Fitzroy panorama

Apparently I was on Sky News on January 2nd. I have been fascinated by who saw me. Two from South Africa, one from Johannesburg and one from Cape Town, another from Kampala, Uganda and two from the Republic Of Ireland, one in Cavan and one in Meath! No one from Northern Ireland seemed to notice!

Of course I know I was on Sky News. Sky News journalist David Blevins came to Fitzroy and did an interview. It was about the shrinking number of people who put themselves down as religious in polls. 27% of the population now deem themselves to be non religious and that figure has doubled in ten years.

David did an excellent piece with Northern Irish league footballer Robbie Norton and Mary Lou, the Humanist Chaplain at Queen’s University, conversing about our long held Protestant-Catholic identities and the relation that both those who hold Christian faith seriously, like Robbie, and no longer hold it at all, like Mary Lou, aren’t claiming the traditional labels. 

In the piece I come in to suggest that Jesus hasn’t had the best PR and that perhaps once we get past this big wall of how we define our religion we might get on to the spiritual questions.

In the edited piece my surmising on Adele and Sting had to be cut.

Though neither singer is from Northern Ireland and would understand the religiosity, though Sting might as his first wife was from Andersonstown, both have recently made spiritual pontifications from places of ‘non religious’!

Adele perhaps surprised me the most. Her song I Drink Wine is the highest quality of social comment, right on the proverbial money… and very personal.

It’s a song that asks deep questions of where to find satisfaction and fulfilment of self. It recognises that the world is corrupting our hearts. It is not so much what she is critiquing that fascinates me but in what she is looking at:


In these crazy times I hope to find 

Something I can cling on to

'Cause I need some substance in my life

Something real, something that feels true


These are deeply spiritual questions… almost a searching for God. Her comments on her TV Special Adele With An Audience when she shared about a spiritual experience while on a beach with her friend Stormzy only adds to the intrigue.

Like Adele, many are no longer defining religious but are still seeking spiritual answers. As I said on the Sky News piece it is a shame that Jesus PR hasn’t been good since the 2nd or 3rd century!

Speaking of spiritual questions, a few days later and Jools Holland, on his Later... With Jools show, is talking to Sting about such questions in the ex Police man’s work. There is no way that Sting is will declare himself religious but he told Holland that he was all about asking the big questions about who we are and why we are here.

Those spiritual questions are riddled through his new record The Bridge. There’s a song called The Book Of Numbers and lots of church bells and even a song called The Bells Of St. Thomas where the bells are like the conscience of a man being seduced in what Sting himself calls a very strange lyric. 

Best of all is the song Loving You that had me propelled into the Old Testament story of Hosea. This is the tale of a man whose wife commits adultery but he stays true to the vows made in Church. There are so many similarities to the Old Testament prophet Hosea’s story of an adulterous wife:


We made vows inside the church

To forgive each other's sins

But there are things I have to endure

Like the smell of another man's skin


Sting’s heartbroken husband then does the Hosea thing and shows grace and a profound forgiveness:


I pray the waters of forgiveness

Will rain down on you and me

Just like newborn babies

In the cradle of a tree


This is love. A love that the Bible might claim as God’s unique unconditional love:


If that's not loving you, I don't know what is (I don't know what)

If that's not loving you, then tell me what it is

If that's not loving you, I don't know what is (I don't know what)

If that's not loving you, then tell me what it is.


So, as religious affiliation is on the decline, spiritual questions continue to be asked. The Church needs to get into such conversations and in ways that they will get heard. We might find Jesus as a good role model as to how to do that!


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