On headlines and media – time to read between the lines? (Tumblr transfer – written 24/06)

The media. The all encompassing big-brother of the modern society and all that, the conspiracy theorists, the politically biased, the corrupt, the misrepresentative. We all ‘know’ that newspapers, online services etc. twist their stories in some way or other in order to increase their readership and therefore their revenue and reputation, and we know that the headlines used are carefully chosen to shock or intrigue. But yet we can still be reeled in by the big hitting headlines, forgetting that an article may not (by virtue of choice or audience or space limitations etc) portray the full picture. We don’t know generally how the information was acquired or even whether it is true or wildly taken out of context.
Should we as consumers be doing more to make sure that we inform ourselves of the facts behind a headline rather than blindly jumping on the bandwagon later to be perceived to be foolish? Of course I’m not suggesting we should immerse ourselves in the statistics and word for word minutiae of conflicts or debates, but taking headlines at face value, especially from those we know to have a vested interest can also be a mistake.
Twitter is a good case in point for how the media may be unrepresentative, an example might be the UK Lords debate on equal marriage going on right now. These debates last for HOURS and obviously the majority will therefore be relying on summaries by others of the views and words of speakers. But this can be dangerous, agencies such as Stonewall and PinkNews, whilst trying to stay fair and neutral often take things out of context and fail to appreciate the complexity of the situation. One memorable speaker whom I happened to hear spoke about the relationship between stable relationships and child welfare, reminding fellow Lords that child abuse is a concern in all relationships and that the rights of children with parents (whether natural or adoptive) in homosexual marriages must be carefully considered. This was later conflated to say that this peer had paralleled child abuse with homosexual marriage, far from what he had actually said, and until this was challenged and clarified by the Lord in question this had the potential to become a shock headline…as did the Archbishop of York’s speech, where really he was far fairer than many familiar with the objections and reasoning of the Church and Sentamu’s previous pronouncements were expecting. But for those who do not take the time to understand why the Church may feel the way it does, rightly or wrongly, then the black and white of the media headline world kicks into action and he is derided as an idiot by those who haven’t even read the text of his speech but taken headlines at face value.

The instant reactions desired by readers and the headlines which catch the imagination all too often require a little more thought and consideration before hitting that retweet or reblog button, we ourselves do not know the whole story and approach things with our own cultural bias and preconceptions, as is a part of the human condition but one we must observe in ourselves and not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of a one sided presentation by the media, but question more the motives and the true facts of headlines and opinions in order to see more of the full picture and give people a chance to get their stories heard fairly and their viewpoints clearly.

(For those interested the Hansard has records of speeches made at 1st committee state last Monday – the speaker I refer to is Lord Mackay col 33 and Lord Alli (who did an excellent summing up incidentally) col 43 – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/130617-0001.htm#13061712000472)

2011 census on religion (Tumblr transfer – written 16/12/12)

Religion and Christianity

This week the basic data from the 2011 UK Census regarding things such as ethnic groups and tenure of housing, in addition to figures on those who chose to answer the (optional) question about religion was released. Whatever the distorting presentations of the statistics will be, from both religious institutions and from secular or atheist ones, the fact of the matter is that ‘Between 2001 and 2011 the percentage of residents affiliating themselves with the Christian religion declined in all England regions and Wales.’ –

Between 2001 and 2011 there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent). All other religious groups saw a rise in percentage (except Judaism, which nevertheless did increase marginally).

These are the basic, pure statistics, whichever way they are interpreted it is not a great thing for Christianity, in just one decade those designating themselves Christians have fallen 13% whilst all other religions, and atheism, is on the increase. All these statistics will be skewed by virtue of the criteria different people apply when designating themselves Christians, some inclined to put that because they are baptised even if they never attend any form of Christian worship or make religion a part of their lives, whilst others may be integral parts of Christian life, people whose whole moral value system is based upon their religion, who go to Church every day or perhaps even work for it. But the fact remains that Christians are making themselves irrelevent. We don’t really need fancy statistics to show us that. Despite the many thousands of unpaid hours of voluntary service carried out by Christians, the many schemes and ideas run by them, not only for their fellow Christians but for all faiths and none, Christianity is seen as a stupid faith to belong to by the majority of people. It’s the 21st Century, people are exposed to so many more cultures and religions, and also many have turned away from religious institutions, which won’t be a great shock to those who frequent videos or topics about religion on social media sites such as youtube and twitter. The Church needs to get with the times, to overthrow the tables in the temple and learn to reconnect with the people if it is to survive without becoming a ‘cult’ and without persecution. The fact that the CofE has been seen to exclude themselves on ‘religious grounds’ from any discussion on gay marriage, with the implementation of the ‘quadruple lock’ has hardly helped strengthen our position. Of course there will be endless discussions about whether society should adapt to accommodate religion or if religion should change, but if we’re to be realistic then in order to survive then Christianity must change, our Christ was one who challenged the accepted social norms of the place of women, slaves etc, so why shouldn’t the 21st century Christian be proud to stand up for equality and change?

Thoughts on the Church and LGBT*Q (transferred from Tumblr – written 10/04)

I am falling out of love with the institution of the Church of England. There, I said it. I love the Anglican Church, the sheer broadness of views and beliefs and approaches which we manage to hold together in the face of disagreements. I’m cool with attempts to compromise, even on obviously right things such as women bishops because there are still many people who feel this is wrong or against their biblical and spiritual convictions. What I’m not cool with is the latest attempt by the faith and order commission of the General Synod (basically the boss bit of the CofE) to alienate pretty much all LGBT* Christians with its latest rejection and refusal to bless those in civil partnerships (see here: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1715479/marriagetextbrochureprint.pdf).

Does the Church not realise how many LGBT* people are part of their membership, either lurking in the laity quietly, living with their partners but not being seen together because of the (unfortunately quite legitimate) fear of persecution or prejudice, or being part of welcoming churches and being able to be open about who they are?. Equally consider the numbers of gay clergy who are often known to be in an active relationship with someone of the same gender but are ordained anyway by bishops who believe the Churches stance on homosexuality to be bonkers?

Basically what this latest report does is to reflect the opinion of some within the CofE who happen to be quite senior, and apply it to all of us. The continued reiteration of the idea that marriage is only workable between a man and a woman, especially for procreation, and the many implications and superiority that that gives to those in heterosexual marriages – that single mothers struggle due to the lack of a husband, disregarding the reasons why that marriage may have broken down such as abuse, that same sex couples adopting would be ok but same sex couples having sperm donors or surrogate mothers isn’t because clearly only a man and woman can raise a child in the love of God…….how can the Church not see how blinkered this is?

Many many Christians struggle to accept their sexuality, even though it is just as much a gift from God as heterosexual love, because the Church remains stuck with this cumbersome definition of marriage which is exclusive, superior and frankly medieval. How disastrous would it really be to regard marriage as between two people that love each other, rather than between a man and woman who love each other?

The fact that many churches do already flex the rules by celebrating and blessing same sex couples appears to be alluded to in this report but in such obtuse and confusing language that any meaningful view on this from the CofE and Synod is lost.

Personally I read most of this report shaking my head but I despaired when I came to a part which said that ’ persons are not asexual, but are either male or female’…..once again the Church is out of touch with the ideas of transgender issues, the fact that asexuality does actually exist and makes up around 1% of society and the refusal to acknowledge those who transgress the construct of gender binaries…..GIANT SQUID OF ANGER :/

So yeah, the CofE, or at least it’s official statements and members (since there are many who disagree with this release) has done yet another fantastic job of alienating all LGBT* laity, clergy and wider population…

Wider reading: http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/5-april/news/uk/marriage-a-%E2%80%98gift-from-god%E2%80%99-that-does-not-include-same-sex-couples,-says-report






An intro

It is a long held belief of mine that blogs need to start, at the very start, with an introduction about the author. After all, how can we fully connect and engage unless we know a little about them, their thoughts and ideas, their quirks of personality, their background? So here’s a bit about me as I start to try and create a blog.

My name is Nicola, occasionally shortened to Nick, I’m 18 and currently at the time of writing am living in Yorkshire, having just finished my A Levels at college, and am waiting for the summer to be over so I can move to London to go to Heythrop College, University of London, to begin my BA in Study Of Religions. I am short and speccy and quite proud of it, I play the cornet and attempt to sing, my parents both being keen (and good!) at singing don’t appear to have passed too much talent my way on that one 🙂 I read quite a lot but still have an inherent dislike of books considered ‘classics’ due mainly to being put off by trying to read Tess of the D’ubervilles when I was about nine, but I’m working on it.

I am an allegedly practicing Anglican and do feel a great deal of affection toward the Church of England, but also a great deal of frustration on occasion, I am an altar server at Wakefield Cathedral and did once consider entering the priesthood, but am currently having a wee bit of a crisis of faith, partly I think due to the prospect of moving away from the security of a congregation that have known me all my life, and partly because it has meant I have begun to ask all the sorts of questions I should perhaps have asked years ago about what the Church says and teaches, and which bits I actually do believe. I suspect this blog will see many posts about religion and the Church as I examine and question ideas and principles I have previously just gone along with for the sake of stability and fitting in.

My hope with this blog is just to go where the mood takes me, things that strike me as interesting or challenging, reactions and thoughts on news, occasional complaints and following lovely people who are far better at blogging and thinking than I could ever dream. I’ll start by posting a few of my old posts which are currently floating on my tumblr which were reaction posts which were rushed out and not particularly well thought about, but which belong on here far more happily than on my Tumblr!

So…books, music, learning and religion are the basic sketch of the stuff I am interested and passionate about, I am sure this post will be updated as I remember more things that might help to explain me, and of course as I discover more about myself 🙂

(And yes my blog is named after The Fault in Our Stars, cliché perhaps, but it is true for me at the moment to say that my mind is so full of questions and ideas that ‘my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations’)