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Nick Spencer: You can’t separate politics and religion – whatever John Humphrys says

Nick Spencer: You can’t separate politics and religion – whatever John Humphrys says

Nick Spencer discusses politicians and religion, the Thought for the Day programme and why religious stories can’t be reserved for the ‘religious slot’, for Total Politics.

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Jesus walks into the Today programme studio. He’s expecting another grilling. John Humphrys is well briefed. He knows his lines. More to the point, he knows the law and he wants to make sure this self–appointed “teacher” does too.

Humphrys soon gets frustrated, however. As often as not, Jesus answers a question with another question. When he doesn’t, he is so abrupt as to be almost rude. And then, when he finally appears to have been backed into a corner, he tells this long rambling story about a man on the way to Jericho being mugged and someone crossing the road to help him – and then has the temerity to ask the interviewer what it means. This is going nowhere. Humphrys wearily thanks his prey and then gratefully – for once – introduces Thought for the Day.

The scene is improbable but not perhaps as improbable as the idea of wheeling Jesus in to do the Thought for the Day slot itself. Whether the slot is in fact as anodyne as the Today presenters claim (or whether it is dull because the BBC is terrified of letting its thinkers say anything edgy), Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan somehow seems better suited to politics than religion. 

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Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, including Magisteria: the entangled histories of science and religion (Oneworld, 2023), The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). He is host of the podcast Reading Our Times.

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Posted 2 November 2017


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