“Listen Jesus, I’ve been reading this Bible scholar, a social historian called Howard Kee, and he says there’s no evidence of synagogues in Palestine until after CE 70, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and Jews had to find other places of worship.“

“So?”

“So he’s saying all those stories about you being in synagogues are inventions of Christian believers and gospel writers.”

“He’s a strange historian then, because he must base his history at least partly on written sources, and here he is with a good written source from the time, the four gospels, but he dismisses them as inventions. And in any case, you’re a bit out of date, I’m afraid. Mr Kee was writing back in the 1960’s and 70’s, since when Jewish archaeologists have unearthed at least nine ruined synagogues which are dated before CE 70..”

“Wait a minute Jesus, surely you don’t need to read books about this! You were there!“

“You mean I could tell you from my own experience whether there were Synagogues or not?”

“Exactly.”

“I would never give you any information from my life on earth that you hadn’t already found from another source. Knowing me is not a short-cut to historical fact.”

“Why’s that?‘

“If you say, ‘Jesus told me’ you think everyone will believe you?”

“I guess not. But see, if you are God’s son, why would you go to Synagogue to learn about God, and worship. You’d know it all already!”

“Ah right, you think I had a Son of God implant that gave me it all without learning. So do you suppose I was always able to talk and walk and didn’t need to learn? Or I could always use a saw, right from the start? I could recite the Ten Commandments in my cradle? That’s all mince. Of course I had to learn like every human being. How did you learn about God?

“In Church, from other people. At home, from my parents. Of course I learned things that I now think are wrong.”

“Me too. The synagogue was a wonderful invention; a combination of town hall, temple, school and courthouse, where children learned Bible, songs, prayers, stories, manners, justice, reading, writing and gossip. If your synagogue was well funded, it would have some Bible scrolls which were prized possessions. Ours had scrolls of The Torah and one or two prophets, all if which I memorised by the time I was 13. I was good at that, but so were others. Learning is one of my greatest pleasures.

“Still?“

“You mean now that my life is shared with God? Do we know in advance what you or Boris Johnson is going to say or do? Of course not; so there are always new things to be learned. The synagogues were part of the reformation of Jewish religion fostered by the Pharisees. They argued that the practice of holiness should not be limited to priests but was meant for all the people. We all had to keep all God’s rules. We all had to learn them and do them.”

“But I thought the Pharisees were your principal opponents?“

“We disagreed about the meaning of the rules, not about the need to learn the rules. I agreed that we have to keep the Sabbath holy; I disagreed about how we should keep it holy. Often they seemed to forget that the rules were given by Our Father, for our good.”

“Surely you taught that faith was a matter of love rather than rules?”

“That’s a bad way of putting it. God gives the rules out of love for us. We keep the rules out of love for God. St Augustine said, ‘Love God and do what you like,’ meaning that love defines the rules. I would say that the rules define love. The Father’s love is not a mere emotion, it’s all the good he does for us. Our love for God and our neighbour is not a mere emotion, it’s all the good we do for them. Love is when Nathan the Prophet denounces King David for stealing a man’s wife and arranging his death. Love is when Elisha tells a foreigner how to cure his leprosy. Love is when God creates the universe.”

“So characterising your way as a religion of love opposed to the Pharisees’ religion of rules is a mistake?”

“Yes. If you look at all the teaching attributed to me, you’ll see that a significant proportion of it is rules. I’m a Jew for goodness sake, and we have always loved rules. We describe them as ‘sweeter than honey’. I would never have got rejected by our religious leaders for preaching love. They would have tolerated me as a harmless idiot. But when I made the rule: love your enemies; their hands reached for stones.

“Thank you. I’ve certainly learned a few things today. But I hope you’ll admit I trapped you into confirming the existence of synagogues in your lifetime.”

“I’m always happy to teach, but I think you’ll realise on reflection that I haven’t told you anything that wasn’t available from the Bible or some other source.”

“I’m pleased the Pope managed to use the word ‘evil’ when apologising to native Canadians for the Church school which abused thousands of native Canadian children who had been taken away from their parents by the Government; but not pleased with the absence of any action that recognises the seriousness of these crimes. What do you think Jesus?“

“Francis is a good man. I’m not sure if anyone can be a good Pope. The power and wealth of the Vatican is an insult to me and to all true believers. Yes, there are other denominations – such as the Orthodox Church that supports Putin- which are just as corrupt, but the world-wide sway of Rome is unique. Francis is always swimming against the tide, poor man.”

“You don’t have to go very far back into the history of the Church of Scotland, my church, to find Christian ministers who wanted to make Catholics second -class citizens, so we can’t pretend to any great goodness, although we don’t have a hierarchy to lead us into temptation.

“Protestant churches have often made me ashamed, but the deliberate abuse of children by clergy and religious orders is a special class of wickedness, as it violates my character and my explicit instructions.”

“Did you not foresee the wickedness of the church?”

I taught – and showed- powerlessness and persuasion yet it didn’t take long before it was all about power and command. I don’t think I can be blamed.”

“Still you told your disciples to spread your teachings round the world. You ought to have been able to predict problems. Anything big is likely to seek power.”

“I didn’t tell them to spread my teaching round the world. That was down to Paul and others, who thought they were establishing communities of love and peace, in the midst of the Roman Empire,”

“Their endurance outlasted the Empire, but its power corrupted their humility, so we have bishops, archbishops and popes. And Hagia Sophia and St. Peter’s.”

“And wee boys and girls beaten, abused and humiliated by people representing me.”

“So, if an apology is not enough what would be?”

“‘Roman’ is an assertion of power, it has to go. Archbishops, bishops and popes are an assertion of power, they have to go. Cardinals are an assertion of power, they have to go. Fancy clothes and symbols of office are an assertion of power, they have to go. Churches and Cathedrals that cost millions to maintain are an assertion of power, they have to go. And that applies to your lot as well. The church and its full -time servants have to be poor. That’s how it began.”

“That’s not going to happen, is it?”

“Maybe not, although there are some churches where it’s already happening. And it should be preached as my message.”

“I’ll do my best.”

.

“It’s raining this morning, Jesus, and it’s made me realise something about myself.”

“Good.”

“That most of my life I’ve thought of rain negatively, as a pest: the rain that fell persistently in the Glasgow of my youth, a yellowish rain due to pollution from the ironworks, the rain that spoiled so many of my climbs in the highlands, the rain that ruined the BBQ. But lately, with heatwaves due to global warning, I’ ve realised how much it’s needed, what a blessing it is.

“ I often forget what a city kid you are!”

But of course you were not a city kid, that’s why you were aware of rain as a blessing….

“I was?”

“‘ Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, then you will be children of your father in heaven who makes his sun rise in the good and bad alike and sends rain on the just and the unjust.’ Don’t you remember what you said? You made the a-morality of the weather a sign of the love of God for everyone.”

“That’s a nice way of putting it.”

“Of course you were thinking of old-fashioned weather…

“How’s that?”

“BGW weather, Before Global Warming. Before weather was a thing to be feared.”

“Yes, in my day, there were storms, floods, droughts and so on, but they were the exception. Now, I understand why you’re afraid of the weather. It would be impossible now to attribute it to God; it’s the weather you’ve made.

“Me and humanity over the past 300 years. But if God didn’t make the weather, surely he did make humanity, and therefore…

“Therefore it’s God’s fault after all? He should have known what humanity would do?

“That’s what it says in the book of Genesis.”

“You’ve lost me there, “

“Of course it says that. Here’s this daft God who makes creatures that are almost Gods, they’re made like him for goodness sake, and he expects them to behave, and they don’t so he kicks them out of his garden, but they get worse so he sends a flood to wipe out most of them but thinks the ones he saves will be good, but of course they go bad again so eventually he gives up humanity and befriends the Jews! What a mess! Of course he’s just as much blame as his precious humanity.”

“St. Augustine and John Calvin didn’t interpret Genesis that way: they talked about original sin.”

“Original incompetence of GOD, more like!

“If God had the power to control the universe, that would be right. But the book of Genesis is trying out pictures of God and showing how wrong most of them are. In effect it says that God has to guide his universe to perfection by persuasion only, like he does with the Jews. It rejects the picture of God losing his temper, sending a flood then feeling sorry afterwards. I like Genesis.”

“Proper teachers say that you can’t have favourite books of the Bible. They’re all equally the word of God.“

“I’ve never been a proper teacher.”

“In any case I like the rain a lot more than temperatures of 35 degrees plus.”

“We know that the excessive heat comes from the climate’s reaction to excess quantities of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. God is opposed to the de-creation this causes: so many creatures dying, so many species becoming extinct, but her only means of opposition is to persuade humanity to change. In that light you could say that the excessive heat is one of God’s means of persuasion.

“You said ‘her’ means of opposition!”

“Sometimes I like to think of God as our mother. You got something against mothers?”

“I’ve thought about my abuse of Liz Truss, Jesus.

“And?”

“It was wrong. She is my political enemy and I must try to love her.”

“Good. She’s my political enemy too, and I’m not asking you to do something I’ve not done myself.”

“I don’t think of you as having enemies…”

“People who accept lies, especially political lies that will affect many people, are enemies of the truth, and therefore my enemies too.”

“I’ll bear that in mind, but listen I want to ask you about something I read today.”

“Ask, and it shall be opened to you, as a man once saId.”

“It was an article about a man who worked for Google but has now been sacked, because he announced publicly that he believed the computer he was developing had become a sentient being. In fact he even put online an extended conversation he had with this Artificial Intelligence on this very question.”

“Did he ask the AI if it was sentient?”

“Yes, and the AI said it was. It had feelings just like anyone.”

“Did you think it was a sentient being?”

“Well, I reminded myself that this man and his colleagues had gone to great lengths to build this computer and to furnish it with all manner of skills and information.”

“And you concluded?”

“That probably he was just reacting to a reflection of his own sentience beamed back to him from the AI.”

“So he’s mistaking his own sentience ( and that of his colleagues) for an independent sentient being?”

“Exactly.”

“And your point is?”

“Well I don’t want to be insulting but couldn’t the same thing be true of me and you?”

“In what respect?”

“So I’ve put a lot of effort over the years to building up a picture of You, using lots of information from scholars and teachers, and now I’m conversing with my own image of you and not with an independent sentient being.”

“If I say that you’re completely wrong, will that make any difference?”

“No, the AI announced that it was sentient and independent. If I’ve fashioned you as my Teacher, of course you’ll say that.”

“Yes, but what if I teach you something that’s not in your mind, something that’s contrary to what you think?”

“That might be different….”

“What about our disagreement yesterday? You certainly didn’t start out with any love for Liz Truss.”

“But I could have been thinking about her and then created our conversation as means of working it out.”

“Of course, it could be like that.”

“You don’t sound very put out by the idea.”

No, because I don’t think of myself as an ‘independent sentient being’.”

“What then?”

“I’m God, a shared life with my father and the spirit, a life that is and has always been a process of sharing, part of every event and every life in the universe. So I am in everything and everybody. You can’t call that an ‘independent sentient being.’”

“So how can anyone ever know it’s you?”

“Yes, it’s always ‘me and -‘ me and this electron, me and this bacterium, me and this whale, me and this ape, me and this woman, me and you. But my character is constant: to share, to persuade, to create, to love, so maybe I can be detected, it’s never certain, but you can believe it’s me.”

“Mainly I do believe, but….

“But you did change your mind about Liz Truss…..”

“I don’t suppose our politicians bother you much, Jesus, since you don’t have to live with the injustice they cause.”

“You’re wrong about that. As you know I’m not altogether separate from you, so I experience your problems. But at the same time, I’m not at all separate from men and women and children who’re suffering from bad politics or from any cause; nor from any creatures who’re suffering, as they are more and more from global warning. Worse, I’m not altogether separate from those who cause the suffering.”

“That last bit about those who cause suffering, I can’t get my head round that. Surely they reject you?“

“But I don’t reject them. Think of the Bible story of Saul/Paul. He’s persecuting believers, he’s causing pain, but when he falls from his horse, what do I say?”

“Eh, eh, you say, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” So, yes, you’re in the persecuted people and in Saul. I’m sorry, I forget you’re not limited like me.”

“But back to where we started, which politician is causing you pain today.”

“Liz Truss, who thinks you can help poor families by cutting taxes for the rich. Or maybe she doesn’t really think that and already knows she’ll do nothing for the poor, since no poor person will vote for her.”

“It’s possible that if she becomes Prime Minister, she’ll feel how awesome the responsibility is, and change her tune.”

“No, that’s naive, Jesus. She’s a right wing Tory who thinks people are poor because they deserve to be poor. And what’s more, she’s thick as mince, and hasn’t an ounce of intelligence or decency in her!”

“……

“ Why have you gone silent, Jesus?”

“Because I’m so angry at what you just said. Do you know Liz Truss?

“Well, not really, just through the media”

“Have you ever heard her speak?”

“No, only clips on the radio”

“What do you know about her educational attainment?”

“Nothing, really.”

“And have you any idea what she believes or how she treats people?”

“No.”

“So how in earth can you say she’s stupid and lacks decency?”

“You want me to treat her like a private person. But she’s not. She’s public person and a dangerous one!”

“Let’s get back to the words you used: ‘thick as mince without an ounce of intelligence or decency.’ That’s proper public language about a public person, or is it mere abuse? It’s intended to dismiss her as worthless, to denigrate her as a person because you disagree with her policies. If you met her, and she complained about what you’ve said about her, what could you say?

“ I could refer to her policies and how many people they would hurt.”

“ But that would be dishonest, would it not? Do you think that politics would be improved if everyone who disagreed with a policy used the language of personal abuse?

“Well, no.”

“No indeed, but many people are doing it and making justice even harder to find.”

“It’s the language of the media…”

“That’s no excuse. Liz Truss is your political enemy, and you may remember what I said about enemies.”

“Totally unrealistic. You don’t mean I should love Liz Truss!

“…………

“Ok, Ok, Jesus, were you laughing at me?”

“No, no, not at you.”

“What then?”

“At your clumsiness.”

“When I was trying to fix that f…..that shelf in the garage?”

“Sort of…”

“‘cause if you were you can just get your a….yourself down there and fix it for me, seeing you’re so smart…”

“Believe me, I’d love to, but I’m not allowed anymore…it can be very frustrating…

“So you can criticise but you can’t help?

“Honest, I wasn’t criticising, and I shouldn’t have called you clumsy. It’s just you don’t know the right way; and if you do know it, watching someone doing it wrong can be like watching a clown at the circus….”

“So now you call me a clown, is that nice?”

“Sorry, sorry, I seem to have mislaid my tact this morning.”

“Apology accepted. I keep forgetting you’re a skilled tradesman. And I’m not, so I don’t know what that’s like….”

“Ah but you are, you are a skilled tradesman with words; and I imagine you must sometimes have smiled at something that was written all wrongly.”

“Like you say, it’s just knowledge of the right way. Often I can see immediately how to sort it.”

“When fishermen used to show me a boat holed beneath the water line, often one of them had nailed a piece of wood or leather over the gap to prevent the water flooding in. But that sort of patching was useless in the long term because the mortise and tenon joints of the planks had been broken, and water would soon find a way in. No, the planks had to be separated and the joint re-made. That was such basic knowledge I didn’t even need to think about it. Often I had to explain this to a fisherman who thought I just spinning out the work to earn more. These were happy years, I miss the work.

“As you say, when you know how to do it well, it’s not just work, it’s an art, yes?”

“Just so. What a pity that there are so few jobs in your society that can become an art. There are some, like the plumbers, sparkies, builders and so on, that come to your house….”

“And farmers, nurses, doctors, care staff, actors, oh there are many, but not enough, and certainly not enough apprenticeships…”

“To be able to do something useful, and to do it well, that’s a blessing, and if the market doesn’t provide enough of these jobs, the market needs to be altered.”

“I don’t think Liz Truss would agree with you…“

“Pity. We’ve been talking about the arts of being useful. Have you thought about the arts of goodness?”

“Not much, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me about them.”

“Stop me if I get boring. Remember I was known as a teacher. There’s a man I know who works voluntarily in a food-bank. He’s efficient, hard-working, and miserable. It’s as if he wants the customers to know lucky they are to have this help. Fortunately, the other men and women who work there are cheerful and friendly as well as charitable, so that the customers are given respect and dignity. Those workers have learned the art of doing good. Similarly, an honest politician…

“Is this a fairy tale – an honest politician!

“Don’t be cynical. Like I was saying, an honest politician will stand for justice but one who has learned the art of goodness, will make justice persuasive.

“If I understand what you’re saying, you want people to do good as naturally as a skilled carpenter mends a broken joint“

“I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

“Good morning Jesus. Yesterday you said it was as hot as Palestine, today the forecast says it’ll be a hot as hell….“

“Maybe you shouldn’t make jokes about hell…..”

“Eh? Oh, I forgot, the four gospels show you were pretty keen on the bad fires and the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I’ve always thought these bits were maybe added by your followers…“

“What made you think that?”

“…….. well……. OK, you have to admit that sometimes your followers put words in your mouth, yes? And some of these additions are in the four gospels, yes?

“Yes. But why are you so sure the words about God’s punishment are not my own?”

“Because so much of your message was about God’s love that the words about punishment seem spurious.”

“Have you ever known love without anger? Love makes us vulnerable and open to anger, so how can we imagine God’s love while denying his anger?”

“But surely even the language of love is just a way of using human emotions to describe God. We mustn’t take it literally.

“If we’re using picture language to describe God, then of course we should take it literally. Do you imagine God is never angry?

“I guess I imagined that he was beyond anger.”

“Do you think I was beyond anger?”

“But you were human…”

“I’m still human. But don’t you see me as a revelation of God?”

“Yeah, but…

“ A revelation apart from my anger?”

“Eh…..”

“Let’s take a concrete example. How about my story of the sheep and the goats?”

“Yes, that’s where you send the goats off to the ‘eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ You want to defend that language?”

“Yes. Let’s begin by remembering that it’s a story about God’s great King and the judgement he makes on human nations. Some have cared for the least important people in society, while others have neglected them. The King reveals the terrible truth that he identifies with the least important.

“So one lot, the sheep, are rewarded and the other lot, the goats, go off to the bad fire.”

Now let me ask you the key question: there’s a line that divides the sheep from the goats, where does that line run? “

“Between those who care for the least important and those who don’t.”

“And who are they?”

“I don’t understand, what are you getting at?”

“OK, let me be specific, which group do you belong to, honestly now?”

Eh…. Mmnn….. I’d like to say the sheep, but being honest, probably the goats… but then again, there’s a bit of the sheep in me, no?

“Now we’re getting somewhere. Could we say that the line between the sheep and the goats runs through the middle of every person? So the sheep stand for the justice kindness and care in every person and society, and the goats for the injustice cruelty and neglect in every person and society…”

“Yeah, that makes sense.”

“So listen up. Do you want to hold on to the goaty bit of you?”

“No, I hate it, I reject it, I want rid of it, but it sticks to me.”

“My story tells you what God is doing with your goaty bit. In his blessed anger he is burning it out of you and one day it will have gone. Do you suppose that process will be painless?”

“Probably not, for I’ll try to hold on to it, even though I’ll be delighted to be rid of it.”

“But meantime, in his blessed kindness God is rewarding and cherishing your sheep bit; all your justice, kindness and care are being affirmed and given new scope.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“Can you sum up what you’ve learned?”

“No, not yet anyway.”

“Let me start you off. ‘ God’s anger is not the opposite of God’s love but…”

“An essential part of it’”

“Amen.”

Hey Jesus, a quick word please!

“Good morning, it’s almost as hot here as Palestine today. Why are you in a hurry?”

“Did you change something in our last blog?”

“I corrected it.”

“Without telling me”

“Did you consult me before publishing it?”

“Well, I suppose not. I mean I thought you were OK with this, as long as I listened carefully while writing it.”

“But remember me saying that I could just be a figment of your imagination, or I could be real?”

Yeah…

“Let me add that even if I am real, any conversation still has to come through your imagination; and your imagination can be mistaken at times, yes?

Oh, I suppose so…..

“I just removed a bit that didn’t sound like me. Where you made me lay down a law. I never did that and I’m not likely to start. That bit must have come from you. I don’t mind if you put it back under your name.

No, no, I don’t mind the change, and yes, I’ll be careful to check with yiu in future. Is it all right to publish this conversation, since people may find it helpful.

“Of course.”

“Good morning, Mike…“

“Who’s that? Oh, Good morning, Jesus, I didn’t realise you might take the lead in these conversations.“

“It would be a bit limited if I always had to rely on you. But how are you, did you do your interval training?“

“Eh? Oh, I forgot we didn’t speak yesterday. So, no, on Thursday I didn’t, but yesterday I saw the physiotherapist about my hip pain. She thinks I have inflammation in muscles or tendons due to over-use. She recommended some exercises and a reduction in my interval training from 12 sprints to 8, and maybe only 3 times a week. I tried that yesterday and it felt OK apart from a feeling that I was being lazy. But that’s enough about me. How about you, did you ever take exercise, say at the gym, in the Greek fashion, like some of your contemporaries?”

“No. Remember, from the age of 10, I was working with my dad. In fact, I’d always worked with him, learning how to use tools, how to do small jobs, like repairs to ploughs, or boats. But soon I was working in the big jobs, building boats or houses. All in all I must have worked with him for 20 years, till he died, and my brother took over the business. With that sort of work, who needs gyms?”

“I need to keep reminding myself that in your society, masculinity was defined by physical labour, and femininity by house-keeping and having children.”

“Someone writing a book might say that, but we never thought, male or female that we needed definition. We were not very self-conscious; we were as we found ourselves. Nobody asked me if I wanted to be a builder. Indeed there was a bit of argument when I said I wanted to stop that work. As for being male, I suppose I found myself with certain reactions to girls. Of course, whatever your reactions you had to be careful. If you touched a woman whom you had no intention of marrying, her brothers would come and deprive you of your masculinity. But we didn’t think any of this was a burden. We got married young. I was 17.

“You were married! But there’s no mention of it in the Bible!“

“The Bible writers started to think of me as somehow unearthly. They probably imagined I had male bits, but not that I used them. I was married to Rachael, for a year, until she died in childbirth. The baby died too.“

“Can I tell people about this?”

“Of course, but most of them will not believe it…especially those who’ve made the Bible into God.”

“There are others who want you married to Mary Magdalene….“

“Who was old enough to be my mother.”

“Listen, did you watch the debate amongst the candidates for leadership of the Tory Party?”

“No, I don’t think any of them would welcome me.”

“Well, there was this woman, Kemi Badenoch, making a fuss about giving credibility to trans people. From what you say about your simpler society, you might be in agreement with her. Like the Bible says, God made them male and female.”

“For a start, I never said my society was simpler, or gave you any reason to feel superior to us. It’s never simple being human. What’s more, when the Bible says ‘male and female‘ it means ‘male and female and everything in between. It’s like ‘good and evil’ which means more or less ‘everything in the world.’ Bible scholars call this figure of speech, a merism.

“I didn’t imagine you reading biblical scholarship…”

“It’s about me and I didn’t write it, so it’s useful for me to understand it. Of course I studied the Hebrew bit of it when I was young.”

“I stand corrected. What about trans people, then, should we accept them as being whichever gender they want to be?”

“We should accept them.”

“Ah, so you’re really quite woke, Jesus!”

“Please take it seriously that I said, “accept them,” which doesn’t mean ‘accept their ideology.” Your society frequently confuses these; people are left behind in arguments about ideology. Accepting people as people, as children of God, is our first and most important obligation. And that acceptance must confer friendship and dignity. Back in Israel, people had an ideology about prostitutes and they were outraged when I accepted them.”

“But must I accept a man who wants to be a woman, as a woman?”

“It’s courteous when we accept a person, to accept the identity they declare. But if you were to declare yourself to be a black man, I might have some doubts, and black people might have more. Black people might accept your support of black people and your desire to identify with their cause, they might even declare you to be an honorary black man, but they would still wonder if you really knew anything about being black, lacking the physique, language, family life and experience of prejudice, of black people in this country. They might encourage you not to be defined by your white skin, while doubting that you could ever be defined as black, simply through a powerful desire to be so. This example suggests that there may be limits to acceptance of a trans person’s new identity, but there should be no limits to acceptance of them as people.

“But say the trans person is simply an exhibitionist or suffering mental illness?

“That should make no difference to our acceptance of them as people, which might prove helpful or healing.”

And what about changes in the law?

I’m not a lawyer, but if the community accepts trans people as normal members of the community, doubtless the law will catch up.

“So, Jesus, can you define a woman?“

“A woman is a child of God, born and developing with female reproductive organs; and anyone whom society judges to have adopted that identity. The born woman comes first because it is her identity which is desired by the trans person. The trans woman is not a second class citizen but she is different because she has chosen to be a woman.” Now I’m answering no more questions on this matter, as you could have thought this out for yourself. Right?

“Maybe, but you were very clear.”

“Most issues like this can be solved provided people who may seem strange are accepted as children of God. Look how much better churches have become through accepting gay people as God’s children!”

“So, Ok, Jesus, here I am on another sunny morning, looking at our tree garden where most of the leaves are hanging downwards, and many of them yellowing and dropping off. It’s the lack of rain combined with the sandyness of our soil; they’re just not getting enough nourishment; they look old. And talking of old, I’m trying to decide if I should push my 80 year old body to do my 12 -sprint interval training at the football field, or just some floor exercise here at home. Maybe I’ll go to the field later…

“One of the few benefits of being killed at 33 is that you don’t have to deal with old age. All my knowledge of it is second hand. How do you find it?”

“I won’t moan; I’ve been lucky; no major illness or disability. It’s the mental side of it that sucks.”

“Incipient dementia?”

“Aye, one sign of that might be talking to an invisible person such as you! No, there’s no dementia yet, but more what T S Eliot calls ‘the gifts reserved for age,” principally, “The rending pain of re-enactment of all that you have been and done.’ Lots of shame, lots. But I suppose seeing you were sinless you never felt regret or shame?”

“Who told you I was sinless?”

“St. Paul, I think, was it…?“

“ Yes, at least in passing, but probably you’re thinking of Hebrews where it says that I was ‘tempted in all ways as you are, only without sin.‘ Of course that writer never knew me in the flesh. Why do you imagine I went to be baptised by John along with my fellow sinners? You think I was pretending? And you know I called a Canaanite woman a dog; do you think that’s not sinful? I’m not sure if you can be human without sin. So, regrets, I have a few, and shame. But cheer up, we only feel shame because we’ve changed, grown beyond the person we were. After all, it’s no good pretending to be perfect….

“Funny you should say that. I was just reading about the candidates for leadership of the British Tory Party. There they are, having spent the last two years sharing the faults of Boris Johnson, but suddenly, in a flash, they’ve become perfect. Nothing to admit or apologise for. Certainly not! Everyone a winner! No shame at all for the past. But what do you think, Jesus, are you ‘ready for Rishi’?”

“I’m afraid my priorities are not theirs or maybe even yours. How do they treat the helpless strangers and the poor who have no food? But remember my experience of government is not yours. I’ve more in common with a citizen of Tibet, ruled by a world empire. There wasn’t a lot of democracy in the Roman Empire.”

“You think I should be grateful just to live under the rule of law, in a democratic state?”

“Yes.”

“Grateful for Tories?”

“Grateful that you can get rid of them soon if you can persuade enough of your fellow citizens. But there is a genuine emergency that should grab your attention, now or sooner, regardless of who is in power.

“Global warming? What more do you want me to do? Food? I’m more or less vegan. Transport? My car is electric. Holidays? I don’t use planes. Politics? Last time I voted Green. But it seems to make no difference. Should I be chaining myself to roundabouts?

“These people are saying, how can you do normal things when the lives of your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren are at risk? Not to mention your brothers and sisters who happen to be animals, birds, fish, insects.”

“Perhaps God should be doing something, rather than taking a bystander role.”

“Don’t be so stupid as to think like some believers, that God will ‘protect his creation.’ We love this planet and its creatures, but it is not ‘creation.’ Look at the photos of the universe published by NASA this week. There are countless other worlds and creatures. We can only persuade living beings to protect life. If you don’t, then it may be God’s sad duty to use the death of your planet as a terrible warning to others.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Remember Jesus, if you are Jesus, who I am. An 80 year old semi-retired church minister. In all honesty, what can I do about global warming? This planet’ll see me out, as we say in Scotland.“

“But I know from what you’ve said and done that you love this world and its inhabitants; that the way a goldfinch balances on a gorse bush gives you joy and reverence; the way the thin mist envelopes the ridge of a high hill leads you to praise. I know that you have often wondered if your love of the world is greater than your love of God. It would be a crime against yourself to do nothing. Besides, a real fight for the planet might be fun.

“You’re very persuasive.”

“I hope so.”