The Representation of Religion and Science in Call The Midwife

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Television entertainment and all other forms of passing time whilst an individual are learning something tangible is what should be encouraged on the screens because most of the shows that are present are utterly fictional. However, when shows are done with a concept of ensuring that people are able to learn then it puts another twist because there is the possibility of enchanting and captivating old and new generation. Call the midwife is such a show which has got the element of ensuring that social and community-based problems are represented as part of the ongoing healthcare issues which are faced by different people in the United Kingdom. The show in itself is an adaptation of a literal work which was done by Jennifer Worth as a recollection of what nuns from Poplar in London’s East End moved to Birmingham in 1976 to assist the local community in midwifery duties. Therefore, the show shows how religion, cultural beliefs, and changes affect that town upon the arrival of the nuns. BBC's Call The Midwife the representations of religion and science and how each nurse is able to create meaning and purpose for their lives in the show.

At the onset of the show, the nuns are settled in their own comfort zones with very little to do in matters of their lives and even though they help in some matters affecting their daily lives they seem to be lacking a major purpose of pursuing their lives. Therefore, when the eight nuns are selected to be taken to a different part of United Kingdom where they have heard stories of moral decadence and savagery they become a little bit shaken (Kotsadam & Modalsli, 2017). However, the progress that they make once they settle there shows how coordination, leadership, and sacrifice can go a long way in alleviating the lives of people who least expect it. The women who the nuns met are not used to religious matters while the nuns have been following religion all through their lives and they need to balance matters of faith, ideologies, and realities that they encounter there. Religion is a very complicated matter especially between the older nuns and the younger ones who seem to be at crossroads on how to handle the patients who come to seek their help. Sister Julienne’s faith and nursing sister Jennifer together with the presence of a male doctor Patrick Turner all are embroiled in a mixture of testing their resolve. The religious perspective in the lives of different people can be changed by such occurrences especially if someone comes from a situation where they are utterly judgmental of people who are viewed as sinners and unworthy. Under the same context, they have to save the lives of young innocent children which is the main task that had made them be deployed there.

Call The Midwife shows the struggle and the integration of religion and science in different episodes because no matter how the two aspects differ they always have a common ground in which they both accommodate each other (Tincknell, 2013). The accommodation of religion to science is not even debatable in the series because the actors had moved out from a religious setting to go and undertake a scientific related venture which is the delivery of babies as midwives. Therefore, the struggle and the connection between religion and science would have occurred in the first episodes where the nurses would have refused to undertake such a role because it conflicted with their faith. The offering of vaccinations and injections and the advising of the women on the best medical approaches that they would use once their children are ill is also scientific. Even if there is an element of religion, the scientific matters take precedence and the challenges that they may bring are balanced with the help of religion and a spiritual perspective. Television and the media houses are at loggerheads on the best way that they can attract and retain audiences where religion and science conflict and then converge together to prove that both social positions need each other in a realistic world and that is what is offered in call the midwife (Murdock, 1997).

The religious teachings of accepting people for who they are and failing to be judgmental because such matters belong to God can be quiet challenging for the young nuns who are learning to master between the spiritual and contemporary world. Nursing Sister Jennifer who was present during the first episodes of the show acted like mother superior who offered spiritual and moral guidance to the younger nuns who seemed to be lost in matters of the world when pregnant women came in different conditions and in dire need of their help. The morality aspects that can influence the decisions of any religious person are avoided at face value but the nuns converge to talk about the challenges of each patient and what it means to them. The suffering of the Birmingham community seeks to strengthen and challenge their faith that even though the presence of God is imminent there is suffering in the world which can be interpreted as his own way of being just. Jenkins (2000), notes that there are traditional’ spiritual beliefs; ‘alternative’ or ‘new age’ beliefs; and ‘weird science which are all occurring in the world and the knowledge of what is real and fictional sets the journey for each person life. Therefore, the sisters have to ensure that they are able to balance all those matters and find the best approach which they have to use to get the desired results which are conducive for them and for the patient.

Formal rationalization is demanding of actors in terms of social and cognitive competencies and we can see the contrast in terms of approaching the pregnant women between the older nun Jennifer and younger nurse Beatrix which is brought by their difference in handling matters (Jenkins, 2000). The older nun wants each patient to be handled with caution and swiftness irrespective of their suffering or the resultant pain which they may be experiencing. However, Beatrix wants to offer comfort for the women who are grief-stricken especially if their children are in great pain or if they seem to be losing hope. While the older nurse is supposed to take care of her mental competence and the wellbeing of the other younger nuns, they seem to be bent on making her have a hard time. However, with each episode, there is a lesson that is learned on how the group of the nuns and midwives can all work together for the betterment of the society which is their main concern (Hundley et al., 2014). When there is a disease which affects one of them, they have to ensure that they get better and at the same time assist their colleagues in the dispensing of duties because it is a calling rather than an imposed by religion. Therefore, the older nun and the younger midwife Beatrix all learn some important lessons from each other on how the life has changed but the use of the older rules and policies can still be useful in handling situations that are new to them.

The media can play a dynamic role in stimulating society’s fear and misunderstanding on matters of religion, science and the physical disabilities that affect the people because they cannot be wished away irrespective of whatever is happening (Wilder, 2017). In essence, the ability of the people to embrace and accept the shortcomings of one another is not a spiritual or cultural matter but rather it should be taken as a form of humanity that is within each and every one of us. Therefore, when the call the midwife continues to air matters that challenge the logic of discrimination due to disabilities or physical appearance it invokes in the audience a sense of understanding and acceptance of how the world is. This is because religion teaches that people cannot be created the same and on the same platform, science shows the uniqueness of each and every one of us from the way that we are created. To ensure that such matter does not result in any criticism, the show tries to put in different characters who have got special needs and the attention that they are given is not meant to discourage or belittle them but to empower them even more. Through this perspective, we do not see the religious part which challenges the will of God but it helps to increase and broaden the faith in the fact that we are all equal despite our shortcomings.

Matters of birth and death under the same context and being observed by a religious group of people while they are getting help from young and naïve women who are yet to experience that moment of foreboding sets the plot of call the midwife. This is because even though the older nuns are women who may have encountered a lot in their lives, their lives have been shaped more by religious inclinations while the younger women are curious because they have been on the different sides of the divide. While they understand some context of religion and the workings of life they continue to assist the nuns to understand the workings of the real world beyond the Anglican religious order. This mixture and different approach in the giving of birth while offering spiritual help and guidance to the heartbroken women helps to showcase how human beings need spiritual intervention in their lives when things do not seem to work. The nuns and the upcoming midwives do all they can to avoid giving bad news to the mother when they come in to give birth but the world is not created to be perfect and problems are bound to occur one way or the other resulting in death or the emergence of a newborn baby who has their whole lives ahead of them (Jennings, 2017). The challenge for all of the actors and the viewers who are involved rests on their ability to accept that each person has their unique way of representing their own life and being part of the society.

Orsi Roberts (2002), represents religion as a mixture of cultural practices that are represented through different cultures where forms of worship mean and represent different concepts depending on the faith and the beliefs of the people. Under this context called the midwife can showcase and represent how the faiths of all the women who are brought together to work at Birmingham in offering their services to the people in need. Their faith is a representation of how the suffering of the women and their children can compel even the people with a different opinion about spiritual and religious life can change their stand. It is not a matter of faith, spirituality or religion that makes the nuns and the midwives to perform their duties but it is a matter of principles. This is because once the older nuns had been taken from their comfortable dwellings at the Anglican religious order and they were plunged into a new way of life at the East end which was more challenging and uncomfortable. Jenny Lee and Nurse Beatrix show how these changes can be achieved through the acknowledgment of existing social differences which make up the life of different people and their communities. The east end community would have denied the entrance and imposing way of life from the nuns but their problems were immense and so they did not have the moral obligation of being choosy. These differences are what makes up the ethical aspects of the series because each scenario is presented as different and challenging than the other one to prove how the nuns and the midwives were able to transition together (Tincknell, 2013).

Ethical matters which make up most of the communities in the world are a representation of how far such communities can go in order to achieve their intended purpose in the improvement of their lives. The women who request and seek the assistance and medical intervention of the nuns and the midwives do that because they want to have the best of what life has to offer. By giving birth and having their children checked by the midwives who have been given that mandate by the government it makes the issues which they stand up for becoming highlighted into the media. It is not often that an incidence which involves a wide range of societal issues being highlighted in the mainstream media because it may breed contempt (Murdock, 1997). Call The Midwife has been made to fit in the ideology of ensuring that duty and calling go beyond skill color and the need to help the people who are in need. The suffering of the human beings requires intervention which can be accorded through a reach out program which can be imposed by the government or the church. Therefore, when the midwives and the church ensure that they would be taken to a remote place which did not consistent with their faith then they are forced to change and become accommodative. The presence of Doctor Patrick turner in the series and other male characters are meant to show balance and ethical issues in the society that had to be considered to ensure there was inclusiveness on how the neighborhood or communities were run. Most patients who are treated at most healthcare facilities usually had the ability to decide on how they wanted to be treated if they are being treated with common similarities.

Call The Midwife is based on a time when the government was short of funding and health options which would encompass different social classes and ensure every citizen was able to get proper medical care. These situations are also represented by the people who are getting help from the nuns and the midwives because they are also struggling economically to bring up children due to social constraints which are based from lack of partners or a large number of children. It is worthy to note that during that era the advent of family planning was not very common and most of the people had not even heard of that concept. Due to the problems that would have arisen in matters of religion and science where family planning pills would have been used to help some of the women to manage their families better, the nuns would have created resistance. The older nurses though they did not have families of their own claim that they were brought up in families that had more than 5 siblings and they all turned up fine despite some several shortcomings. Devotion and religion taught that women were born to suffer, to suiter on behalf of their kin, to suffer silently and that it was wrong to avoid suffering (Orsi, 2000). Therefore, when they see the women at the east end give birth to healthy babies who do not have any complications they are grateful and prayerful to God to continue granting the women something to smile about. This is because they are some women who wish they would give birth whilst they are struggling to do it. 

One episode from Call The Midwife brings out the essence of spirituality, science and religion in the way that parents of a sick child who had fractured his body under mysterious circumstances offers a challenge to both the nuns and the parents. While his parents believe that the child has some sort of peculiar disease which makes his bones fragile, the nuns believe that the parents may be assaulting their child and blaming the emergence of a disease which they had never heard of. These are the type of representations that challenge science at the face of religion because some answers or questions that science raise do not have immediate answers which can be expressed through faith or spiritually. In the end, the doctor who assists the nuns and the midwives get to solve the problem by representing research and knowledge on the matter which was affecting the child (Jennings & Krainitzki, 2015). Through such experiences and understandings that the intervention of science and the acceptance of religion in health matters can be integrated together, it shows that both can work in complimenting each other. Where faith, religion and spiritual guidance may fail to have an answer science can always intervene and help in offering a solution and vice versa. This shows how the workings of the world have always been and how they continue to be shaped in the previous decades and the continuation of the same trend in the new generation.


Hundley, V., Duff, E., Dewberry, J., Luce, A., & Van Teijlingen, E. (2014). Fear in childbirth:       are the media responsible?. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 24(4), 444-447.

Jenkins, R. (2000). Disenchantment, enchantment and re-enchantment: Max Weber at the            millennium. Max Weber Studies, 11-32.

Jennings, R. (2017). Ageing across Space and Time: Exploring Concepts of Ageing and Identity           in the Female Ensemble Dramas Tenko and Call the Midwife. Journal of British Cinema           and Television, 14(2), 179-195.

Jennings, R., & Krainitzki, E. (2015). ‘Call the Celebrity’: Voicing the Experience of Women           and Ageing through the Distinctive Vocal Presence of Vanessa Redgrave. In Women,      Celebrity and Cultures of Ageing (pp. 178-196). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Kotsadam, A., Lind, J. T., & Modalsli, J. (2017). Call the Midwife.

Murdock, G. (1997). The Re-‐Enchantment of the World. Rethinking media, religion, and      culture, 23, 85.

Orsi, R. A. (2010). The Madonna of 115th Street: faith and community in Italian Harlem, 1880    1950. Yale University Press.

Tincknell, E. (2013). Dowagers, debs, nuns and babies: the politics of nostalgia and the older    woman in the British Sunday night television serial. Journal of British Cinema and      Television, 10(4), 769-784.

Wilder, C. (2017). Television Dramas, Disability, and Religious Knowledge: Considering Call         the Midwife and Grey’s Anatomy as Religiously Significant Texts. Religions, 8(10), 209.

August 01, 2023

Entertainment Life

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