Giles Fraser is an odd sort of theologian. I've found he's said some quite interesting things in the past and apparently he's quite keen on social justice, but this morning I must say that I was rather disgusted with him.
He was on the BBC's "Thought For The Day" programme. A rather annoying segment which bizarrely has pride of place right in the middle of typical morning commuter listening times and acts as an annoying interruption in the middle of the genuine news that takes up most of the Today programme during that time. Another regular guest includes Anne Atkins, who is given free reign to spout vile homophobic bigotry or to wax lyrical about the joys of traditional marriage. In spite of the controversy she often causes her last "Thought For The Day" broadcast was on the 2nd May (so less than a week ago). On that particular occasion, this woman who is a member of a 'pray away the gay' group known as 'Council of Reference', explained "Judeo-Christianity, like other faiths, is full of respect".
But Giles Fraser is one I'd normally expect to be a little more even-handed, if not generally that inspiring. I don't tend to pay much attention to who is offering the 'sermon' (let's call it what it is). I generally just hope its over quickly so I can hear a bit more about the current news before I get to work. So imagine my annoyance when the speaker filling this slot in the radio timetable seemingly designed to waste my time began by saying: "I probably shouldn’t be doing Thought for the Day this morning."
Why's that then? A chest infection apparently.
He then explained that anti-biotics are ceasing to be so effective. Not a pleasant thought, I'm sure we'd all agree. I was expecting a fairly banal talk about the doom-laden subject, but what I got was a lot worse: Something almost approaching delight.
"Just maybe, we are losing our immunity from those medical conditions we thought we had beaten. In which case the enlightenment dream of continual never-ending progress looks increasingly hubristic. It seems we are no longer mini-gods after all."
Hey, what's so bad about the prospect of an enormous increase in death by disease if it means you get to prove that you are right? It's always seemed weird to me when religious speakers pose their religion as outwardly opposed to progress. Heaven forbid (literally) that we strive for a better and longer life for each other. While Buddhists are wishing each other long life on a regular basis, it seems that modern Christian clergy cannot wait for us to all to die. So for Giles Fraser the demise of anti-biotics is looking like quite a triumph.
As the show went on, I found myself guessing what was coming next:
"For one of the things that the Judeo-Christian tradition has always insisted upon is..."
"...Only God is God. And we are mortals, and intrinsically vulnerable."
Hmmm... same thing.
Ancient religions made use of sympathetic magic. Christian tradition demands fear and trembling. Giles Fraser joyfully denies the Enlightenment dream and happily anticipates increasing mortality rates....
... all while complaining that anti-biotics aren't working effectively enough on his chest infection.
Antibiotics are not recommended for many chest infections, because they are only effective if the infection is caused by bacteria rather than a virus. Your GP will usually only prescribe antibiotics if they think you have pneumonia, or you are at risk of complications such as fluid building up around the lungs (pleural effusion).
(A full transcript of Giles Fraser's sermon can be found here.)