Yesterday the Guardian published a short blog post on religious broadcasting, so I guess I should post this.
This is the text of this morning's Pause for Thought on the excellent BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Show. I thought of doing something on the agonising banality of Eurovision, but just couldn't muster the enthusiasm. (I like Bonnie Tyler, but the song is a disaster…)
This is a terrible thing for a Liverpool fan to admit (and I do so though gritted teeth), but I admired Sir Alex Ferguson's speech last Sunday. He had just finished his last home game as manager of Manchester United and was thanking the crowd for their support. I actually heard it in the car and found it quite moving. The speech, that is, not the car.
The bit that got me was when he said that in future he would be able to watch the team instead of suffering with them. Bang on, Sir Alex.
When you identify closely with people in whom you have invested yourself, you can't help but experience what they experience. You laugh with them and you suffer with them. What they feel, you feel with them. The usual word for this stuff is 'compassion' – which literally means 'to suffer with'.
It's brilliant, isn't it, that we have the capacity to do this – to go through what someone else is going through with them. Even if you can only watch from the sidelines. Like seeing the care poured out on a dying friend by family and those around her who can't save her for her children, but can love her through the ending.
This is also how I think prayer works, believe it or not. It isn't about getting things or twisting God's arm; no, it's about being drawn in to the experience of those for whom we pray so that we see through their eyes and hear through their ears. Which is why prayer seems to be mostly about changing the person who does the praying.
Anyway, compassion amounts to more than the the cost-free “I really feel for you…” Real compassion draws you in and you get wounded.
Well, cheer up! Saturday's coming and we'll all be suffering together: all the nul points at the Eurovision Song Contest, watching Man United swagger, and – for those wonderful fans of Bradford City – agonising for promotion at Wembley.
Feel for me, please.