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!


2,000 Food Banks in UK giving out food parcels

New research by the Independent Food Aid Network has supported what the Trussell Trust (the biggest food bank network in the UK) has been saying: food banks are having to give support to more and more people in the UK and the needs have been increasing over the last nine years. Professor Jon May and chair of Ifan announced: “There are now food banks in almost every community, from the East End of London to the Cotswolds. The spread of food banks maps growing problems of poverty across the UK, but also the growing drive among many thousands of people across the country to try and do something about those problems”.


The reasons why people are having to turn to Food Banks to provide their food are varied:


The Ifan survey revealed a wide variety of food-banks with some faith-based, others non-religious; some with strict rules on the amount of food given to individual clients, others with open-ended commitments to families in need; some requiring clients to have a voucher validated by outside agencies, others operating a self-referral system.

British government have repeatedly played down the rise of food banks, rejecting growing evidence that financial pressures on families caused by welfare cuts, benefit delays and low income have pushed a demand for emergency food. Recently, the prime minister, Theresa May, attempted to brush off claims that nurses had been forced to use food banks by saying there were “many complex reasons” why people use them. The graph above showed that there are different reasons why people use them but basically families in 2017 Britain are starving and need emergency food to survive.

Food bank investigation by the Sunday Mirror

The Trussell Trust is a 400 strong network of food banks in the UK and a case study in our GCSE Religious Studies.

food-bank sign

It is a charity founded on Christian principles. They work with people of all faiths and none (just like Christian Aid), and are inspired by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 35 – 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Students will recognise this as coming from the Parable of the Sheep and Goats which we learn in our studies of evil and suffering, as well as Christian beliefs and teachings. In the parable Jesus returns to reward all those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, and cared for the sick, teaching Christians to care for those who are suffering. Jesus’ message here is that by ignoring a sick or hungry person, a Christian would be ignoring Jesus himself.


The Trussell Trust’s vision is to end hunger and poverty in the UK and their mission is to bring communities together to end hunger and poverty in the UK by providing compassionate, practical help with dignity whilst challenging injustice.

Head Transplants one step closer in humans

The first human head transplant is planned for later this year and it looks one step closer as scientists report that they’ve successfully transplanted a smaller rat’s head onto another larger rat. The operation involved three rats in total: the donor, the recipient and a third used to maintain the blood supply to the transplanted head. After the operation, the rat whose head had been transplanted was able to see and feel pain, showing the brain was functioning despite having been detached from its original body.

Not all scientists are impressed with this path towards human head transplants: Hunt Batjer, the president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, has criticised the plans to transplant a human head. “I would not wish this on anyone,” he said. “I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”




Russia persecutes Jehovah’s Witnesses

You might have been so busy watching North Korea weapons testing or the rise of fascism in France to have noticed that in Russia the Supreme Court has suppressed the group and confiscated all of its property.

Definition of persecution for Students

  1. the act of continually treating in a cruel and harmful way

  2. the state of being continually treated in a cruel and harmful way

Since 2004 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have been treated like a fundamentalist group. Their meeting places called Kingdom Halls, have repeatedly been raided, members have been imprisoned for refusing military service, and the ministry of justice has sued to have them declared an extremist organisation. If the group can’t overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling all their Kingdom Halls will become property of the Russian state.

Kingdom Hall
There are roughly 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and currently 175,000 members of the organisation in Russia. The persecution of this religious group is for some reason not making huge headlines though is being reported, for example on the BBC.

Lifestyle Rationing or Health Optimisation?

Quite often in Religious Studies lessons our discussion lead us to the NHS – the National Health Service in Britain which provides free medical treatment to people resident in the country. If we are discussing the causes of crime; illegal drugs; alcohol and cigarette addiction; multi-faith society; and immigration we often at some point mention the NHS and its benefits and flaws.


So what do we think about some NHS trusts having a criteria which puts smokers and obese people at the back of the queue for certain treatments like hip and knee operations? The critics call it ‘lifestyle rationing’ whereas the NHS Trust says they advise patients to improve their lifestyle over 6 months as health optimisation. Now other NHS Trusts might take up this policy and so people are debating whether it is morally fair: the Evening Standard, The Sun, The Independent,  and BBC all reported this story.

What might a religious person think about this debate? With regards Christianity we could refer to: sanctity of life, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Sheep and Goat, Do Not Kill, the Golden Rule, Love Thy Neighbour, live like Jesus, and situation ethics. Whereas for Buddhism we could refer to the 5 Precepts focusing in on Do not Harm and Do not Take Drugs, Karma, Tanha (craving), Karuna (compassion) and Upaya Kausalya (skilful means).


Easter Eggs – how Christian are they?

cadbury advert

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken up in a debate about whether the National Trust and Cadbury (the chocolate brand) should make more mention of Easter in their egg hunts. The chocolate brand partner up with the National Trust each year to provide all the Easter eggs which children search for around country estates and houses in the National Trust’s portfolio. Currently on the National Trust website it states there is a lot of Easter fun but the name of the hunt is: Cadbury Egg Hunt – as you can see missing the ‘Easter’. Is this a problem? How Christian are Easter eggs anyway?

Easter Sunday is the culmination of an entire season in the Christian calendar. Preceded by Lent (a time of penance for sin) at Easter Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what has this got to do with rabbit eggs?  It is interesting how many Easter traditions can be traced back to long before the spread of Christianity. Easter was in fact originally a pagan festival. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and springtime, Eostre

The Easter Bunny may well have its origin in the honouring of rabbits in spring as an animal sacred to the goddess Eastre. Although quite why a rabbit should bring you eggs, no-one is quite sure. It’s likely that the pagan symbolism that’s survived has become merged together and increasingly commercialised.  Meanwhile the egg has long been a symbol of new life, so it’s no surprise that they’re used to symbolise nature seeming to “wake up” and bring forward new life in spring. And guess what, this isn’t a recent thing either. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians placed eggs on their tombs. A Roman proverb states, “All life comes from an egg”.

rabbit and egg

So for a Christian remembering the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, should they be so concerned with people missing the Easter out of an egg hunt which isn’t completely tied to the Christian story anyway? There is no mention of an Easter festival in the New Testament of the Bible.  In fact the celebration of Easter didn’t finally win out until A.D. 325, nearly 300 years after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection! The word Easter isn’t even to do with Christianity states a Guardian journalist, who goes on to complain that it’s a shame that people needed Jesus’ death and resurrection to make them believe.

‘Jesus had me at “love your enemies”. He sealed the deal with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, the parables of the good samaritan, the prodigal son, his transgression of the gender norms of the time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his reaching out to society’s outcasts, his practical help to the sick and hungry. That’s enough for me, as it evidently was to his disciples, who gave up what they had to follow him long before any crucifixion or resurrection.’


Let us even consider hot cross buns – how Christian are they? The tradition of baking bread marked with a cross is apparently linked to paganism as well as Christianity. The pagan Saxons would bake cross buns at the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre. The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters of the moon, as well as the four seasons and the wheel of life. The Christians then saw the Crucifixion in the cross bun and, as with many other pre-Christian traditions, replaced their pagan meaning with a Christian one – the resurrection of Christ at Easter. According to one story, an Anglican monk in the 12th century baked buns and marked them with a cross in honour of Good Friday. Over time they gained popularity, and eventually became a symbol of the Easter weekend.


It might not have been until Tudor times that it was permanently linked to Christian celebrations. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the London Clerk of Markets issued a decree forbidding the sale of spiced buns except at burials, at Christmas or on Good Friday.  A song which some might still know to accompany these tasty Easter treats:

‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns!
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!’
Finally, a closer look at the criticism directed towards the National Trust and Cadbury’s. It was really kickstarted by the Archbishop of York who said that by calling the event the Cadbury Egg Hunt it was like “spitting on the grave” of the firm’s Christian founder, John Cadbury. John Cadbury was a Quaker. Quakers don’t celebrate Easter, because a Quaker believes that every day is holy, meaning that the criticism towards Cadbury is poorly judged too.

Why are people protesting against abortion in the UK?

Notice: Graphic abortion images ahead. That is what the notice might say just before you walk past a Pro-Life protest outside places like the Department of Health’s headquarters. The protestors are expressing their strong beliefs that abortion is wrong and that the 1967 Abortion Act should be overturned to make abortion completely illegal again in the UK.


A number of pro-life protestors have spoken to a Guardian journalist to explain why they feel the need to protest.

“It was never a choice that I turned from [pro-choice] to [anti-abortion]. I’m a Christian and God got me involved.”

“I found out that we were losing 800 human lives per working day in this country to abortion,” she recalls. “It galvanised me to try to help as many more women as I could, and try to save as many more little lives as I could.”

…”being engaged in Christian ministry, having met a number of folks who’ve experienced the trauma of abortion, I believe abortion is far more traumatic than [going through with an unplanned pregnancy] to a woman later in life reflecting back on the choice she’s made.”