Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet


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Orange Is The New Black can teach us a lot about religion – from The Conversation

The Conversation
On the value of religion in Orange is the New Black, by our co-director
Jo Henderson-Merrygold, University of Sheffield

Orange Is The New Black, Netflix’s incredibly successful drama set in a women’s prison, returns this week for a fourth season, with at least three more to follow.

The portrayal of the women in the show has attracted much praise, with diverse, complex and well-developed characters, each of whom has the capacity to surprise or challenge. This is particularly evident in religious representation throughout the show, which astutely introduces audiences to the themes of women’s religious practice, community and identity. The issues faced by the Orange Is The New Black women transcend the fictional prison complex, remaining relevant in contemporary real life.

Explicit exploration of belief and religion was a major theme of the last season, and we can expect this to continue – the most recent trailer revealed a new inmate wearing a hijab, the first in the series.

 

Orange Is The New Black is inspired by Piper Kerman’s autobiographical account of her 13-month stint for drugs trafficking and money laundering. Set in the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary, the show is increasingly unafraid of tackling difficult topics through the lives of prison inmates and staff alike.

Conversation about religion traditionally only appears in film and TV when associated with the predictable weddings, births and funerals. Although these have been known to occur in Orange Is The New Black, Litchfield’s religious life is not primarily encountered through these generally benign events. Rather it comes to life in the day-to-day and ordinary, playing a major role throughout the show. These are stories of religious spaces, communities and practices present in the lives of the inmates: women, whose personal and communal religion is so rarely documented in popular culture.

Finding Christianity.
JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Religion and spirituality is found everywhere. In the kitchen, where Latina women conduct prayers and spells learned from foremothers. In the laundry, where a white group practice their own form of charismatic evangelical Christianity. In the gym, where the Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous groups intertwine meditation and yoga.

The more obviously religious space of the chapel rarely gains such use. Instead, it is a battleground between inmates and authorities, a space for breaking down barriers. The closest women come to God here in this traditionally religious space is hardly through prayer – the chapel is a typical meeting place for hook-ups, so perhaps they experience something religious through sexual pleasure.

Season three promotion.
Netflix

The religious lives of inmates reflect the broader complexity of their stories. Last season, Roman Catholic nun Sister Jane Ingalls (Beth Fowler) convinced a Rabbi she was Jewish in order to keep kosher meals – “the Abrahamic religions are all pretty much the same until you get to Jesus,” apparently.

Although more interested in selling her book and gaining publicity than religious teaching and authority, within the prison community Sister Ingalls is the go-to person on all things religious. “Black Cindy” Hayes (Adrienne C Moore) enthusiastically converted to Judaism after feeling rejection and alienation from her father and the church he pastors.

Then there’s Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning), a self-appointed leader inspired by the religious communities who have funded and claimed her as a prophetic figure since she shot her abortionist. Right-wing religious, anti-abortion campaigners publicly celebrate and validate Pennsatucky because of her crime. She is martyr for their cause, and they provide her with an excuse. Religious indoctrination allows Pennsatucky to rewrite her own history.

And there’s shunned Amish inmate, Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles), who establishes fellow prisoner Norma Romano (Annie Golden) – a former member of a 1960s New Religious Movement – as a religious figure who grants miracles in Litchfield. Leanne bullies other inmates into following her rules, declaring herself to be the true interpreter of Norma-ism. In her need to belong to a religious group, she attempts to recreate what she misses from her Amish tradition. She is lost without her religion.

Whatever happens next, it remains clear that religion underpins identity in Litchfield penitentiary. Whether beliefs are accepted or rejected, religion remains inseparable from the sex and drugs, abuse and manipulation, power and identity in the lives of each individual and group. Orange Is The New Black puts religion under the microscope and allows us to peek into the religious lives of others. What makes the show so provocative and valuable is that it shows the outreaching impact of religion across society.

This is never more important than in the aftermath of acts of terror and violence such as the recent homophobic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Religious lines are drawn to try and explain, condemn, ally or distance ourselves from the act. Orange Is The New Black shows that drawing such lines between religion and non-religion, between sacred and profane spaces, is impossible. It’s just not that simple.

Orange Is The New Black encourages us to question how we understand identity and community in light of religion. You can guarantee that the religion present in season four will confront, challenge and defy expectation, just as the earlier seasons have. But will we embrace that diversity in wider society?

Jo Henderson-Merrygold, PhD Candidate in Biblical Studies and Queer Theory, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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220px-BeautifulboxermovieposterLGBT STUDIES FILM EVENT THU 4 DECEMBER
Student Union Auditorium 19:00
Join us for a FREE film event screening

Thai drama Beautiful Boxer is based on the true story of Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan),
a skilled professional Muay Thai martial artist who was determined to become the best,
not just to escape the grinding poverty of his rural upbringing, but also to fulfil a hidden
desire to undergo a sex change operation and become a woman.

Free Event – No Admission Charge
Open to the public


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Join us for a FREE film event screening

FREE screening of the film ‘Beautiful Boxer’ for Dr Minna Shkul’s University of Sheffield LGBT Studies module. index
Thai drama Beautiful Boxer is based on the true story of Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan), a skilled professional Muay Thai martial artist who was determined to become the best, not just to escape the grinding poverty of his rural upbringing, but also to fulfill a hidden desire to undergo a sex change operation and become a woman.
220px-Beautifulboxermovieposter
It’s on Thurs 4 Dec
7pm
Student Union Auditorium at The University of Sheffield

Free Event – No Admission Charge Open to the public


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“God Loves Gays” Billboard Project

Below is a snippet from an article published on Bustle authored by Lauren Barbato. The article looks at a recent project to raise funds to have a billboard put up in Kansas as a direct counter to the Westboro baptist church and their homophobic mission.

god

“The existence of God is one of life’s big questions, but it looks like we don’t have to do too much searching anymore: God is on Facebook, and he loves the LGBT community. At least, that’s what his new billboard tells us. After raising thousands of dollars through his God Loves Gays campaign, “God” has erected a billboard in Topeka, Kansas to show how much he truly cares — and stick it to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Although God has existed before the dawn of the Earth, the Facebook page God, which now has nearly two million followers, only began in 2011. If you’re wondering, God also runs YouTube and Twitter pages, and his favorite activities are “creating, smiting, lifting weights [and] bubble baths.””

To see the rest of the article and the comical yet deadly serious video posted by God, follow this link.


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Proud Whopper

ProudWhopper“To show its support for LGBT rights, Burger King filmed a commercial at one of its restaurants in San Francisco that was on the city’s Pride Parade route. The fast food chain documented consumers’ reactions as they ate their Proud Whoppers, many wondering out loud what made the brightly-packaged burger different from a regular Whopper.  The sandwich’s wrapping, however, unveils the message “We are all the same inside.””

Follow this link to the LGBT news feed webpage to see the Proud Whopper video created during San Francisco Pride.


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‘I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am’

Since her, now famous, interview with Patrick Strudwick, Vicky Beeching has become one of the leading public figures in the debate surrounding Christianity and sexualities. Here, we revisit the original article:

“There is no quicker, more effective way to destroy someone than to isolate them. Guards at Guantanamo Bay know this. Psychiatrists know this. Vicky Beeching, 35, British star of the American Christian rock scene, one of the most successful artists in US mega-churches and now one of the most sought-after religious commentators in Britain, knows this too.

There is also no better way to destroy a group of people than to ensure they do the job for you. And so, as Beeching’s story pours out on a hot afternoon – a story of psychological torture, life-threatening illness and unimaginable loneliness, imposed all around from a supposedly Godly environment – one question fills the air: if shrinks, brutes and fascists know how best to devastate a person, does the Church of England? Or do they know not what they do?

We meet twice. On the first occasion, Beeching, normally enlivening Radio 4’s Thought for the Day or any number of Sunday morning TV discussion programmes, sits opposite me in a café in Soho. She pushes a piece of paper in my direction. It is a précis she has written of her background: of growing up in a conservative Christian household in Kent, first in the Pentecostal Church then in the evangelical branch of the Church of England, of going to Oxford to study theology, of the EMI recording contract that sent her to Nashville 12 years ago and launched a successful singer-songwriting career… and then a line that jars and jolts. I turn the piece of paper over and look up to see her smiling nervously.”

To read the rest of the article/interview follow this link.