You Need to Calm Down

Taylor Swift’s new song You Need to Calm Down has a strong message for equality and support of the LGBT+ community. Watching the video you’ll spot numerous celebrities who identify with LGBT+: Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Porter, RuPaul, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Adam Lambert, Todrick Hall, Hayley Kiyoko, Adam Rippon, Chester Lockhart, Dexter Mayfield, Hannah Hart, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France to name a few. In the video there are protestors from Christian groups arguing against LGBGT+ rights and equality. The lyrics of the song are:

Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark age
Just makin’ that sign must’ve taken all night

At the end of the video there’s an onscreen message:

“Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all our citizens equally. Please sign my petition for Senate support of the Equality Act on Change.org.”

The Equality Act, if passed in the USA, would amend (as in slightly change) the Civil Rights Act to stop discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In the UK there is already the Equality Act 2010 which states that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of certain protected characteristics:

  • age
  • gender reassignment
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • disability
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

If you’re wondering where you’d be protected from discrimination:

  • at work
  • in education
  • as a consumer
  • when using public services
  • when buying or renting property
  • as a member or guest of a private club or association

Before the Equality Act 2010 there were lots of separate laws to protect people from discrimination like the Race Relations Act or Sex Discrimination Act.

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There are actually great divisions within the Christian community about homosexuality.

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However…

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Eid Mubarak

It has finally arrived, the week where Eid Ul Fitr can be celebrated. Eid marks the end of a month of fasting from dawn to sunset, as well as spiritual reflection and prayer. So now that Ramadan has ended the festival of Eid Ul Fitr is enjoyed. The day will start with prayers and a big meal is usually the main event, but there’s lots of other ways people celebrate too. A really informative report from the United Arab Emirates not only excitedly explains when Eid will be but also throws in some advice on how to celebrate it. BBC Bitesize once again gives a really clear explanation of the festival and describes how it is celebrated in different ways around the world. And in the UK right now with the Cricket World Cup the Pakistan cricket team wished all their supporters Eid Mubarak too!

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How old is the earth?

A short (less than 2 minutes) Newround video by physicist Professor Brian Cox explains how we know that the world is 4 billion years old. Theories about the development of the universe are incredible and need to be understood not just for Religious Studies but also Science too. The BBC’s Bitesize pages do a pretty good job at explaining it too.

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Sam Fender a singer with a political edge

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The Newcastle musician Sam Fender’s told GQ magazine that “pretty much every prime minister since I can remember has made me mad. The negative effects of greedy politicians have haunted the north-east for years, it’s very apparent. I’m not an expert on politics, but there’s a bunch of bad people at the top who care about lining their own pockets before creating a society that looks after the vulnerable.” Keeping this in mind you should listen carefully to the lyrics of some of Sam Fender’s songs, especially when his debut album is out this August.

The music video for Play God (released 2017) shows a dystopian world (an imagined  society where there is great suffering or injustice) that isn’t too dissimilar to our own.  The director of the video Vincent Haycock explains: “‘Play God’ is a satirical interpretation of power. The story is set in a dystopian world of exaggerated tropes – masculinity, domination, sexual objectification, racial profiling, and others. Each scene plays with these dangerous fictions – overt ideas of power and fear. In the end, we break the fourth wall, and the character is observed as nothing more than a player of a game.” Haycock wanted to blur the line between fiction and reality so that it showed that in our everyday lives we all play god.

Here are some of the song’s lyrics:

Man is screaming through a megaphone
“Get your hands off the Middle East”
Every word would herd the cynical
Every word would cut your teeth

And he will play God
And he will play God

It’s all the same down in the capital
All the suits and cladded feet
Sewer rats will shower the underground
In a race to make ends meet

And he will play God
And he will play God

In the more recent Hypersonic Missiles (named after a piece of hi-tech Russian military hardware) you’ll find an “an unorthodox love song” where love and hope is found amidst the collapsing world order. There is  a “glimmer of hope” running through the song.
Sam Fender explains: “This song started out when I saw the term ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ in a newspaper. It’s a newly developed Russian missile that travels at something like nine times the speed of sound, which is essentially unstoppable. America currently has no defence against such a weapon, they would be helpless in the wake of an attack, as you have roughly six minutes from the time it is launched to the time it strikes. In many ways, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is an unorthodox love song. It’s main focus is on the world around the narrator, who is a complete tin foil hatter. They are convinced the world is on its last legs; they know that it is rife with injustice but feel completely helpless and lacking the necessary intelligence to change it while remaining hopelessly addicted to the fruits of consumerism. Amongst all the chaos is love and celebration, there is this glimmer of hope that runs through the song, a little notion that no matter what happens, these two people are gonna have a ****ing good time regardless of the tyrants that run their world, and regardless of the imminent doom from these ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.”

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Below are some lyrics from Hypersonic Missiles:

The golden arches illuminate the business park
I eat myself to death, feed the corporate machine
I watch the movies, recite every line and scene
God bless America and all of its allies
I’m not the first to live with wool over my eyes

I am so blissfully unaware of everything
Kids in Gaza are bombed, and I’m just out of it
The tensions of the world are rising higher
We’re probably due another war with all this ire
I’m not smart enough to change a thing
I’ve no answers, only questions, don’t you ask a thing

Oh, silver tongue suits and cartoons, they rule my world
Singing, it’s a high time for hypersonic missiles
And when the bombs drop, darling
Can you say that you’ve lived your life?

When I first heard this song it made me think of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which were talked about so much five years ago and nowadays most teenagers wouldn’t have a clue about.

Weapons of Mass Destruction – a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon able to cause widespread devastation and loss of life.

It is something students learn about for the GCSE War and Conflict unit in RS both for Christianity and Islam.

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Abortion in the news

At school we learn about abortion for the GCSE Religious Studies. We wait until we are 14-16 years old to learn about it as it is generally something which concerns older teenagers and adults but not young children. Learning about what abortion is and the arguments for and against it, usually coincides with learning about sexual relationships, contraception and parenting.

Abortion is when a pregnancy is ended so that it doesn’t result in the birth of a child. Sometimes it is called ‘termination of pregnancy’.

It has been in the news a lot over the last few weeks because about 16 US states are planning to change their laws on when abortions are allowed to happen and why. Here are some of the things happening around the USA:

  • Iowa approved one of the most restrictive laws, banning abortions at point the foetus has a heartbeat (around six weeks)
  • In March, Mississippi passed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape and incest. Only one abortion clinic remains in the state
  • Missouri‘s state legislature has passed a controversial bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. If approved, abortions past eight weeks would be banned in most cases, including rape or incest.
  • In 2019 governors of four states – Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio – signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. This pretty much amounts to a ban on abortion because cardiac activity in an embryo can be detected as early as the sixth week, before a woman may be aware that she is pregnant. Women are often aware they are pregnant when they miss a period/ menstruation which can be 4-6 weeks apart.

Even President Donald Trump has now commented on these changes to abortion laws. He said, “I am very strongly pro-life, with the three exceptions – rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother – the same position taken by Ronald Reagan.”

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In the UK there is something called the Abortion Act.  This law when tied in with another law called Offences Against the Person Act shows that something which is illegal (it is a crime for a woman to ‘create or get a miscarriage’, or for another person to help her do so) can become legal under particular circumstances. These circumstances are that it is performed by a registered medical practitioner (a doctor), and that it is authorised by two doctors when one (or more) of the following grounds is met:

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or

(b) that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or

(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or

(d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

For our GCSE Religious Studies we need to know about what Christianity thinks about abortion and what Islam teaches.

British band Bastille give a pop sermon with new song Doom Days

A sermon is a talk on a religious or moral subject, especially one given during a church service and based on a passage from the Bible. You might have heard the word sermon before when studying the Sermon on the Mount from the Bible. In Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7 there are lots of catchy quotes such as:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9 – useful when discussing Christian attitudes to war and conflict)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 – useful when discussing Christian reactions to persecution)

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39 – useful when explaining that Christians like to forgive, be reconciled and not fight back)

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 – useful when explaining how and why Christians pray)

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:10 – useful as the chapter continues with a version of the Lord’s Prayer)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 – useful to explain that humans shouldn’t pass judgement on others, that is the role of God in the afterlife)

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But let’s get back to Bastille’s new song Doom Days. There are a couple of swear words in this song, used as adjectives, and the topics sung about are for teenagers or older. The band’s frontman Dan Smith explained: “We wanted [the song] to be really direct and talk about trying to find escapism from our modern anxieties – phone addiction, porn addiction, fake news addiction, climate change denial (to name a few)… turns out there was a **** load to talk about so I wrote about 50 verses for it and then we somehow managed to cut it down to this. Hope you like it,” he added. “Ultimately it’s about switching off for the night.” 

Bastille-2019

When you look at the lyrics you can see why it was described by one journalist as being a pop sermon:

When I watch the world burn
All I think about is you
When I watch the world burn
All I think about is you
There must be something in the Kool-Aid
Cruising through the doom days
God knows what is real and what is fake
Last couple years have been a mad trip
But how’d y’all look so perfect?
You must have some portraits in the attic
We’ll stay offline so no one gets hurt
Hiding from the real world
Just don’t read the comments ever, ever
We ****ed this house up like the planet
We were running riot
Crazy that some people still deny it
Think I’m addicted to my phone
My scrolling horror show
I’m live-streaming the final days of Rome
One tab along, it’s pornographic
Everybody’s at it
No surprise we’re so easily bored
Let’s pick the truth that we believe in
Like a bad religion
Tell me all your original sins
So many questionable choices
We love the sound that our voice makes
Man, this echo chamber’s getting loud…

Original Sin In traditional Christian teaching, original sin is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God when they ate a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

Echo chamber – We talked about in class recently when students’ homework was to read or watch some news stories and identify moral or natural evil. It describes an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. There is often a risk of creating an echo chamber when you only read news online as you only click on news stories which you want or enjoy reading, and ignore the ones which might challenge your thinking.

 

Complex Geometry which started in the 8th century CE

In Islamic culture, geometric design is everywhere: you can find it in mosques, palaces, and private homes.

Detail view of khanqah portal; muqarnas semi-dome, Shaykh 'Abd a

As the month of Ramadan begins and Muslims around the world start practising the Pillar of Islam called Sawm, it is a timely moment to celebrate the geometric beauty found in Islamic art. For centuries, the only way to create polygons and required angles was to use a compass and straight edge. With so few tools you can understand why Islamic geometrical patterns begin with the starting point of a circle to keep things simple. Some researchers think that the use of the circle is a way of expressing the Unity of Islam.  The idea is that the circle and its centre is the point at which all Islamic patterns begin; the circle is a symbol of a religion that emphasizes One God (Tawhid) and the role of Makkah, which is the centre of Islam toward which all Muslims face in prayer (Salah/Salat).

Evolution of Islamic geometric patterns

Most Islamic geometrical patterns are based on constructive polygons, such as the hexagon and octagon. Star polygons, which are fundamental elements of Islamic geometrical patterns, are created by connecting the vertices of constructive polygons. You can watch an interesting 5 minute video from Ted-Ed which explains the complex geometry of Islam with some glorious video footage and explanation of the Islam’s industrious mathematical past.

Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Imam), is a mosque in Isfahan, Iran standi