During the past six months,

I haven’t read as many books as I would have expected to.

My mind, as you might be aware,

 has been preoccupied with other things.


However, I have, of course, read a few,

one of them being a fascinating and very literate read

on the subject of “evil” by Terry Eagleton.


The closer you look at the subject of “Evil”

the more complicated it becomes, the more difficult to define.


The book I am reading at the moment is about Stalin,

the most hideous, horrible, and unutterably evil person

that my limited trolling through recent history has revealed.

Not insignificantly, to my mind, he was an atheist.


I have just visited, with great pleasure, but mixed feelings, Zimbabwe,

driving past the palatial residence of Robert Mugabe not a few times.

Its well watered, manicured lawns

were clearly visible through the well soldiered and policed entrance,

and the main road upon which it is situated,

was closed every day from 6.00pm to 6.00am, for security reasons,

in high-handed disregard of the inconvenience to local road users.


As far as I know he is not an atheist,

so put that in your pipe and smoke it, Andrew Neaum,

but he is nasty, and possibly as evil in his own way as Stalin,

though, if so, a mere pygmy in the scale of his actual evil achievement.

As too he is, if compared to Hitler, Pol Pot,

and possibly Stalin’s greatest rival in hideousness, Mao Tse Tung.


The powers that be, those in authority,

kings, potentates and rulers,

are granted temptations and opportunities to display humanity’s evil

humanity’s flawed, bent, skewed nature, humanity’s original sinfulness,

in ways and on a scale that the likes of most us are denied.


The Trade Unionist’s contention and mantra:

“The boss is a bastard, a bastard, a bastard”

while not necessarily always true

does, too often, hit the nail on the head. 

It was the powers that be, those in authority,

that did for Jesus of Nazareth.

He was yet another of those nonentities,

like any one of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands

of men women and children

whose lives were so casually and often brutally taken from them

by the monstrous, unspeakably evil Stalin.


One of the things I love about Christianity,

and above all about Jesus of Nazareth,

is that it doesn’t, when authentic,

genuflect to those in authority.

Rather, it subverts authority, calls it into question

not by going to war against the powers that be,

not by playing the same violent game as those in authority

but by presenting a crazy, topsy turvy, alternative authority,

an authority that intrigues, compels and gives rise

to a fascinated admiration and joy.

in those of us who have fallen in love with Jesus


The King, but on a donkey,

the man of sorrows acquainted with grief,

the King whose throne is a cross,

and who, on that cross,

is not only able to forgive,

but also to turns his attention away from the agony of dying,

to respond to a criminal who is also dying an agonised death

in order to reassure him

that beyond this world of conventional, brutal authority

is a God whose majesty and glory, and power and authority

can only be authentically characterised in space-time reality

by the powerless powerfulness

of sacrifice, love and forgiveness,

best summed up, only able to be summed up,

on a gibbet, a gallows, a cross.


You see it wasn’t God Almighty, mighty, mighty

who created this world

and who still holds it in existence,


Peanuts and bubble gum to that!

That’s not the faith that I hold.

It was, if anyone, and simply has to have been

a carpenter who created the world.

A dilly, daft, albeit loving, merciful, forgiving, courageous carpenter,

is the best and ultimate exemplar of authentic, divine authority,

the only potentate to whom I will willingly bow the knee.


The great Christian nineteen sixties troubadour Sidney Carter

put this best in his famous song which I often read on Good Friday.


In the song it is the penitent thief on the cross next to Jesus,

who is the poem’s narrator:


          It was on a Friday morning that they took me from the cell,

          And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.

          You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews,

          You can blame it on the Devil, it’s God I accuse.


          It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me

          I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.


          You can blame it on to Adam, you can blame it on to Eve,

          You can blame it on the Apple, but that I can’t believe.

          It was God that made the Devil and the Woman and the man,

          And there wouldn’t be an Apple if it wasn’t in the plan.


          It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me

          I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.


          Now Barabbas was a killer and they let Barabbas go.

          But you are being crucified for nothing here below.

          But God is up in heaven and he doesn’t do a thing:

          With a million angels watching, and they never move a wing.


          It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me

          I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.


          To hell with Jehovah, to the carpenter I said,

          I wish that a carpenter had made the world instead.

          Goodbye and good luck to you, our ways will soon divide,

          Remember me in heaven, the man you hung beside.


          It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me

          I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.



“It’s God they ought to crucify.....” 

Ah, well, sweet, sweet irony of ironies!

Our sweet, sweet faith, which I love so much,

maintains that it was God they were crucifying.... 

It was, it was, it was!