Life & Faith

Life & Faith: The Untold Story of Slavery

This month on Life & Faith, we’ve heard from experts and scholars about the influence of Christianity in the West. It’s all part of a sneak peek at our documentary due for release in 2017, For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined.

In this episode, we tackle the question of how Christianity has played a role for better - and for worse - in the global practice of slavery. We ask the question, has Christianity been a friend or a foe of this terrible institution?

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, explains:

“… [Christianity and Judaism] light a long fuse of argument and discovery which eventually explodes, and people realise, ‘actually, we should do something about this’. That’s how slavery is dealt with. In the Middle Ages you have the beginnings of a real theoretical assault on the notion of slavery.”

But this is not just an historical question. The “long fuse” extends to the present day, with more people in slavery today than at any point in human history - around 27 million people.

Rowan Williams is joined by philosopher and theologian David Bentley Hart, biblical scholar Iain Provan, and humanitarian Baroness Caroline Cox, as we unpack the influence of Christianity on the institution of slavery.

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This is Part IV of our four-part series featuring interviews from our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined. To catch up on Parts I, II and III, subscribe to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithpodcast.

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Life & Faith: Women

In the second century, a Greek writer called Celsus criticised Christianity as a religion of women, children and slaves - that is to say, a religion not to be taken seriously.

There are echoes of this sentiment in contemporary critiques of Christianity, and religion more broadly. For example, the idea of women being more religious than men, on the whole, can be seen as something that discredits religion as irrational.

However, Christianity is much more likely to be condemned today, no for being a religion of women, but a religion against women – this despite evidence of a strong thread of gender equality in the early Church. 

“In its inception Christianity set before women a true possibility of complete transformation on equal terms alongside men,” says Professor Sarah Coakley who has written extensively on gender theory and the philosophy of religion.

“But at the same time it very quickly accommodated itself into existing religious and cultural mores - and you could say that that tension has been played out since then.” 

In this episode, we’ll hear from Coakley and a host of other scholars – Judith Lieu, Rodney Start and Beverley Gaventa – about the role Christianity has played both in the flourishing, and the oppression, of women.

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This is Part III of our four-part series featuring interviews from our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined. To catch up on Parts I and II, and to make sure you don’t miss the rest of the series, subscribe to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithpodcast.

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Life & Faith: Crusades

“Religion is the cause of all wars.” This is a popular assumption in the West – but also a lazy one. History suggests the relationship between religion and violence is much more complicated.

One of the best-known episodes of violence in the history of the Christian church is the Crusades. But how much do we really know about this notorious conflict?

In this episode of Life & Faith, we speak to experts and scholars who unpack the history, myths and misconceptions surrounding this series of religious wars between the 11th and 15th centuries.

“The Crusades seem glamorous, they seem dramatic, they seem alien,” says historian Christopher Tyerman. “In the West … they are seen as an example of medieval brutality in the name of religion. In other parts of the world they have been rebranded as an example of early Western imperialism and colonialism. Both sides of that equation are false.”

This is Part II of our four-part series featuring interviews from our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined. To catch up on Part I and to make sure you don’t miss the rest of the series, subscribe to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithpodcast.

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Life & Faith: The Evolution of the West

In 2017, the Centre for Public Christianity will release a documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church Is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined. It takes a deep dive into the history of Christianity in the West, and unpacks its influence on our society and culture.

Some of the key ideas the documentary will explore include the development of human rights, and why we often find Christians at the heart of social justice work such as feeding the hungry and alleviating poverty. But we’ll also explore some of the ways the Church has abused its power and failed to uphold justice, show mercy or give hope – the very things it is called to do.

This month on Life & Faith, we’ll be showcasing interviews from some of the international experts we’ve been speaking with for the documentary. Each week will examine one theme – the Crusades, women’s rights, slavery – but first, we want to offer a sweeping, bird’s-eye view of the role Christianity has played in creating the world we live in today.

In this episode, we feature an interview with Nick Spencer, director of Theos think tank in London and author of The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values. He says:

“[Christianity] hasn’t always been used on the side of the political or the cultural or the economic angels, but … to think you can understand our idea of right, democracy, human dignity, the scientific revolution, even the welfare state without understanding Christianity – you’re making a big mistake.”

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Life & Faith: Going Nuclear

Nuclear fusion energy has been heralded asthe answer to the global energy crisis, a virtually endless – and cleaner –source of power that will last several generations.

If there’s anyone who should be singing itspraises the loudest, it’s Professor Ian Hutchinson from MIT, a leader in thisfield. While he’s certainly enthusiastic about the science and technologybehind fusion power, he’s quick to downplay the hype. 

“There is no magic bullet for energyresources for human kind, he says, “so I don’t want to promote fusion as aninstant solution to energy problems that exist.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done, hesays, namely, finding a stable environment on our planet at 100 million degreesCelsius for nuclear fusion to happen – and he’s right in the thick of it havingbuilt such an environment.

“It has the strongest magnetic field of anyexperiment and, I have to admit, starting up that experiment … was very much ahighlight of my scientific career.”

But as powerful as he knows science to be,as much as he finds it intellectually engaging and satisfying, ProfessorHutchinson also believes that science does not hold all the answers.

“Science works by being able to dorepeatable observations or experiments … and we’re find out about the ways in whichthe world behaves reproducibly,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that that’sthe only thing to find out about the world.”

In this episode of Life & Faith,Professor Ian Hutchinson talks about the latest developments in nuclear energy,and the fusion of faith and science in his work and life.

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Life & Faith: Model Meets Designer

At 14 years of age, Tracy Trinita entered the Elite Model Look Competition - and won.

The Balinese schoolgirl soon found herself gracing the runways of Paris, Milan and New York for the world’s biggest fashion houses. She was living her dream – a life of beauty and glamour, riches and fame. 

But underneath Tracy’s smile and happy exterior, she battled feelings of insecurity and loneliness.

In this episode of ‘Life & Faith’, Tracy talks about her life as Indonesia’s first supermodel, and how re-connecting with an old friend in Paris led her towards a source of true happiness.

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Life & Faith: Where did we come from?

It’s one of life’s biggest questions – where did we come from?

Since ancient times, philosophers and scientists have offered answers – and so has religion. But they don’t often say the same thing.

These differences are often highlighted in the classic science versus religion debate that pit, for example, evolution against intelligent design.

But what if science and faith are less hostile towards each other than we think?

In this episode, Dr Graeme Finlay explores the complex relationship and compatibility of science and biblical faith, and what they can teach us about the origin of the universe and humanity.

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Dr Graeme Finlay is a lecturer in scientific pathology and cancer researcher at the University of Auckland, and the author of Human Evolution: Genes, Genealogies and Phylogenies. He has also completed a degree in theology.

For more information about ‘ISCAST: Christians in Science and Technology’, go to: http://www.iscast.org.

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Life & Faith: Identity Complex

While statistics suggest that religion is in decline across most of the West, being irreligious is perhaps more complex than it seems.

In the UK, for example, only 25 per cent of people who claim to have “no religion” are atheists or agnostics – but even within this group there is a mix of spirituality and beliefs.

“Plurality and diversity define who we are,” Elizabeth Oldfield, Director of Theos, said at a recent public lecture in Sydney. “Many people would like to believe, and belong, but they don't know how.”

In this episode of ‘Life & Faith’, Elizabeth takes us on a tour of the religious landscape in the UK and Europe, and how the West’s religious identity is more complex than we think.

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Elizabeth Oldfield is the Director of Theos, a leading religion and society think tank in the UK. To find out more about Theos, go to: http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk.

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Life & Faith: Prostitution Narratives

Prostitution is a global industry that generates more than $186 billion worldwide and has more than 13 million “employees”. But these numbers tell you nothing about the people involved in the sex industry – the circumstances that led them to a life of prostitution, the experiences they have in the industry, and the struggle to leave.

A new book changes this. Prostitution Narratives shines a light on the reality of the sex industry through the true stories of women who escaped a life of prostitution.

But it’s done more than raise awareness of the issues and trauma faced by these women. As survivors of the sex industry, the book’s contributors have come to realise that they are part of a global movement of women against prostitution.

“The personal has become political,” Melinda Tankard Reist, one of the editors of the book and a long-time advocate for women and girls, says. “They’ve found strength in turning something devastating into something powerful.”

In this episode of Life & Faith, Melinda talks about how vital it is to hear the voices of women from within the sex industry, to understand that truth and reality of the work they do. 

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Life & Faith: Extravagance Part 2

The FirstMonday in May is a new documentary that takes viewers into the opulent world ofart, fashion and beauty via the Met Gala. As the beauty and glamour unfolds onthe silver screen, two conflicting responses may arise: on the one hand, youmay feel a sense of appreciation towards this form of fashion and art; on theother hand, this extravagance can seem excessive and almost obscene.

What is the role and value of art in our society? Is it frivolous tospend money on beautiful things, or spend time enjoying or pursuing art, whenall of that time and money could be spent on feeding the hungry or saving alife?

In this episode of Life & Faith, John Dickson and Simon Smart joinNatasha Moore in a discussion around form and function, beauty and utility –and whether we can justify art and culture.

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