Finding religion

In a major new series, the BBC former India wallah Mark Tully tackles the biggest story of all the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.

Sue Greenway talks to the

journalist who nearly found a

different vocation.

The BBC has decided not to wait until the

_ . . . Mark Tully on lives Of Jesus: ‘there are good grounds for believing in the liesurrectloo’ millennium to mark the 2()()()th anniversary of the

birth ofChrist. it is widely accepted that l996 is the crucial date. so a major four-patter called Lives Of Jesus begins on the day countless children open the first window oftheir Advent calendars this year.

The series refers to lives in the plural because it examines Jesus as God. as a Jew. as a rebel and the hidden Jesus. with the final programme considering new research into Christ‘s teachings and scholarly attempts to reconstruct his original message. Overall. it is an attempt to separate the known facts ofJesus's life from the myths and metaphors which are the foundation of the Christian faith.

This Biblical epic is pieced together by Mark Tully. the BBC's former South Asia correspondent who for years was regarded as the voice of India in the English speaking world. Tully was born in Calcutta. which perhaps accounts for his fascination for the Indian sub-continent. More recently he has been the voice of dissent in the World Service. opposing changes to the newsgathering structure ofthc


Now a freelance broadcaster. Tully has travelled widely and interviewed innumerable scholars in his quest for answers about Jesus. It has been something of a personal journey. combiningjournalism with his original career choice as parish priest. Tully was told Hindus. He was struck by the similarities of different -- quite kindly by the Bishop of Lincoln that his religions. which led him to conclude that the place was more in the public house than pulpit. ‘l did experience of God is the same whether you are spend quite a lot of time in a pub called the Adam Muslim. Christian or Buddhist. So why was Jesus the And Eve on the hill leading up to Lincoln cathedral.‘ one to be strung up by the Romans? he admits. ‘He was an ordinary man who was crucified. his

He does come from a religious family. however. ‘()n followers ran away in fear and yet you get. to me. the the day he died. my father asde to take communion miracle ofthc church.‘ says Tully. ‘l‘ve come to and have a teaspoon of whisky. which I think is a believe very strongly that there are very good grounds marvellous way to go.‘ says Tully. who as boy found for believing in the Resurrection. The reason Jesus going to chapel was the only thing that made public stands out is because something miraculous happened school tolerable. after his death. The Apostles must have believed it

‘i was once very much a card-carrying Christian. was a physical resurrection. because you don‘t form a but over the years my faith got tnore weak. so when 1 church and give your lives for a lie.‘ started on this series I thought it would probably be Lit-es ()fJesus begins on Sun 1 Der on BBC].

the end of Christianity for me.‘ he says. ‘But actually. I found quite the reverse.‘

Having lived in India for most of his life. Tully had problems with the exclusive claims made by Christianity. having met many godly and inspiring

Devolution day

An indication of the way devolution is likely to become a major election issue across the tilt is highlighted by the screening of a two-part examination of the issue throughout the ITV network. llonnally this kind of thing would be confined to regional broadcast north of the border. Disunited Britain? considers the implications of the main political parties’ stance on devolution, focusing particularly on Labour’s policy flip-flops this year over whether to hold a referendum on a

Blsunlted Britain? lesley lllddoch poses the question

Scottish parliament. At time of going to press, the plan was to have a two- question poll which would ask the Scottish electorate if it wanted a parliament, and whether such a parliament should have tax-raising powers. it labour government also plans to ballot the English electorate on regional assemblies in an attempt to circumnavigate the so-called ‘West lothian question’. That could all change, of course.

The first programme canvasses a range of opinions from politicians and commentators, including The Independents Scottish editor Andrew Man, who describes the devolution issue as a case of ‘high principle and low politics’. The second part will be a debate chaired by broadcaster lesley Biddoch, with Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth among those invited, but not yet confirmed.

The producer of Disunited Britain? is Joy Johnson, a veteran political editor with ITll and BBC, but more widely known as the former head of communication and campaigns for the labour Party - aka, a spin-doctor. Johnson earlier this year left amid rumours of personality clashes, under cover of the Harriet Harman affair.

So, as an independent ioumalist once again, what should we make of the labour Ieadership’s apparently ambivalent stance on Scottish devolution? ‘I think Tony Blair believes in the United Kingdom, quite self-evidently,’ says Johnson, ‘but he has made this vow that there will be devolution and we must trust that. People shouldn’t always put a spin on what people say.’ And there you have it - the unspun truth. (Eddie Gibb) The first part of Disunifed Britain? is on Sun 8 Dec at 1.10pm on Scottish.

84 The List 29 Nov-I2 Dec I996