God should decide

This is a really sad news story about a little boy whose life hangs in the balance. Doctors have told a high court judge that they think it’s in the child’s best interest to end life support treatment whereas Isaiah’s parents want treatment to continue.

Isaiah Haastrup court case

This is a debate we see in the news time and time again, and it links to our learning about Religion and Life – who decides when life should end?

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The New-Look Britain in Photographs

I like any opportunity to learn more and gain better knowledge about the world. But sometimes you’re just too tired to read an article or book, to watch a documentary, film or TV programme. That’s why photographs with their visual beauty and short written explanations are a quick way to pick up some knowledge. Often at the Southbank Centre in London you can catch a free photography exhibition or likewise for a fee you can catch a more thorough exhibition such as that at the Hayward Gallery later this month. Some of Andreas Gursky’s photographs that you’ll see at the Hayward Gallery are shown below:

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Not only can you enjoy the art but you will consider political, social, economic and environmental issues. Simon Roberts, a landscape photographer and official general election artist, has a wonderful series of photographs which show you what he calls a ‘new-look’ Britain. You can learn about local celebrations and festivals which you’d probably never know about unless you lived in that town or village, as well as how Britain’s landscape is often shown in a particular light which only tells part of the story.

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And if the social, political, economic and environmental ideas don’t spring forth then at least you can learn how to take a better photograph!

Some good news about the environment!

It often feels like a lot of what we read about the environment is bad news: pollution, climate change, loss of habitats, deforestation…

Well today there is finally some good news: 2017 was the ‘greenest year’ on record for Britain with numerous renewable energy records being broken and wind power being a leading energy source. “Breaking short-term output records on top of monthly and annual figures clearly shows that wind is now a major part of the UK electricity mix, and will continue to be in the future,” said Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. He continued to explain how Britain has some of the windiest regions in Europe and should lead the continent in this renewable energy.

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Something which has added costs to harnessing wind powers has been the infrastructure to transport energy from the windier parts of Britain which often have low populations and small demand to the areas where electricity are needed. Dr Marshall sounded optimistic when he said, “The opening of new infrastructure to transport power south from the windy hills of Scotland is ramping up – and will help to reduce the whole system cost of wind – while technologies to manage variable output are rapidly becoming cheaper.’

Christians are joining this crusade for more renewable energy, over 3,000 churches in Britain have made the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources, and Pope Francis (leader of Catholics) has called for a committed fight against global warming to protect “our common home“. There is something called Creationtide which is a month long period of focus to bring Christians together to pray and work for the protection of the environment that sustains everyone.

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Good news for once!

Family Feud by Jay-Z featuring Beyonce

In December Jay-Z dropped the 8 minute video for his song Family Feud. About half way through the video it shows him walking into a Catholic church with his real-life daughter, rapping away—”Nobody wins when the family feuds”. It is a dramatic music video with a huge storyline at the start before Jay-Z starts his song.

There is some swearing in the song.

For us in Religious Studies it offers us some learning opportunities:

  • the song is about adultery and the importance of family
  • the scenes inside what looks like a catholic church let us see pews, stained glass windows, the cross, pulpit and confessional booth
  • Jay-Z asks Beyonce for forgiveness (“can get Amen from the congregation?”) and she gives him redemption by singing “Amen”

With Jay-Z inside a supposed Catholic Church what would those with that faith say about his admitted infidelities?

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The first part of the video is also interesting from a PSHCE angle too:

  • the start of the video has the year 2444 and the monarchy is in distress with the head of the family dealing with an upset and jealous brother.
  • when the queen is helped by her boyfriend, “Is that good enough for you?” she shows her own power by silently stabbing him in the back with a knife saying, “It’s my throne.”
  • there are co-presidents who are black and native American which helps us imagine that one day there’ll be racial equality in the USA
  • eight women sit around a table and rewrite the constitution in the year 2050, with the narrator reminding us that this is “a time when some thought that making America great was making us afraid of each other” but in fact “America is a family and the whole family should be free”.

 

Anti-Semitism in France

A Kosher supermarket in Paris was recently daubed with racist swastikas. Then on the 3rd anniversary of a deadly attack by an extremist Muslim gunman, the Jewish supermarket was burned to the ground. France has Europe’s largest Jewish community and in recent years they have faced repeated racism and anti-semitic attacks.

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Gender Selection

Model and former Miss GB Danielle Lloyd has spoken to BBC 5 Live about how she might go to Cyprus so she can select the gender of her next child. Ms Lloyd has four sons and dreams of a little girl.

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In the UK the treatment she wants is illegal, to choose the gender of the embryo, so she will need to travel to Cyprus to do the procedure which is a bit like IVF.

Christianity Today in 2005 reported this type of treatment with the headline, Gender is No Disease. It explained how pro-life Christians who already shudder at the deliberate destruction of any embryo would now feel that the application of this search-and-destroy technique to gender selection just adds a new and frightening dimension to reproductive technology. In the same year the Guardian reported on debates in the British Houses of Parliament. The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, said:

“The Church of England would oppose strongly any proposals that tend to erode proper priority for the welfare of the child or that embrace a view of children as consumer commodities. Sex selection for social reasons would have serious consequences for society as well as for families. From a Christian perspective, the child is a gift from God and should always be regarded as an individual, not as an extension of parental consumer choice. Parents need to be left to receive and accept their children just as they are, not be led into believing they can select children as they would a customised personal accessory.”

UK’s only bomb proof Sunday School

A Presbyterian Church in Dungiven, County Londonderry in Northern Ireland is proud that it has the only bomb proof Sunday Sunday in the UK. Last year it bought an old police station and though the original plan was to demolish it all and build a car park they instead decided to use the old police station for Church activities. It cost them over £200,000 to transform the station so there’s now a new kitchen, elevator, crèche facilities, gym space and meeting rooms.

Church Member Gladys Carmichael explained, “There are lots of rooms now for the Sunday School children and the older groups to meet and play games and if any of the kids misbehave we can also put them in the cell to cool off.”

It was only in 2010 that Dungiven Presbyterian Church made the local news when it celebrated 175 years in the town. At that event the offering money which came to over £1,500, was in aid of the congregation’s Missionary Support Fund. The congregation was supporting the work of Stephen and Angelina Cowan, PCI missionaries in Kenya, Alan and Dorothy Graham, CEF missionaries in Zimbabwe, and Eric and Anne Magowan, missionaries who work with the persecuted church in Vietnam. The evening’s theme was the words of Phil 1:27, where Paul urged the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. He challenged all present to do likewise if they are to present a credible witness to the world in which they live.

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Presbyterianism is a denomination of Christianity.

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Being based upon the teachings of John Calvin (1509-64) it has a central theme of predestination — everything that happens is pre-ordained by God.

The symbols which make up the Presbyterian Church symbol help us to understand what this denomination of Christianity focuses on…

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