Ariane Grande trying to break the glass ceiling

We can’t ignore the new song by Ariane Grande called God is a Woman.

The video is filled to the brim with religious imagery…

  • Ariana Grande is at the center of the universe as some sort of enormous godlike figure, hula-hooping the galaxy that surrounds her.
  • Then she is naked and partially submerged in a pool of pink and purple paint
  • She dances inside the flame of a candle

in a candle

  • She is worshipped by a choir dressed in all-white robes.

praying in white

  • She sits on top of the world, touching provocatively the eye of a hurricane potentially considering natural evil
  • At the end there is the all-female recreation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam which replaces Adam with Eve and God with Ariane Grande

Ariana-Grande micha

  • There is also Mother Earth imagery when Grande descends a mountain and strokes her growing, animated pregnant belly
  • Ariane walks a tightrope against an all-pink backdrop where you might think she’s holding balloons but actually she’s holding a cluster of planets.
  • Then there’s a spoken-word assist from Madonna, when Grande, wearing gloves that read “POWER” mouths Madonna’s reading of Ezekiel 25:17, the verse made famous by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, replacing “brothers” with “sisters”: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

However the song is obviously about sexual relationships: “You love it how I move you / You love it how I touch you / My one, when all is said and done / You’ll believe God is a woman.” Ariana doesn’t seem to mind if people ‘don’t get it’ as at one point in the video, she sits whilst small men hurl words like bitch, fake, and annoying at her. These words of criticism just bounce right off her.

little men

It is really controversial to refer to the Christian God in female rather than male terms. Some would even call it blasphemy and against the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Most versions of the Bible and language about God has God as male. However there is some history to speaking about God as female. St Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109, talked of “Christ, my mother”.

Baptism or Christening

The BBC headline today read:

Prince Louis christening: George and Charlotte seen with brother for first time

Whereas in the second sentence of the article it stated: The 11-week-old was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace.

So what is the difference? To be honest there is no difference between a christening service and a baptism service. Some Christian denominations will use the word ‘baptism’ and some the word ‘christening’. The moment when a child has water poured or wiped on their head is the actual baptism and is at the heart of the service. You could say that babies are baptised during a christening service just as couples are ‘married’ during a ‘wedding’ service. In Religious Studies lessons we learn that christening refers to the naming ceremony (to “christen” means to “give a name to”) where as baptism is a sacrament in some Christian denominations.

The two hymns which were sung by the congregation in today’s Christening were hymns O Jesus, I Have Promised and Lord of All Hopefulness. Hymns and music are often used by Christians in their worship. From the first verse of O Jesus, I have Promised you can see why it was chosen at a Christening:

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my Guide.

Whereas Lord of All Hopelessness has a clever pattern with each verse ending with a different part of the day: break of the day; noon of the day; eve of the day; and end of the day.

baptism

 

Rail pastors as well as street pastors these days

The Rail Pastors are a group of people from Ascension Trust which is a Christian inter-denominational organisation that aims to make a positive contribution to society and to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged and vulnerable. This new initiative from an organisation that traditionally coordinated street pastors came about because the British Transport Police felt they needed to do something to reduce the number of people committing suicide on Britain train tracks.

rail pastors

The Rail Pastors are a group of trained volunteers who are based in areas which experience high numbers of suicidal incidents. They were actually set up quite a while ago in August 2014 in response to a number of suicides in the Barnet area. In their first year of operation, they conducted 30 patrols, saved three lives and, as an indirect outcome, reduced crime by 27%. Most of the people who are rail pastors were first acting as street pastors and have just changed their focus. They don’t go about preaching at every opportunity , but ‘provide a caring, listening and reassuring presence’. Their mission is to reach out to people in moments of crisis, offering compassion and understanding, taking the time to listen to concerns in order to move the person to a place of safety. It is definitely demonstrating agape and ‘love thy neighbour’.

about agape

“Alexa, who is God?”

The Church of England has seen the number of people who go to church on a Sunday drop by 14% since 2006. So their next move might be seen as quite canny – worshippers are being offered the chance to ask the voice activated virtual assistant called Alexa (by Amazon) for prayers.

The Church of England’s new voice-activation skill (basically an app) allows a worshipper to ask their Amazon Alexa to perform more than 30 actions or questions, including:

  • Read today’s prayer
  • Find churches in or near a specified town
  • Who is God?
  • What it means to believe in God
  • Read the 10 Commandments

If you were going into a GCSE Religious Studies exam you should be able to answer the questions above as well as a virtual assistant!

66.4% to 33.6% vote in favour of overturning the abortion ban in Ireland

Watching how people debated the change in abortion law in Ireland showed the age old arguments about freedom for the woman against the right to life of an unborn child. 66.4% of voters wanted to repeal a part of the Irish constitution called the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has the same right to life as a pregnant woman which effectively bans terminations.

The vote will possibly affect those north of the border too, as Northern Ireland has the strictest abortion laws in the UK. In Northern Ireland even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality these would not be grounds for a legal termination.

In England there is talk to amend the law on abortion even further so that women could take the abortion pill at home rather than having to administer it at a clinic, which is very demeaning if you have to travel on public transport straight afterwards.  Christian and Muslim arguments about abortion are interestingly varied and sometimes not what you’d expect.

Infographic-61

A Powerful Wedding Sermon about Love

BRITAIN-US-ROYALS-WEDDING-CEREMONY

The Right Reverend Michael Curry from the Episcopal Church (official name 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church) opened his speech at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding with the words of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, who said: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.’

He added: ‘Love can help and heal when nothing else can. ‘There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.’ Such power could be seen in the service, he continued, saying: ‘Two young people fell in love and we all showed up.’ He then added: ‘There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise. There is power, power in love.’

 

During his speech, he said the word ‘love’  58 times. Sometimes in Religious Studies answers we see students writing love about that many times when they try to explain the choices of religious people. Firstly there is the famous quote from Matthew 22…

Matthew 22: 36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

However students could also look in 1 Corinthians 13 to find information on the importance of love…

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Finally in Luke 10: 25 – 28 the Parable of the Good Samaritan has Jesus confirming to the ‘expert in the law’ that you should love thy neighbour as yourself…

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

jan_wijnants_-_parable_of_the_good_samaritan

Going back to Michael Curry, he said of Saturday’s wedding:  ‘The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness. And so we celebrate and pray for them today.’

situation-ethics-8-638

Until the End of the World – a song about Jesus and Judas

Until the End of the World is a song by Irish rock band U2 which was released in 1991. The song was played by U2 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Their lead singer Bono introduced the song with these words, “A little Pop diddy – a conversation between Jesus and Judas.” The lyrics are about a fictional conversation between Jesus and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus:

[Verse 1]
Haven’t seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold, just passing time
Last time we met it was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time except you
You were talking about the end of the world

The first verse discusses the Last Supper. In the Book of Matthew Chapter 26 in the Bible it says about how Jesus at the Passover meal says, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” All of the disciples are saddened by this and plead that Jesus isn’t talking about them. But Jesus continues to explain that one of them will betray him and “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Judas himself responds, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
[Verse 2]
I took the money, I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You led me on with those innocent eyes
And you know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world

The second verse is about Judas identifying Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane. Still in Chapter 26 of Matthew it says, ‘His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!” 49 So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.’ This idea of a Judas kiss is often mentioned by people in everyday language and for some they won’t even realise it is a reference to Christianity! The Oxford dictionary has it as a noun: Judas kiss: an act of betrayal, especially one disguised as a gesture of friendship.
[Verse 3]
In my dream, I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they’d learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you’d wait till the end of the world

The final verse is about Judas’ suicide after being overwhelmed with guilt and sadness. He had returned the 30 silver coins to the Jewish leaders and said “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” And throwing the silver coins into the temple he departed. And he went away and hanged himself.’ When you watch the musical Les Miserables there are some similarities between the character Javert (Russel Crowe in the movie) who is the detective who commits suicide near the end of the story and Judas.

U2