Earlier today, I gave my 50th "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester.
I decided to combine two threads in the talk:
You can read it below.
We cannot control some of the most important factors that decide our lives.
None of us chooses the country where we are born. None of us chooses their parents. None of us chooses our first language.
However, even as toddlers, we start to make choices. Usually, our first choices are to refuse some of the food our mothers are trying to feed us!
As we grow older, we make more and more choices. Alongside the factors that we cannot control, our choices determine what becomes of our lives.
Let me share some choices a young woman made, about 2,500 years ago, as she spoke to her mother-in-law. From the time I first read them, her words have never left me.
“where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
With those words, and her subsequent actions, she changed the land where she lived. She changed the tribes that she regarded as her people. She changed her religion.
All of these were choices. If you know the Bible, you know that the young woman’s name was Ruth. She became the ancestor of King David, and also the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth.
I regularly speak to schoolchildren for the charity Speakers for Schools.
I encourage them to think about the big choices in their lives, such as the career they will follow, or who they will marry. However, I also explain to them the importance of all the small choices they make every day.
Even deciding what you listen to on radio makes a difference to your future.
In May 2008, I spoke at Liverpool with David Berkley QC about Muslim and Jewish attitudes to religious conversion, and mentioned the Book of Ruth within my talk.
I used the story of Ruth to demonstrate that Judaism had not always made conversion into Judaism as protracted as it is now.
At that time I was a partner in PwC, and about the same time I had dinner with one of my clients. This person was a university graduate, and a chartered accountant and chartered tax adviser.
I mentioned the Limmud talk to my client, and the story of Ruth. It was clear that my client had never heard of the story. When I mentioned the Book of Ruth, my client had never heard of it, and it emerged that my client did not know that there was a Book of Ruth in the Bible. Nor was my client sure if they had a Bible at home.
However my client was not an atheist. They professed to be Anglican, and indeed (from memory) the family's children had been baptised as Anglicans.
What I took away from that conversation was an understanding about how nominal is the profession of Christianity amongst a very large proportion of those who tick the religion box on the national census form to say that they are a Christian.