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

Answering questions on Ramadan

The BBC have a short 2 minute video where Muslims answer the questions they often get asked each year during Ramadan. Sticking with the BBC their article from early May has some great facts about teeth brushing and the exchange of bodily fluids (kissing!).

People wonder how Muslims who are fasting can cope with sport and exercise during Ramadan, BBC Sport explains that often the lack of sleep is what makes sport more difficult whilst fasting, as Muslims will have stayed up late to eat once the sun has set or got up really early to eat before their next day of fasting and the sun rising.

McDonald’s have made a Ramadan advert which helps sum up what a day of fasting feels like for a Muslim. The 2018 Coca-cola Ramadan advert might educate someone who has never heard of Ramadan before and is quite cheesy! JianHao Tan’s YouTube channel has a 10 minute video where he experiences a day of fasting with this two Muslim friends to help his viewers understand what Ramadan is. It’s a relaxing look at the topic and gives you plenty of information.

The poster below was created by the Muslim Council of Britain in 2013. Although the dates are wrong, the facts are useful to remind everyone that Ramadan isn’t only about fasting.

ramadan-2013-key-facts_51d2bc4e2562a

“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!

“If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too.”

A Liverpool chant from the terraces, to the tune of the 1996 hit ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, has demonstrated once again that Britain is an inclusive society which celebrates our differences. The chant is praising Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian footballer who has scored 23 Premier goals for Liverpool this season. The chant, “If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too. If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, he’s sitting in the mosque that’s where I wanna be” has been described by Liverpool fan Asif Bodi as showing “how tolerant and welcoming the people of Liverpool really are.”

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester City FC

Salah is praying above. Sujud means to prostrate. It is like the position used in Muslim prayer movements: palms, knees, toes, forehead and nose must be the only body parts touching the ground. During prayer when someone is in this prostration position they would say ‘Glory be to God, the Most High’ repeated three times.

There are lots of Muslim players in the English Premiership. Mesut Ozil who is a German World Cup winner, and currently playing for Arsenal, is proud of his religion and happy to show it on the pitch. “I’m a Muslim, I believe in that. You can see before games that I pray and that I’m pleased to be able to go on this path. It gives me a lot of strength,” he said. “I’m someone who’s always been thankful, someone who doesn’t just wish the best for me but for the people. It’s a very important part of my life. What’s important is to come together and show respect.” In the picture below Ozil is praying with his hands in front and the palms upwards. During the prayer hands are kept openly up, towards the heavens. The two palms, standing at the level of chest as scale of a balance, wait openly for the blessings of the All-Compassionate Allah, from the heavens to come.

Ozil_2

Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a multi-faith fans’ prayer room as does Liverpool’s main stand which was refurbished in 2016. This allows Muslims and fans of any faith to nip in for a prayer during their time watching football and supporting their teams.

From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!

Evolution+Overview+Charles+Darwin