Friday, August 24, 2007

Lionel Blue - the antidote to Anne Atkins

My list of the Top Ten living people, if I ever sat down to write it out, would probably include Rabbi Lionel Blue. The man is just so wonderful and cosy, a British national treasure if ever there was one.

To remind myself how much I like Lionel Blue, all I need to do is to remember the voice of Anne Atkins.

Anyway, Lionel gave a wonderful Thought for the Day a couple of weeks back. It can be read and heard here.

In a couple minutes he summed my thoughts on faith to a tee:

Religious structures look so solid with their soaring spires, office blocks, and over the top titles that we forget how these seemingly solid edifices rest on such see through stuff as what Moses thought he heard in a burning bush, what Jacob experienced in a dream, what Ezekiel imagined in a vision. Why they don't tumble down like Humpty Dumpty is a puzzle.

But they don't because the heart of religion isn't things but an experience you might share if you make the effort. That's more profitable than arguing about whether God exists or doesn't and whether he's a she or an it or a who or a what.

...And that, in my humble judgment, is it. In a few cosy little homespun words, old Lionel has summed up there what I feel about faith.


  1. When I was doing 'Thought for the Day' regularly in the late 80s, early 90s,I used to run into Lionel at Christmas parties and other BBC events, and once went to have tea with him. He is exactly the same in real life as on air: a cuddly teddy-bear of a man, who is nonetheless very shrewd, witty and occasionally sharp. Very laid back about both his liberal attitude to faith and his sexuality. After BBC Religious programmes production (responsible for the Thought slot on the Today programme)moved to Manchester, they axed most of the regular contributors, including me, but there was such an outcry from listeners about the temporary disappearance of Lionel that they had to bring him back!

  2. Thank you for that comment Jonathan - and well done for your excellent obituary of Tim Garden in the Guardian.

  3. Yes, have to agree with you Paul. He is indeed an inspiration, sadly I missed that Thought for the Day, but always enjoy his contributions, challenging, uplifting and I particularly love the way he can so deftly prick that ever present bubble of pomposity. I well understand why he figures so highly in your list of heroes!

  4. Thanks Linda - hope you had some sort of holiday!

  5. Not yet......but off to Brussels next week.....for a UN conference on the Middle East! I have promised my son we will get a holiday eventually, although it may be in Brighton in the middle of September...........