THIS is what the media used to call the silly season – that time in August when sufficient numbers of people are away from their desks to create gaps in normal service.
Michael White used it precisely in his online political blog last week: “Watch out, here come Boris, John Bercow and, yes, it’s Richard Branson, all waving their “look at me” placards. It’s mid-August and a familiar cast of silly season characters is finally free to fight its way into the headlines after frustrating weeks behind the enormous barrier of the London Olympics.”
Michael was making the point that, when “big news” is thin on the ground – and the end of the main Olympics has indeed left a huge hole – those with a personal agenda push their ideas or simply themselves into the now-available spotlight.
But, no, I shall not therefore write a self-inflating piece but instead pick up a tiny detail of news that in busier times might have got lost.
Quite by chance, I’ve noticed that Billy Graham is still alive.
Many who are more aware of the life and actions of the great Christian evangelist will probably tut-tut that I didn’t know this – or, more correctly, wasn’t sure about this – but the fact remains that I’m not alone.
I can recall twice at least in the past few months when I’ve been asked whether Mr Graham was still alive.
Such uncertainty must be quite common.
When you’ve been a world-stage figure – and that’s certainly true here – then anything less than frequent media mentions may well create an impression that you’re no longer around.
Presumably that’s the fear that drives so many celebrities.
Which makes it all the more odd that Jesus Christ is still referred to so much.
Is he? Well, he must be because – taking the world as a whole – more is happening in his name than at any point in history.
More people are coming to believe in him.
More people are being healed in his name. More people are being killed or mistreated because they believe in him. And so on.
Even in Britain which – as far as politicians and mainstream media are concerned – “doesn’t do God” in public, Jesus keeps on breaking in.
For example, interest in the Alpha course – a course that futurologists said would have faded out by 2010 – continues to increase.
Ten per cent per annum according to last year’s figures.
The Occupy London and similar movements provoked huge discussion of what Jesus might or might not have said about money.
Much more down to earth and local, in ordinary conversation in ordinary places, people still want to know if it’s true, all this stuff about Jesus.
Not everyone. Not all the time. But a continuous trickle.
The remarkable thing is that anyone should be interested. After all the man Jesus died 2000 years ago.
More remarkable still is that interest continues in an environment where – far from receiving lots of media exposure (apparently necessary for keeping anyone in the public eye) – public reference to Jesus is positively discouraged.
If doubts can be voiced about Billy Graham’s continuing life, surely no-one now should even be thinking about Jesus?
Unless he’s still alive, of course.