It started as an idea for a television programme about ‘new religions’ – what are they and why do they come into being?
Why people believe what they do is something that has long fascinated by me. My grandfather – also called Laurence Cawley (though with a Dr at the front of it) – was a devout Catholic. He initially trained to be a priest and won a scholarship to the University of Rome. Then the Second World War started, and he decided instead to become a doctor. Given the celibacy requirement of catholic priests, I owe my very existence to that swap of career paths.
I was always fascinated by how such a clever, rational man could believe in something seemingly – to me – as irrational as God. And over the years I’ve met many others – far brighter than I – who also believe in God. Now, I don’t have a faith as such, but I’m far from convinced (as I once was) that I am right in not believing in God.
This sense has only been exacerbated by producing the Jedi and the Bishop – which airs tonight at 7.30pm on BBC1 – because, although they express it in very different ways, both the Bishop of Chelmsford and Jedi Michael Kitchen share the conviction that there is something more. For the Bishop, of course, this means God, who acted through Jesus Christ. For the Jedi, it is a force that brings everyone and everything together.
One of the great luxuries of my job is in meeting people who shake up my preconceptions of the world. In this programme, it was the Bishop who did this. He said: “I think increasingly I came to understand that most of the problems of the world begin in the human heart. How does the heart change? Only then (when we can answer that) can we change the world.”
These words continue to resonate deeply.