Watching TV or film and learning about Christian worship

It is such a natural form of revision to be watching TV or film and suddenly spotting something you’ve learnt in class. It is so exciting to be able to explain something, understand it better, simply because you were in that classroom, listening and concentrating on that particular day.

Some students have had the challenge of comparing TV and film which show liturgical and non-liturgical worship. Well done to my Year 10 Tuesday afternoon class who did so well on this homework.

liturg

non-lit

  1. Four Weddings and a Funeral would be a good film to watch for its many scenes inside a church. For Roman Catholics and some Anglicans you’ll also get to see some sacraments.
  2. The BBC’s recent drama called Broken which I’ve previously referred to on the Blog is fantastic not only for showing liturgical worship (the eucharist is given in every episode) but also its depiction of a local church community with food banks and diversity.
  3. Songs of Praise is on television every Sunday afternoon, or you can catch a number of previous episodes on YouTube.
  4. Coronation Street has a brilliant 2 minute scene showing parts of an infant baptism from a few years ago.
  5. There is a really peculiar scene from the Kingsman: The Secret Service film, which shows a church massacre (15 rating). Watching simply that scene makes no sense unless you know more about the film.  The actor Colin Firth play a suave secret agent, Harry Hart, who recruits a kid from the streets named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) to be part of the Kingsman. But Eggsy is quickly thrown into the fire when evil tech-whiz Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) creates a technology that can cause mass terror across the globe, and only the Kingsman can stop him. On the hunt for Valentine, Hart ends up at a hate church group in Kentucky. While Hart is in the church, Valentine tests his technology, which causes the SIM cards in everyone’s phones in the church to make them become homicidal maniacs. There is then this three-and-a-half minute sequence in which we watch Hart shoot, stab, slam, and break everyone in his path as the guitar solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” plays in the background. It’s peculiar and unsettling.
  6. The Simpsons has a plethora of church scenes, including this one when Homer refuses to go to Church. Listen out for Lisa saying a snippet of the Lord’s Prayer. Another short clip is from when the Simpsons go to an evangelical church. Not to do with worship but really clever is the Protestant Heaven Vs Catholic Heaven with all its national stereotypes.
  7. Family Guy has numerous satirical moments where you can learn about Christianity. Students often forget that singing is a form of worship, New Yorker’s in Church has an opening prayer, and the Mr Booze clip shows an drinking den turn into a fake alcoholics anonymous based on a church with pews and singing.

We realised that a lot of our choices were comedies and openly mocked Christianity for laughter. It is interesting how far comedy is deemed acceptable going about some faiths but less so others. An article in the  BBC Religion and Ethics page debates how far comedy should go, and the BBC also reports on whether Islam has a sense of humour (of course it does!). Finally there New Humanist website decides that no idea should be able to escape satire and comedy.

small church

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Learn about the Grim Realities of the USSR

Take a trip to London’s Tate Modern before January 28th 2018 and you’ll be able to enjoy the ironic art of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov as well as finding out some history facts about the Russia and the USSR. The Guardian describes the art as tragicomic and for a 9 year old there needed to be a lot of explaining but for a teenager who’s learnt a little about the USSR from history lessons it will all make pretty decent sense.

We really liked the man who flew into space from his apartment with all its propaganda posters on the walls. That feeling of utter desperation and the desire to escape had forced the apartment’s occupant to create a contraption so he’d be able to catapult himself through the ceiling.

Kabakov

Room Ten of the exhibition focuses on the Kabakov’s interest in angels. There was a little wooden model..

wooden model

As well as the written explanation of How to Meet an Angel…

ilya-and-emilia-kabakov-how-to-meet-an-angel

You left knowing that they’ve also tried it on a larger scale…

real angel

People believe in angels as a paranormal possibility, as well as in Christianity and Islam. Looking at the Kabakov’s artwork it just made you realise that people need the idea of angels coming to their aid and assistance in moment’s of individual unique need.

Tate Modern knows how to show installation art, with room and room housing thought provoking art. In a few days the exhibition Red Star Over Russia will also start, making Tate Modern the place to visit for students wanting an insight into Russia and the Soviet Union from 1905.

 

 

 

Blinded By Your Grace

It’s Live Lounge Month with Radio 1 this September. One British artist who always impresses is Stormzy, and his song Blinded By Your Grace has some interesting commentary about faith:

I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace, by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your

[Chorus: Stormzy & MNEK]
Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, I’m blinded by your grace
You came and saved me
Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, now I’m blinded by your grace
You came and saved me

[Verse 1: Stormzy]
One time for the Lord, and one time for the cause
And one round of applause
One time for Fraser T Smith on the chords
I feel we got one, I stay prayed up then I get the job done
Yeah, I’m Abigail’s yout, but I’m God’s son
But I’m up now, look at what God’s done
Now I real talk, look at what God did
On the main stage runnin’ ’round topless
I phone Flipz then I tell him that he got this
This is God’s plan, they can never stop this
Like… wait right there, could you stop my verse?
You saved this kid and I’m not your first
It’s not by blood and it’s not by birth
But oh my God, what a God I serve

stormzy

In an interview with Fader Stormzy said, “You know when you’re watching churches, and a lady or a man in the choir just takes it away, and it’s just like, Flipping heck, and everyone just feels it in their soul? I was like, “I want someone to do that. I want someone to come and take this tune where I can’t take it.” I listen to a lot of radio, and a lot of pop and R&B. I’ve always clocked with MNEK, he’s got such a voice. I was like, I know he can go to church with it. He came round to the studio, and it was like watching a magician work. He was able to record his riffs and his [backing vocals] and his harmonies all at once without hearing them back. He took the tune exactly where I wanted it to go.”

Then with Radio 1 Stormzy explained,

“It’s a song that means so much to me both in terms of my faith and what God means to me but also for my artistry as well. It’s a song that me and Fraser [producer and songwriter] made up and we was trying to make something incredible for the album and it’s a song I almost felt I wasn’t capable of making but between me, Fraser and MNEK we pulled it off.

“It’s a little bit of an anthem in the weirdest way. It’s a little soulful, a little gospel. I’ve played it at festivals and everyone’s hands are in the air like drunk and I don’t know if it goes but it’s working and it’s beautiful and it’s amazing. Everyone kinda comes together for it.”

 

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 we need to know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims for a GCSE

A few weeks back you heard the President of the USA criticise Iran for supporting terrorism, whilst he was standing in Saudi Arabia.

Then this week after a terrorist attack carried out by Islamic State killed 17 innocent civilians in Iran, President Trump’s sent both his condolences: “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” and these additional comments: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” You can imagine how Iran felt about this latter comment.

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted: “Repugnant WH (White House) statement … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.”

This is where what we learn in GCSE Religious Studies comes in handy in making sense of all this. It is so important that when you read about world politics you are aware of the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.  The Sunni jihadis of Isis (Islamic State) consider Shia Iran to be apostates (a defection or revolt against the true Islam), and Iran is deeply involved in fighting the group in both Syria and Iraq. To make things trickier for Iran they have a sizeable Sunni population along their restive borders with Iraq and Pakistan, and it is from here that Isis is hoping to recruit. Understanding the Syrian Civil War also needs you to know about Sunni and Shia Muslims, as Newsround tried to explain.

sunni and shia

The Sunni-Shia Divide

sunni-and-shia

In the new AQA GCSE Religious Studies our students have to know more than just ‘Muslims believe…’ or ‘Muslims do…’ for their exam paper about Islam and instead need to be specific about the different types of Muslims and their specific beliefs. So in class we often refer to Sunni and Shia Muslims, and we try to specify when their beliefs and practises are different.

the roots

sunni-shiite

The Council on Foreign Relations has a really interesting set of articles about the Sunni-Shia Divide which outlines the origins of the schism; modern tensions; practising the faith; sectarian militants and flash points.

Looking at the articles though I was left wondering who the Council on Foreign Relations were; we all need to check where our facts and knowledge are coming from, especially in 2017, when the media is so full of bias and fake news.

Interestingly the Council started in 1921 in the USA and has had all sorts of members from past presidents, media owners, Federal Judges and ambassadors. Below are its founding members:

about_cfr_founders

 

On its website it says it is ‘an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher’.

Council_on_Foreign_Relations

We always need to check our source of information especially when there is so much politics involved in Religion.

sunnis shia Iraq