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The Bishop of Liverpool's Awful Thought for The Day'

Posted: 29/03/2012 12:35

This piece should be read by adopting the loping, declamatory tone of the British clergy and therefore the presenters of Radio 4's Thought For The Day. The superiority complex of the pulpit given intimate breath by microphone technology.

Someone recently gave me a gift of a balloon branded with the logo of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, the most quietly welcoming and unbigoted of the Christian groups.

What a joyfully ironic choice of merchandise is a balloon, for such a thoughtful organisation. When you stamp on a balloon, or stick a pin in it, it bursts very loudly, becoming at the moment of its demise the exact opposite of a Quaker.

It was given to me unblownup, so I blew it up and was instantly trapped by this big red pacifist balloon in my domestic life, where inevitably it will go POP! some time soon - yet I'm now obsessed with it not bursting. Suddenly the balloon is my most intimate relationship and a total fucking distraction.

The day before the Budget, at 7.45am, I was in Devon driving through rich green spring dawn countryside, on my way to a school in Wiveliscombe, the balloon in the back seat, when on the radio came one of the most offensive contributions to Thought For The Day I've heard in a long time.

The Right Reverend James Jones, Bish Bosh of Liverpool, started his three minutes by telling us of an opulent feast he'd attended, hosted by the Labour Council to make Lord Heseltine a Freeman of the City.

He wryly pointed out this could never have happened under the Militant Tendency, which was a shot across the listener's bow that today we prayed to capitalism, not Christ. 

This Thought For The Day was to praise the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, where Heseltine featured alongside former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy and Sir Richard Branson. 600 delegates climaxed their jolly with an indulgent dinner in the Knave of the Cathedral.

It was built by entrepreneurship, Jones said, and this was: "Another reason why this temple of God should welcome the emergence of Mammon."

I'm not kidding: Jones used the word 'mammon' to mean an acceptable, growing part of faith, his words riding like a rhinoceros over the millennia-understood definition of the false idol Greed.

Thus, Money became God on Radio 4's flagship religious output. Preacher's tone aside, this was nothing less than Gordon Gekko: as if Jones had been on his way towards a cry of faith and accidentally slipped up in some banking, then started worshipping what he'd got all over his hands.

His core point was such malevolent current Establishment newspeak, it was to my mind almost satanically immoral: the drive to replace the word 'equality' with the word 'fairness' in popular vernacular; rendering 'inequality' a justifiable biproduct of a 'bigger good', of course defined by the winners alone. Note: entrepreneurship built the Cathedral, not manual labour.

Quoting that bastard St Paul: "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little." and proposing that "entrepreneurs are the doctors to open the valves and veins" of a sick city, to make sure its 'life blood' reaches out beyond the centre.

Jones' conclusion was actually horrifying: that abject poverty is a good, useful thing, as it enables comfortable rich people to spot the point at which they've become too comfortably rich.

That was the day before Gideon Osborne made OAPs pay for a tax reduction for the 1% by arguing that in return the 1% will volunteer to avoid less tax in gratitude.

As the Church of England struggled with the Occupy movement, I over-personalised the religious villainy; blaming it solely on those running St Paul's Cathedral itself and perhaps excusing the wider Church in my mind. But no, this whoring to The City is clearly endemic:

Jesus wept, Reverend Jones, what a wretched, ungodly sermon. Like Mr Burns' house in The Simpsons, I imagine your Cathedral located on the corner of Mammon and Croesus.

Christ would knock over your tables - and sleep in a tent on your steps until the police forcibly removed him, as they did young Quaker activist Sam Walton, who cried out The Lord's Prayer as he was thrown down at your colleagues' behest.

Thought For The Day is so repeatedly, relentlessly appalling, it's changed our morning listening entirely, despite being just three minutes long. We want very much to know what's going on in the world first thing in the morning and we love John Humphrys. However we've switched our alarm to Radio 3 instead. We can't stand you.

I pray for the disestablishment of the Church; for the long needed permanent irrevocable separation of Church and State, above all else because it will rid us of this balloon POP! intervention by an idiot into an otherwise important daily broadcast of truth.

Paid for by us; an inter-connectedness too far.

A version of this piece was first published in the Morning Star.

 

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