I heard one of those ‘thought for the day’ things on the radio the other morning, and it made me smile, though probably not for the reasons that the speaker intended.
It wasn’t the wry smile of a world-weary cynic smiling at the insight provided by an old-style religious parable which nonetheless retained a certain poignancy and simple honesty even in the modern world, it was – sorry to say – the sarcastic smile of someone shaking his head slightly at the cliché of the format; what the speaker did – a Vicar from Tunbridge Wells, I think he was – was take a topical event, and break it down into a simplified form, and then relate it to Jesus. You know the standard thing, I’m sure – “With all the ringtones available to download, many people – and especially young people – seem unsure which one to choose – the polyphonic or the real one. And, you know, in a lot of ways, that’s rather like choosing to follow God, isn’t it?”, that sort of spiel.
They’re harmless enough in their way, though by virtue of being on the radio I’m always reminded of Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’ in which he often seemed to take a rather circuitous route before getting to the point. A bomb goes off in the Middle East, and Cooke would talk about how he was fortunate enough to dine with JFK, before circling back to the original premise. Quite clever in its way, I guess, though for me the later years of Letter from America were rather blighted by the ever slower rate of speech on Cooke’s part, making the programme feel like it was 50% speech and 50% … er, breathing. A lesson in padding, however, which was to inform the format of a number of quiz shows in subsequent years *cough*millionaire*cough*weakest link*cough*.
But I digress. I thought about it a bit, and then realised that to some extent, the Vicar on the radio faced a pretty difficult situation – he had to try and get his message across quickly and succinctly, making his point as validly as he could. Also, as he was starting from the awkward position of knowing that most of his audience wouldn’t be particularly interested, he needed to draw on some element of current experience to make it resonate more readily. And he had to try to make sure that his message would linger in the mind long after he’d finished speaking, perhaps even affecting the way people thought or behaved in the days to come.
And you know, in a lot of ways, that’s rather like Jesus, isn’t it?