the Chair of Young Labour. I have seen how much work Sam and his colleagues have put into campaigning against the BNP and their victory on Thursday is well deserved.

One of the most disreputable tactics of the BNP has been to attempt to hijack the Christian faith in promoting their policies. The BNP ran a particularly offensive campaign in the run up to the European Elections in June 2009. Their posters carried an image of Jesus Christ on the cross and quoted part of a verse from John's Gospel (John 15:20) in which Jesus says: "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you". The irony of this campaign was that they used the image of someone they would not have allowed to be a member of their political party according to their own membership rules at the time.

So it’s good riddance to Griffin and the BNP and a great opportunity for the people of Barking and Dagenham to work for the building up of peace and the common good in the community. I continue to pray for them.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The truth about opinion polls

There has been much debate about the opinion polls conducted during the General Election, particularly those polls conducted straight after the leaders’ debates. Well, here’s the explanation courtesy of Yes, Prime Minister:

h/t @WGallagher

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

In the interest of balance

I hear that the Tories have bought an advert on the front page of YouTube for tomorrow. I feel that in the interest of balance I should post a video, so here it is.

For those of you who wonder where my political affiliations lie let me just say that I lived in Brixton, Hull and Durham during the early 1980s and remember well the last time we had a slash and burn approach to economics and the public sector.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

There she blows again

Woke up this morning to the news that the volcano in Iceland has started spewing out ash again, resulting in the grounding of air traffic in Ireland. As a Manchester United fan Ivolcano’m used to occasional volcanic eruptions emanating from the bowels of Old Trafford and the cause can usually be traced to Sir Alex Ferguson. However, there is much speculation as to the cause of the Icelandic volcano’s awakening.

There is an explanation doing the rounds on Twitter courtesy of Armando Iannucci (@AIannucci) and others who have observed:

Every time David Cameron looks like he might win, the volcano gets angry....Just saying.

More seriously comes the pronouncement of Pastor John Hagee, of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, that the cause of the eruption is Britain breaking God’s covenant. Hagee has noticed that the day after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the Western Wall could not be used in Israeli tourism adverts because it is considered occupied territory, the volcano blew, shutting down Britain’s economy in one day. He went on to say:

That's coincidence, like the flood was a coincidence. That's coincidence, like the Red Sea was coincidence. That's coincidence, like the earthquake and the Resurrection was coincidence.

Hagee was speaking in the Lancaster County Convention Centre on Thursday 22nd April to an audience of some 3,200 people attending his John Hagee Ministries’ Rally and Prophecy Seminar. Meanwhile, a group of local residents were outside the rally seeking to draw attention to the plight of Palestinian Christians. One of the residents commented:

We have Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East that are encouraging us to take their concerns seriously. They are suffering a lot in the occupation.

Now a few things occur to me on reading about Hagee’s prophetic insights. Firstly, as far as I am aware the British economy didn’t shut down thanks to the volcano; aircraft were prevented from flying for a few days, but the banks were open, the stock market continued trading and I was able to do my shopping. Yes, some holiday makers and business people had their travel plans interrupted, but many others were rejoicing in the absence of aircraft noise. Secondly, a volcano seems a pretty poor way of dispensing judgement since most of northern Europe’s airspace was shut down while playing host to the ash clouds. Thirdly, what has Ireland been up to, given that they have been given another dose of the volcanic punishment?

I hadn’t heard of John Hagee before so I had a quick look at his website which proclaims the following mission statement: The mission of John Hagee Ministries is to aggressively fulfill the commission that Jesus Christ gave to his followers to go into the world and make disciples of all people. Well I’ve gone back to my New Testament and I’ve hunted through the pages, particularly the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20, and I can’t find Jesus telling us to ‘aggressively’ do anything in his name. Not surprising really given that Jesus’ modus operandi was to love his enemies and to bless those who persecuted him.

I don’t know why the volcano blew its top over the last few days; I’m attracted by the Cameron theory but confess I never did pay much attention during geography and science at school. However, I do know enough about theology to know when someone is spouting nonsense.