The Week In Radio: What would Jesus have made of it all?

There's a saying they have in America that is used to fit all occasions: What Would Jesus Do? What Would Jesus Drive, for example, or What Would Jesus Vote? One programme this week asked What Would Jesus Eat?, and the suggestions, according to painters of The Last Supper, included grilled eels, crayfish and guinea pig. This prompted me to wonder what Jesus would listen to, and to hope it wasn't Monday's Start the Week.

Even if you missed this programme you can't have avoided the controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury said the Catholic Church in Ireland had "lost all credibility" over the child-abuse scandal. Headlines were made and umbrage was taken. So for excited listeners tuning in, it must have been mystifying to find the most controversial edition of this show for years sounding as electrifying as a Marks & Spencers board meeting.

It promised so much. The line-up of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Philip Pullman, Mona Siddiqui and David Baddiel presaged high-octane clashes on the differences between Christians, Muslims and Atheists. For a sense of occasion the programme was hiked out of Broadcasting House and transferred to Lambeth Palace. Perhaps that was the first mistake. Liberated from the intimacy of the studio, the echoey grandeur of Lambeth turned the spirited exchange of ideas into the drab stuff of the sociology lecture room. Everyone deferred to their host and the archbishop happily dominated proceedings. This was the other problem. Even those, like me, who are serious admirers of Rowan Williams, couldn't help notice that the bureaucratic caution of his language, with its "interfaith dialogues" and "corporate identity of Christianity" somewhat stifles passionate debate. So it was all the more ironic that a genuinely controversial remark should have slipped through, and entirely understandable if most listeners missed it. There were no emotional arguments, and a lot of mutual admiration. Perhaps that's what you get if you gather highly civilised people in highly civilised surroundings to discuss the irrational passions of religion. As Philip Pullman said of organised religion. "Bureaucracy always overcomes vision. That's the tragedy."

On the other hand, would Jesus listen to Christian radio? This is certainly the go-to place for passionate discussion. There is a host of offerings in this growing sector, mainly on the internet and satellite, and they run the gamut from gospel and miracles to revelation, rapture, prophesy and the end of time. One of the biggest, Premier Christian Radio, was launched in 1994 but assured a growth spurt when it moved to DAB in the final quarter of last year. Its weekly format, Unbelievable, pitted two recent converts against a sceptical atheist in a discussion hosted by Justin Brierley that would have sat comfortably on Radio 2, with a bit of evangelising thrown in. Todd Pitner from North Carolina found life as a multi-millionaire unfulfilling: "I tried drugs, drank enough to kill a moose and became a hopeless alcoholic. With really good life insurance I thought I was worth more dead than alive to my family and decided to end it all," he said. "God gaveth and he systematically tooketh away." Better still was Richard Morgan, who in some kind of divine joke came to Christ as a result of a debate thread on Richard Dawkins's website. "It was an incredible moment, as if my universe just exploded, the whole Amazing Grace thing, lights music and everything." His friends suggested he had undergone "a temporary brain infarction" but, as he said, "if that's what it is I can recommend it to anyone."

By far the most enjoyable discussion of religious customs, however, came from Radio 4's new legal high, the US humorist David Sedaris. In Meet David Sedaris he is on a European tour, reflecting on Santa Claus's alter-ego, Saint Nicholas. The news that St Nicholas is the retired bishop of Turkey is hard enough for Sedaris to take, but the discovery that in the Netherlands, St Nicholas travels not with elves but "six to eight black men" who beat bad children with "the small branch of a tree" and sometimes put them in a sack, provides the material for a horrified, hilarious, 10-minute riff. "If you told the average American that St Nicholas and six to eight black men would be sneaking into his house in the middle of the night he would arm himself with whatever he could find," Sedaris protests. It's true actually. I lived in the Dutch West Indies when I was small and I well remember cowering from St Nicholas's scary henchmen. As the Santa-figure circulated, distributing gifts, his followers would dive into the crowd of waiting children and upend one screaming child into a sack. All the emotional intensity you could ask for in that particular ceremony, but, I feel sure, not what Jesus would do.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried