Yes, it's a fun game the whole family can enjoy. All you have to do is work out what utter bullshit and lies the foaming extremists of the Sun, Mail, Express and Telegraph will come up with tomorrow to misrepresent and distort what the Archbishop of Canterbury says in his address to the general synod today (which is going on, excitingly, as I write these very words).
Not that that matters, of course, you see. It doesn't actually matter what Beardy says. Don't worry about the words. Don't concern yourself about trivial matters such as what he says, the words he uses, what he means by them, what he doesn't say, the words he doesn't use, the things he wants to say and the things he actually does say. Those things don't matter. Not if you're a logically illiterate tabloid tossrag. Already, the knives are being sharpened, the lies are being prepared, the attacks are being readied; it matters not one jot what words come out of Beardy's mouth. No-one cares about that. That's not the story. The story is what the tabs can pretend he said, setting up a classic strawman by making out he's said something he hasn't, then attacking it with all their might. Oh they know they're lying; they know they're distorting what he says - they don't give a flying fuck.
I find myself in a strange position, as perhaps many of us who are of the atheistic position have over the previous few days. I find myself wanting to defend a religious leader - not because he says anything I believe in (quite the opposite), not because he's particularly wise or intelligent (although the C of E could do a lot worse), not because he's necessarily even right about what he's saying (though I'll say on this subject, in my opinion, he's been merely moderate, inclusive and perceptive); but because he is being lied about, abused, treated disgracefully and hung out to dry by a rabid anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, anti-brown people media, who see this shitstorm as a convenient platform from which to snipe at the people they hate. They couldn't care less about Beardy. He just happens to have said something - or rather, not said something, but they can twist his words and pretend he did say something - that raises their hackles and presses all their angry buttons.
So given a choice between religion, which I don't ordinarily regard as being a benign influence on the world, or the lying bullshit merchants of the right-wing scum press, I choose the man who has integrity, who is trying to build bridges, who is attempting to heal wounds and bring people together. I may not agree with what he believes in, what he stands for or the institution he represents. But Beardy, for all his faults, doesn't go around spreading hatred - quite the reverse. Yes there are those Xtians who are intolerant, belligerent, nasty and aggressive, but he isn't one of them. He has merely suggested that it might be a reasonable idea to expect that, in some limited contexts, some aspects of sharia law might be used by the Muslim community in civil matters, as aspects of their own cultural traditions are by the Jewish community already, I am led to believe.
If someone is attacked for saying such moderate things, something is badly wrong. I feel it becomes important that, even if you aren't a Xtian or a religious person, you stand up for these moderate, tolerant, thoughtful, inclusive voices, even if you might not follow their faiths or even agree with faith at all. Because if Beardy is hounded out of his job, it won't be for another thoughtful, cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit type of clergyman to replace him; it will mean that the hard-liners will have made progress, and we will see people who don't want to build bridges, people who don't want to reach out to other faiths, people who don't want to embrace modern, progressive, sensible approaches towards subjects such as gayness. And don't think that hasn't got anything to do with Beardy's current troubles - he's been a marked man in rightist circles since his attempt to open a debate on gay clergy. They've just been waiting for the right time to come along.
So, with all that in mind, let's have a little bit of fun with Beardy Bullshit Bingo. Let's see how many of these choice cuts end up in tomorrow's newspaper lies.
'refused to back down'
'backed sharia law in Britain'
'wants sharia law'
'loves sharia law, which is stonings for adultery, pushing walls on top of women and making everyone wear niqabs'
'is a bearded bastard'
'has shamed the Church of England'
'is part of the liberal establishment ruining this country'
'is dragging our country into the mud'
'should go and try sharia law for himself'
'is a nasty liberal bastard who should be killed'
'hates our freedom'
'is a Muslim in disguise'
'is tearing the C of E apart, just him, no-one else'
'shouldn't say anything about anything except fluffy kittens and, if possible, having a go at other religions and maybe immigrants, then he'd be all right by us'
'is an evil terrorist and wants to bomb us'
'said he had been the victim of a smear campaign of lying and abuse by the right-wing press'
OK, so the last one's a bit of a long shot, but you never know.