Will there be a united Ireland in your lifetime?

Brexit has had a big impact on the united Ireland question. It definitely won’t be simple but more and more people are seeing a chance for a united Ireland in their lifetime. Of course Northern Ireland Unionists and Protestants who consider themselves British are hugely against the idea of a United Ireland. And there are lots of Catholics in Northern and the Republic of Ireland who have their own reservations, not least due to the financial cost of a union. But when you know that 56% of the Northern Irish voted to stay in the European Union, you can see why Brexit has affected them hard.

Demographics have shifted as well as the Brexit effect. A century ago when British negotiators carved Northern Ireland from the newly independent south it was 65% Protestant, 35% Catholic, which allowed for a strong unionist majority. Now, a century later it is 48% Protestant and 45% Catholic. When this trend continues, you will see a Catholic majority in 20 years time. How things have shifted since the Troubles 1968-1998.

 

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?

sex and marriage

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery Coloring Page Ten Commandments

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”.

 

Pope Francis seems less of a peacemaker as he doesn’t mention persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar/ Burma

Today Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic church, urged respect for “each ethnicity and its identity”, adding “religious differences need not be a source of division”. This was said when on a visit to Myanmar/ Burma, when lots of people were hoping he would mention the Rohingya by name, and state the fact they’d been persecuted.

persecution

Yet Pope Francis failed and did not mention the Rohingya by name. The reason was that there were fears by the Catholic community in Myanmar/ Burma that if he criticised the government and military there would be repercussions against the small Catholic community in the country. So even the Catholic church has many strengths, including in its humanitarian work, where there are many good men and women working tirelessly to improve the living conditions of people who live in challenged situations, it has weaknesses too.  The facts is that its leader, while he might look like a world peacemaker, should first and foremost look out for his own people. I’m not sure how much Pope Francis is living by the guidance Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount

Matthew Persecution

Bread can’t be gluten free says Catholic Church

It’s not a hugely exciting headline. The Vatican (home of the Catholic Church) has said that the bread which is used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free – although it may be made from genetically modified organisms. Cardinal Robert Sarah explained that the bread can be low-gluten but should have enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. What does make it exciting for GCSE Religious Studies students is that the article which explains these precise rules also refers to the fact that Roman Catholics believe the bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

transub

The Eucharist, which is also called the Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper or the Divine Liturgy, is a sacrament accepted by almost all Christians. Most students have heard of the Last Supper and how Christians re-enact the key moment on at least a weekly basis when they celebrate the Eucharist.

The idea of transubstantiation helps explain why in the Catholic Church women can’t be priests, as the Eucharist has to be performed by a male priest for he is acting as Jesus ‘in loco Christos’ when the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Broken – a TV series with plenty of religious content to learn from

The six-part series called Broken, which stars Sean Bean and Anna Friel, first aired on Tuesday 30th May. If you missed the first episode go to BBC iPlayer to catch up (until mid-July). Why? Well for a drip feed of Catholic religious beliefs, teachings and practice for the AQA Component 1 exam, this TV series is a ‘godsend’!

You will be able to see in the first episode the role of a priest in the local community; the preparations for First Holy Communion; the Eucharist; the importance of prayer; the last rites for a dead person and confession. If you’ve never been inside a Christian church before, or it has been a long time, then just by watching this drama by Jimmy McGovern you’ll see how the place of worship is used by a community in Northern England.

To top it off there is also a mention of Food Banks – perfect GCSE content!

broken-credits

Why wear a black headscarf to visit the Pope but not a hijab when visiting Saudi royalty?

At first glance it seems odd that Melania Trump (a Christian) and Ivanka Trump (converted to Judaism) would both wear black and also have black lace headscarves to visit the Catholic Pope in the Vatican Rome, but would a few days previously not wear any headscarves in Muslim Saudi Arabia. It might appear that they are going out of their way to be incredibly respectful to the religious beliefs of Catholicism and less so to Islam.

wearing black

But first appearances are not always completely what they seem. Female foreign dignitaries such as politicians or royalty are not required to cover their heads when they visit the Saudi Arabia- only Saudi nationals are. Meanwhile the Vatican (where the Pope lives) did speak of a dress protocol to Mrs Trump’s office at the White House, but no such requests had been made by Saudi Arabia. The Vatican website lays out some of the rules: modest dress, with your shoulders covered, for those attending a Papal Audience – especially if indoors. In fact women visiting sometimes wear deep lace mantillas to just a black veil. When the Queen went to see the Pope when as a young woman, she dressed up like the Spanish infanta, even though she is a Protestant Head of State.

Apparently Melania Trump, President Trump of the USA’s wife, asked the Pope to bless her rosary beads.

How_to_Pray_the_Rosary  praying-beads

 

Abortion Law debated in Parliament

I was reluctant to report on this in case it confused students doing GCSE Religious Studies, but I think I can keep this simple enough.

In class we learn about the 1967 Abortion Act:

abortion-1967

This law basically says that abortion is illegal unless it meets the specific criteria.

Well what we sometimes skip on mentioning in class (sorry guys but time is of the essence) is that another law can affect women’s rights to have an abortion. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes it an offence, with the punishment a possible life sentence, if you terminate your own pregnancy. This sentence would also go to a doctor who helped you terminate your own pregnancy. A group of MPs have today won the right to introduce a bill to Parliament to change this law because they say that in today’s age when women can buy abortion pills online and get them delivered in the post they should be able to terminate their own pregnancies in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Numerous news outlets are reporting the story, such as the Catholic Herald,  and this all comes less than a week since Tory peer Lord Shinkwin failed in his efforts at making all abortions illegal in the UK.