Religious Film Fears 3: Being Sacrilegious, Criticising or Devaluing the Faith

Abstract

Many believers are fearful of feature films for a variety of scriptural, moral and psychospiritual reasons. Despite the cinema being the artform of the 20th century and the basis of a moving image culture that will dominate well into the 21st century. Anton Karl Kozlovic (2003a) had previously explored the religious film fears associated with Satanic infusion, graven images and iconographic perversion, and then followed this by an exploration of the fear of cinematic sinfulness (Kozlovic, 2003b). However, even more varieties of religious film fears abound. Using textually-based, humanist film criticism as the analytical lens, the critical film and religion literature was reviewed and the additional fears of being sacrilegious, criticising or devaluing the faith was copiously explicated and documented herein. It was concluded that popular films are a worthwhile and exciting pedagogic tool, but they require constant monitoring, vigilance and control by faith communities for integrity, protection and quality assurance reasons. Biblically-based counter-proposals and other anti-film defences were proffered to address this tangible concern. Further research into the exciting interdisciplinary field of religion-and-film was recommended.

Introduction

In the July 2003 edition of Quodlibet: Online Journal of Christian Theology and Philosophy, Anton Karl Kozlovic (2003a) explored the religious film fears associated with Satanic infusion, graven images and iconographic perversion. This was followed in the October 2003 edition of the journal with an exploration of cinematic sinfulness (Kozlovic, 2003b). It was argued therein that popular feature films were the artform and lingua franca of the 20th (and now 21st) century. However, the “Age of Hollywood” (Paglia, 1994, p. 12) also inspired much fear within traditional religious communities, particularly Christian congregations. Many true believers were genuinely suspicious of film’s nature, purpose and suspected deleterious effects upon their flock and the public in general. It was also argued that before a true cinematic theology (aka religion-and-film, celluloid religion, theo-film, film-faith dialogue) could develop into the powerful pedagogic tool that it truly is, these anti-film fears had to be addressed rather than dismissed in the traditional knee jerk fashion. This research continues that scholarly work and philosophical intent.

Using textually-based, humanist film criticism as the analytical lens (i.e., examining the textual world inside the frame, but not the world outside the frame—Bywater & Sobchack, 1989), the critical film and religion literature was reviewed and the popular Hollywood cinema was scanned. The fear of popular film being sacrilegious, criticising or devaluing the faith was documented, explicated and illustrated herein to enhance narrative coherence (albeit, with a strong reportage flavour). The following introductory review also incorporates some biblically based counter-proposals and other anti-film defences to address this potent anti-film concern. Regrettably, the popular culture approach to religion education is not fully appreciated, let alone utilised to date, yet it has numerous advantages that are tailor-made for the video generation.

The Ascendancy of Audiovisual Culture and the Value of Popular Culture

Despite popular culture’s traditional reputation for being faddish, trivial and trivialising, in reality, it is one of the most profound of cultural forces operating within society today. As Bruce David Forbes (2003, p. 244) argued: “While folk culture confirms a mindset and high culture often challenges and reshapes it, popular culture regularly does both.” That is, it shapes humanity like a mainspring, and reflects humanity like a mirror as it engages the viewer on a number of physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. Therefore, popular films should not be ignored precisely because of their crucial role in shaping the mass mind and in helping forge the very foundations of contemporary society. Indeed, “many movies are the ‘big books’ of our culture” (Salier, 2003, p. 5), especially as society moves from being a typographic culture (i.e., textualcentrism, logocentrism, phonocentrism) to a visual culture (i.e., ocularcentrism, optocentrism, phoscentrism) and beyond (i.e., audiovisual, virtual reality, cybersociety). For example, New Testament professor, Bernard Brandon Scott (1994) noticed that the thinking processes of his visually-based theology students were substantially different from his own literature-based education. As he worryingly reported:

I mean literally that their thinking process was different. Though able to read and write, they truly came alive when discussing television shows or movies. Their powers of analysis were greater in this arena than in the traditional literary ones. From that point on I increasingly sensed that my fate might parallel that of the dinosaurs. Our culture had passed over some great divide, and I was on the other side (p. ix).

Therefore, Prof. Scott began to explore New Testament themes in films “to lay a foundation for hermeneutics in an electronic age” (p. ix). He then initiated “a conversation that will allow each partner, the Bible and America movies, to appear differently in the eyes of the other or to hear different and new intonations in the other’s voice” (p. x). As such, it is somewhat ironic that popular films today are assuming the prime responsible for transmitting biblical heritage to our children. Indeed, as Allene Stuart Phy (1985) had noticed decades ago:

The culture echoes the Bible at every level, yet actual knowledge of the scriptures is slight and declining even in the Bible-thumping American South. The Bible itself is studied less than ever before, and it may be that it reaches Americans today, for better or worse, largely as it is filtered through the popular culture (p. 22).

Nor does this pop culture trend appear to be abating. Millions of people get their views about the Bible and religion in general from the gospel according to Hollywood, which in turn has peeved many a minister in the past. For example, Auburn Boyers (1963) complained that:

…multitudes of persons [are] paying the price of admission and sitting for several hours to see the events as supposedly recorded in the Bible unfold before them. Included in this multitude are many who would never think of devoting an equal amount of time to serious Bible reading or study, and who would also never think of contributing the equivalent of the price of admission toward the work of the church or to the program of any other humanitarian or benevolent group or organization (p. 37).

However, Boyers failed to appreciate that several hours devoted to watching a biblical story on screen is far better than not reading the Bible at all, and who knows, maybe the film inspired viewers to check out the real thing, and beyond?

Given the increasing secularisation of society and the encroachment of a post-Christian culture, it is not too surprising to find that the Bible no longer occupies the central place in Western culture that it once did. Instead, many young people have turned away from organised religion and gone to the movies for their inspiration and cultural dreaming. However, this social trend should not be ignored, devalued or dismissed. As professional interviewer Bill Moyer confessed:

It’s certainly true that Star Wars was seen by a lot of adults, yours truly included. Even if I hadn’t wanted to pay attention, I realized that I had to take it seriously because my kids were taking it seriously. And now my grandkids take it seriously (Bos, 1999, p. 6).

Therefore, true believers, theologians and religious educators alike should also take popular culture seriously, whether as an act of intergenerational communication, culture sharing, or joyous knowledge transmission, especially once they have gotten over their various film fears.

The Fear of Being Sacrilegious, Criticising or Devaluing the Faith

Many of the faithful believe that films were to be avoided because they debased the lofty nature of their subject matter and were thus sacrilegious, or because they had cast religion, its servants and its institutions in a bad light. Alternatively, the cinema stirred up festering wounds for even daring to criticise the faith, which historically speaking, frequently resulted in skirmishes over cultural production. For example:

The best known of the early controversies involved the NAACP’s [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s] protest of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915). Some Protestants complained about The Scarlet Letter, whereas Catholics denounced The Story of a Nun, which portrayed a young girl forced into a convent against her will. Jews were unhappy about the negative stereotypes in Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl, and lines like “I’d rather take my chances with the Indians than the Mormons” led the Mormon church to call for the suppression of The Mormon Maid (Walsh, 1996, pp. 5-6).

Indeed, Richard Allen Nelson (1984) provided an extensive list of silent films that had portrayed Mormons as villains, degenerates and incorrigibles, and thus an early cinematic form of religious character assassination. A similar concern was expressed regarding Cecil B. DeMille’s silent Joan of Arc film entitled Joan the Woman:

The main problem contemporary Catholics found with Joan the Woman was the villainy of the clergy. If Jewish groups were loud in their protest against films that pictured them as Christ killers, Catholics were equally fervent in denouncing movies that emphasized the dark days of the Inquisition, the terror of the cloister, the mystery of the Process, and the omnipresence of the rack and the screw. Bishop Cauchon [Theodore Roberts] and his shadowy cohorts in Joan the Woman were the very sort of ornately robed Inquisitors who riled Catholic sensibilities. The pictorial treatment of these clerics makes them seen as implacable as they are inhumane. Their posturings make the cassock and cowl the very image of cruelty, vanity, self-indulgence, and inscrutability (Keyser & Keyser, 1984, p. 19).

Nor was this Catholic concern limited to just the early days of Hollywood. In 1996, Chatham Hill Foundation made the documentary video Hollywood vs. Catholicism. With an introduction by Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican, it was concerned about Catholicism’s misrepresentation. Using clips from such films as At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Devil’s Playground, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Nasty Habits, The Pope Must Diet and The Shawshank Redemption, it argued that Catholics were depicted as being either: (a) corrupt, (b) in turmoil, or (c) as silly and inept, in addition to (d) ridiculing and demeaning religious practice in general. Indeed, character assassinating priests, nuns and other sacred servants is a favourite Hollywood pastime (Kozlovic, 2002, 2004).

Just as worryingly, Christ films were frequently criticised by Jews for resurrecting old theological wounds. For example, an anonymous, white, 17 year-old, female, Jewish, high school junior complained (circa 1930):

I believe that pictures such as “The Passion Play,”1The King of Kings,” and so on, should not be permitted on screen, as there are many weak-minded people who bring up subjects that should have been forgotten centuries ago, such as the subject of the Jewish people killing Jesus Christ, which is not a fact (Bulmer, 1933, p. 181).

Many Jews feel the same way today, especially regarding Mel Gibson’s Jesus film, The Passion of the Christ. Its potentially venomous anti-Semitic subtext supposedly leaves one “with the overriding impression that the bloodthirsty, vengeful and money-hungry Jews had an implacable hatred of Jesus” (Goodwin, 2003, p. R4).2 Whether this is unjustified anti-Semitism or just technically accurate New Testament film adaptation is a matter of debate, but it is not promising. The Romans under Pontius Pilate administered the justice. They physically detained Jesus and performed the actual scourging, stripping and gruesome crucifixion (Matt. 27), but according “to the draft script…Jews are seen constructing the cross on which Jesus was to be crucified in the synagogue!” (The Australian Council of Christians and Jews, 2003, p. 1).

The British nun film Black Narcissus was condemned by the American Legion of Decency, not just because of the sexual frustration scenes of Sr. Ruth (Kathleen Byron) and other erotic subtexts, but because:

…the young nun, who was supposed to be praying, was instead daydreaming of riding her horse through the woods. This [Mrs. Mary] Looram announced, made religion appear unappealing and was one of the reasons the film was condemned for American audiences (Black, 1998, p. 178).

Regrettably, as Bruce Stewart (1972) argued:

As far as Christianity is concerned (or it would be wiser to say Judaeo-Christianity) the cinema down the years has frequently shown a rare talent for trivializing it. Cecil B. de Mille’s Ten Commandments (both in its silent and sound versions) must surely stand for all time as a lesson to the prosyletizing atheist in how to go about emptying the synagogues and reducing the christian [sic] churches to battered hulks (p. 42).

Carl Ehrlich (2001, p. 59) took similar offence at DeMille’s rendition of Moses (Charlton Heston) and his encounter with the excited daughters of Jethro at the well (Exodus 2: 15-20). Especially when one of them excitedly cried out: “a man” which Ehrlich considered was “Hollywood kitsch at its worst.”3 David Thomson (1997) was also concerned about the trivialising nature of Hollywood Christological films. He argued that:

Whenever Hollywood does Christ, whether it’s Jeffrey Hunter or Max von Sydow or Willem Dafoe, the result is not just ridiculous and embarrassing and tedious and about as atmospheric as a paper cup. It is also the complete expurgation, elimination and eradication of any hint of the spirit. Those kinds of movies are the guaranteed death of religion…Such things are sins against photography and deterrents to inner life, eternal prospects and moral being (pp. 13-14).4

Calvin Seerveld (1994, p. 493) was similarly concerned about films’ negative effect upon the viewers’ consciousness. As he argued: “Mindless entertainment, pop star culture, and films interrupted by paid advertisements immerse children from infancy to adolescence. Superb means of mass communication rain secular art upon the earth with almost brainwashing effect.” In fact, Texe Marrs (1988) of Living Truth Ministries considered that many popular films aimed at children were not just brainwashing, but actual forms of devil worship and New Age sorcery. In Dark Secrets of the New Age: Satan’s Plan for a One World Religion he warned:

Study carefully the messages most of today’s movies are sending kids and you’ll realize the shocking truth: our children are being gradually initiated into a New Age of occultism, sorcery, and blasphemy. In Dune, children are given an image of a young man’s initiation into godhood; the Star Wars saga present a universal deity named “The Force,” a cosmic energy that is incorporated in all living things. In the adventurous Raiders of the Lost Ark and [Indiana Jones and] The Temple of Doom, children are exposed to “powers” and then shown how to actively participate in their exercise (p. 243).

Regarding The Prince of Egypt, an animated story of Moses, Leroy Gardner (1999, p. 396) asked: “Are we doing a disservice to our children and, more importantly, committing sacrilege in the eyes of God by fictionalizing the Holy Word? Are we turning Scripture into the stuff of Greek mythology?” Quoting Ephesians 6:125 (about principalities and powers and the rulers of worldly darkness), Gardner was also worried because:

…no matter how cunningly disguised, anything that works toward distorting or altering the Word of God should be viewed with caution. The most fiendishly clever and effective of Satan’s plots are the insidious ones that we innocently embrace and accept into our homes through subliminal messages in our movies, TV shows, and music (p. 396).

Not surprising, even academic religious supporters of popular films have suffered condescension because of their pedagogic interests. As biblical scholar Revd. Larry J. Kreitzer (1999, p. 30) reported: “As one person put it to me when he heard that I was working on another volume in the series on fiction and film, ‘When are you going to do some serious New Testament work?’” However, it is not just Christianity that has the lion’s share of religion-and-film problems. Cinematic fear, concern and intolerance have been experienced and expressed by numerous other faiths and religious traditions.

Some Interreligious Dimensions of Cinematic Assassination

Hollywood has frequently portrayed non-Christian religions and experienced numerous criticisms for its efforts, some of which are rightfully earned. For example:

…the films “A Stranger Among Us” and “The Chosen” focused on Jewish characters. But both were about Hasidic Judaism, “the most obviously distinctive and colorful” branch, Rabbi [Joseph] Telushkin says. Rarely are non-Orthodox Jews shown…Yet the vast majority of U.S. Jews are Reform or Conservative; only about 7 percent are Orthodox, according to a 1990 study. “I would like to see more accurate and powerful representations,” the rabbi says. “Religion is clearly something that matters to an enormous number of people and it’s important to see in movies” (Elber, 1997, p. 2).

The Islamic community was upset with the American cop film The Siege because it portrayed Muslim Arab-Americans as maniacal terrorists. In an open letter to the producers of this film, Hala Maksoud, the President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee complained that:

…the film is insidious, dangerous and incendiary. It is bound to have a negative impact on the millions of Arab Americans and Muslims in this country. It incites hate which leads to harassment, intimidation, discrimination and even hate crimes against people of Arab descent…we had hoped that Hollywood studios would cease demonizing Arabs and Muslims, so that our children can grow up feeling safe and proud of their rich cultural heritage (Maksoud, 1998, pp. 1-2).

In this case, Rubina Ramji (2003, p. 71) argued that the media had engaged in semiotic warfare by fusing Islam with terrorism and noted how the “word ‘terrorist’ is used eight times to describe the Muslims in the movie.” She was also concerned about anti-Muslim portrayals in Air Force One, Aladdin, Executive Decision, Navy Seals, Not Without My Daughter, Rules of Engagement, Three Kings and True Lies (Ramji, 2003). The devastating events of September 11 [2001] no doubt adding further fuel to this volatile issue.

The Zoroastrian community was upset with Wishmaster, a B grade horror film about evil and sorcery. As Roshan Rivetna (1998) complained:

Zoroastrianism is a living religion, with over 3,000 years of continuous history, which has influenced the evolution of world religious thought significantly. However, the movie has equated the religion with a cult! Not only has it twisted our beliefs and doctrines with witchcraft and presented them as Satanism, it has created a statue of our God Ahura Mazda, and has made our prophet Zoroaster into the high priest of that Satanic cult. “What this movie has done is far worse than desecrating Jewish graves and synagogues by painting swastikas on them” (p. 2).

The importation of negative Christian characters and unfairly attributing them to non-Christian religions is of particular concern to Wiccans and Pagans who are frequently upset about their cinematic misrepresentation. For example, The Witches’ League for Public Awareness (1999) based in Salem, Massachusetts was so devoted to correcting this source of media distortion that they created a Witches in the Media website to deal with the issues (http://www.celticrow.com/media/wmedia.html). They critiqued popular witchcraft films such as The Craft, The Crucible and Little Witches, plus TV series premised upon witchcraft like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Bewitched, as well as the witchcraft episodes in such TV favourites as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Pacific Blue. Another Wiccan organisation dealing with media misrepresentation is the Witches’ Voice (1998) based in Clearwater, Florida, who have their own Witches and Pagans in the Media website (http://www.witchvox.com/xmedia.html). As part of their mission statement they claimed:

The Witches’ Voice makes every effort to keep up on the media’s portrayal of Witches & Witchcraft. Since our fundamental mission is to educate and “undo” centuries of bad press we are always on the lookout as to just how the media views our religion and its ways. We are thrilled when we CAN feature excellent portrayals of our religion (Witches’ Voice, 1998, p. 1).

As Phyllis Curott, a New York attorney and Wiccan high priestess put it: “What helps the cause is for people to see that a witch isn’t a green-faced hag cavorting with Satan, casting evil spells, and baking Hansel and Gretel in the oven” (Rabey, 1999, p. 10). Unfortunately, these are exactly the sorts of images that infest the popular cinema and haunt children’s imaginations. Thus, these religious distortions are in urgent need of correction, despite feminist claims that: “The real significance of the witch today, however, lies in her symbolic function. In popular discourse the teenage witch is emerging as another Girl Power icon of the times” (Hopkins, 2002, p. 153).

However, for the true believers of Wicca, it is the religious aspects rather than the butt-kicking supergirl symbolism that is more important to them. For example, Wiccan film critic Peg Aloi (1998, pp. 1-6) reviewed Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock (as Sally Owens) and Nicole Kidman (as Gillian Owens). She claimed: “As a Witch, I was entertained and enchanted. As a Witch, I was occasionally horrified” and then she gave her lengthy analysis including the identification of eleven “Red Flag” items, that is, “stereotypes or sensational plot twists that some Witches may take offense at.” These ranged through the usual stereotypes of black hats and dresses, curse legacies, love and money rituals, dead-raising spells, potions and poisons, witches as temptresses, coven forming, murdering, and flying with umbrellas. As she lamented: “A filmmaker will get this witchcraft thing right some day, I know…but probably not a filmmaker working out of Hollywood” (Aloi, 1998, p. 6).

Some Institutional Dimensions of Cinematic Assassination

Christianity itself has frequently been character assassinated within the popular cinema. For example, American Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (1998), in a decidedly ecumenical mood was concerned about Hollywood’s anti-Christian bias, particularly the increase in cinematic irreverence, iconoclasm and egregious depictions of Christians. As he lamented:

In Primal Fear, for example, the local archbishop is murdered by one of the waifs he exploited in his self-made porn films. The lead character in Priest is shown in a homosexual tryst with a stranger. The sadistic nurse in Misery wears a cross; the rapist in Eye For An Eye sports one as well. A killer played by Harry Connick Jr. in Copycat repeatedly invokes the name of Jesus. In the remake of Cape Fear, the psychotic killer has a crucifix tattooed on his back and frequently quotes the Bible. In Seven [sic; Se7en], the crazed-killer has a neon cross above the bed; his room filled with religious items, including Bibles and empty Holy Water containers. In Johnny Mnemonic, the main assassin is a Jesus look-alike named Street Preacher. He carries a huge crucifix that’s actually a dagger, and kills his victims crucifixion-style. Sadly, such anti-Christian films represent the norm among films being released in Hollywood today…Indeed, if there is a Christian character in a film, he is usually depicted as a fool, a liar, a cheater, a diabolical murderer or a crazy person (pp. 1-2).

Lloyd Billingsley (1989) suggested that part of this problem was rooted in Hollywood’s fundamentally negative attitudes towards Christianity. As he argued:

It might be remembered that a prevailing attitude in Hollywood is that the Christian religion is roughly equivalent to the Klu Klux Klan or American Nazi Party. Accordingly, a number of films have been openly hostile to religion particularly Christianity. Elmer Gantry…attacked hypocrisy, but one senses that the real target is Christianity. The same might be said about Inherit the Wind, about the Scopes Trial…The films of Luis Bunuel attacked the Roman Catholic Church and flaunted atheism. But according to some who are familiar with Bunuel, which I am not, he at least treats the Church as a worthy adversary. That is certainly not true of a film like Monsignor, which shows the Church as a crypto-Fascist organization secretly allied with the Mafia. This is one of the oldest anti-Catholic canards, roughly equivalent to the portrayal of Jews in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is bigotry. Monsignor also portrays the Pope as a kind of senile, decrepit “E.T.” character. On the other hand, Christopher Reeve, the hero, is a handsome, dashing chap. With his red cape, one almost expects him to take off, as he did in Superman. Even that desperate act, however, would not have saved the film (pp. 141-142).

Jesuit Fr. Richard Blake (1995) documented another source of institutional religious stress because of his book Woody Allen: Profane and Sacred. He semi-seriously reported that:

…Professor Herbert J. Ryan, S.J., professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, was kind enough to read through an early version of the typescript of the first chapter to help me avoid formal heresy. If the Inquisition confiscates and burns all copies of this book, it is because I failed to follow his astute suggestions (p. xi).

The fact that Fr. Blake even hinted at inquisitional behaviour implied a muted concern about religious retaliation. The good Father also raised the possibility of the faith being devalued by theologians themselves because when they had turned their attention to the flickering screen they compromised their faith in the process. As he argued:

For a Christian theologian, the Incarnation of Jesus as Man marks the beginning of a unique messianic event, one whose uniqueness can be lost or trivialized by overly facile comparisons to the icons of popular culture. The notion of a loving God rests at the core of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but it is a love of such power that only at the risk of cheapening it can it be readily mirrored in every love story that involves some element of self-sacrifice. Many romantic stories in film can be called examples of “redemptive” love, but that is quite different from saying the story is a parable of the Redemption, which for a Christian is a privileged instance of love on a scale that defies the imagination (Blake, 1995, pp. 3-4).6

Fr. William Lynch (1960) was particularly concerned about the genre of spectacular films, which he believed inherently trivialised the faith. As he argued:

…all can agree that when mere “showiness” invades the world of the religious it is particularly obnoxious…it is a constant Herculean task to keep our sense of the divine both sensitive and straight…The merely spectacular is a disguise and a defense; it is a disguise for the fact that there is emptiness underneath; it is a defense against real awareness, real sensitivity, breaking out… (p. 46).

Then of course, there are all the inter-Christian reviews that are not rooted in filmmaking praxis or aesthetic criticism, but rather, with not-so-hidden political agendas. For example, as Gregory D. Black (1998) noted regarding the release of Martin Luther in 1953:

…the Catholic church had not forgiven Martin Luther for his renunciation some four centuries earlier. The Legion [of Decency], Catholic publications, and Catholic organizations all attacked the film as bad history, faulty theology, and potentially harmful viewing for Catholics. Although there was no sex or violence in Martin Luther, nothing that even remotely suggested impropriety or immorality, Church officials and the Legion attacked the movie with unrestrained vigor (pp. 129-130).

Indeed, in that “period of McCarthyism Lutherans were even accused of being tools of communists” (Lee, 2003, p. 395). One wonders how future Catholic critics will treat the 2003 production of Luther starring Joseph Fiennes as the Protestant hero-cum-Father of the Reformation (Siemon-Netto, 2003).

Such riled sensitivities, interdenominational putdowns, and other concerns are not limited to the past, or just dusty, old films, nor is it the exclusive domain of Christianity. Other faiths can be persecuted just as vigorously. For example, the Church of Scientology was upset at the German government’s attempt to blacklist its believers’ films:

In August 1996, the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] Young Union launched a national boycott campaign against the film Mission: Impossible simply because the star of the film, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist. Likewise, in August and September 1996, CDU and SPD [Social Democratic Party (in English)] officials called for a ban on the film Phenomenon because the star of the film, John Travolta, is a Scientologist. The SPD spokesperson on these matters, Renate Rennebach, urges the government to declare that the Church was “anticonstitutional” so that the film could also be banned (The Church of Scientology International, 1997, p. 1).

Other noteworthy example of religious apartheid was evidenced by the persecution-like reactions to Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Hewison, 1981), the Papal condemnation of Hail Mary (Locke & Warren, 1993) and the street violence over The Last Temptation of Christ (Lyons, 1996). Indeed, during the height of the anti-Scorsese hysteria, Larry Poland’s Mastermedia group placed an advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter that claimed:

This film maligns the character, blasphemes the deity, and distorts the message of Jesus. We, the undersigned, professional members of the film and television community, ask that this film not be released. Whether the gain is a hundred million dollars or thirty pieces of silver makes no difference. Our Lord was crucified once on a cross. He doesn’t deserve to be crucified a second time on celluloid (quoted in Lyons, 1996, p. 303).

No wonder Tom O’Brien (1990, p. 189) argued that: “Scorsese’s heartfelt depiction of Jesus…still cuts very close to the bone. To many believers, Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments (1956) might seem preferable.” And apparently so given the frequent rerun of these latter two Hollywood classics and the relative obscurity of The Last Temptation of Christ.7

Theological Harmony Out of Cinematic Discord

On the other hand, cutting close to the bone was seen as a positive virtue by Fr. Andrew Greeley. He considered that the Bishop who had condemned The Last Temptation of Christ on the grounds that it had “more of this world than of the next” was not only “foolish,” but that he had “slipped into a theological error: the aim of the Incarnation is not to create a vision of the next world, but to renew and sanctify this world” (Greeley & Neusner, 1990, p. 199). Fr. Greeley considered that Scorsese’s Jesus film was important precisely because:

Scorsese had dared to raise the question of the relationship of Jesus to women and therefore the question of the sexuality of Jesus. It is a question that has lurked off the record for many years. For a long time, under the influence of the pessimism of Saint Augustine and the body-rejecting spirituality of Plato, Christians were afraid to ask it, even afraid to think of it. In the era after Sigmund Freud, men and women were willing to think it and discuss it in whispers, but hardly to mention it openly. The Last Temptation [of Christ] thrust the question into the public domain and revealed how much fear of and distaste for the human body and its functions continues to lurk beneath the surface of Christian faith in the Incarnation. The issue of eroticism of Jesus can no longer be swept under the carpet (Greeley & Neusner, 1990, p. 201).

Fr. Greeley argued that Scorsese’s critics were also guilty of other serious theological errors:

First of all, one must insist that the “last temptation” is no temptation at all. The fundamentalists (Catholic and Protestant) who were offended by the scenes in Scorsese’s film where Jesus experiences uncertainty and fear (temptations) and the attraction of a women (an appeal against the choice he had made) were in fact, for all their righteousness, victims of Docetism--the teaching that Jesus was not really human at all but only appeared to be human. Those who would exclude the poignancy and joy of erotic desire from the life of Jesus wish to deny him full humanity to protect him from what they take to be evil. They are possessed by the curious notion…that God made an artistic and ethical mistake in ordering the dynamics of the procreation and nurturing of human young. That is yet another heresy: Manichaeism (Greeley & Neusner, 1990, pp. 201-202).

For Matthew McEver (1998), the hatred over the sex issue in The Last Temptation of Christ blinded audiences to an even bigger problem. Namely:

People missed what was really bad about the film. The casting was dreadful. Willem Dafoe, who portrayed Jesus, still evoked memories of all of those times he has played a terrorist or Vietnam veteran. Harvel Keitel’s Judas sounded like a gangster and appeared as if he had dyed his hair orange. Evangelicals were offended by the notion that Jesus had a libido, but they never objected to a scene in which he pulls his heart from his chest nor to the suggestion that Christ was a pantheist, as rendered in the Gethsemane sequence (pp. 2-3).

Indeed, to censor any biblical film because of its sexual content is fundamentally anti-Bible. As Julian Jenkins (2003) argued:

One of the surprising, but also impressive features of the Bible is that it does not attempt to sanitise the realities of life or clean up the stories to make them palatable. Violence, rape, imprisonment, war, adultery, affliction and suffering are all treated with honesty, as are the fears, doubts and broken relationships which often characterise human experience. If the Bible confronts these issues with candour, why should we expect the media to shy away from them? (p. 21).

In short, it should not! Unfortunately, many religionists do want to shy away from it, and they want others to do so as well, sometimes forcibly. Charles Lyons (1996) identified three sorts of popular films that provided religious censorship challenges. Namely:

The most frequent instances of censorship of religious content have involved Hollywood films made in the biblical spectacular tradition, including two Cecil B. deMille films, [The] King of Kings (1926) and Sign of the Cross (1932), and, more recently, Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). A second set of films that led to censorship challenges from religious groups is comprised of films either produced in Europe or directed by a European, including Roberto Rossellini’s The Miracle (1951), Franco Zeffirelli’s made-for-television drama Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979-80), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary (1985). A third, far smaller category of films that provoked censorship efforts by religious groups includes neither biblical spectacles nor religious fantasies. Indeed, films such as The Callahans and the Murphys (1927) and Gone with the Wind (1938) did not treat religious subjects at all, but their incidental use of religious imagery and “profane” language provoked protest from religious groups (p. 300).

Whether their complaints were justified or not is of course at issue. On the other hand, believers riled sensitivities were quite understandable given the existence of films like Him, a pornographic movie intriguingly advertised as: “Are you curious about HIS sex life?” The plot revolved around a young homosexual obsessed with Jesus’s sex life and proclaiming that Christ and his Apostles were all lovers, thus giving startling new insights into the hidden meanings of the New Testament (Campbell & Pitts, 1981, p. 173)! Regrettably, wishful thinking and homoerotic projection is no real substitute for a creative and valid interpretation of Scripture, no matter how startling the speculation.

The Educative Function of Popular Culture

Despite the potential for outrageousness, popular films have a very important educative function that should be utilised, not ignored. Indeed:

There is a sense in which the religion of the movies, the cult of Hollywood, do indeed, and should, offer a challenge to traditional values, including making us rethink the religious ideals of salvation, or offering alternatives. We might even say that there is a priestly role for directors, as they offer to the mass of the people a different understanding and interpretation of reality (Graham, 1997, p. 94).

At the very least, popular films offer a chance to explore various theological issues through new eyes. As Fr. Joseph Marty (1997, p. 146) argued, the cinema “is a privileged place of interreligious encounter and dialogue by favouring discovering, listening, and theological research.” This sort of scholarly delight was evidenced by Prof. Raymond Schroth (1995) who argued:

Of course there are other scenes in [The] Last Temptation [of Christ] which might “offend.” Yet, the more we analyze them, the more appropriate and well-founded in the New Testament they appear. To enlist our aesthetic memory as well as our immediate senses, Scorsese “quotes”…medieval and Renaissance masterpieces--Giotto, Bosch, Mantegna--as well as shocks us with a Holy Roller, ecstatic John the Baptist and naked demoniacs covered with mud (pp. 105-106).

Martin Scorsese had provided the perfect cinematic excuse for the public to re-examine the Bible and to seek out historical-archaeological evidence to see if he really did get it right, or not. Indeed, Rabbi Levi Meier (1998) wrote Moses the Prince, the Prophet: His Life, Legend & Message for Our Lives because he was inspired by the animated biblical film The Prince of Egypt. Conversely, Dr. James D’Arc (1989) showed his fellow Mormons Brigham Young, a cinematic interpretation of one of their faith’s seminal founders to see what they made of it and then use it as a springboard for further academic discussion.

From Fear of Change to Filmmaking

Fearful religionists can also avoid popular films because it might mean changing viewpoints, reassessing attitudes, or upsetting their current notions of scriptural integrity and/or doctrinal purity. They do not want to change so they resist the cinema as a form of holy-inspired defiance-cum-self-purification ritual. This dogmatic motivation may also be coupled with a desire to prevent the faith from becoming sullied by what they believe to be excessive worldliness. As Robert Royal (1995) reported:

…I must say that I do not agree that the reasons American films deal with religion the way they do--primarily by indirection--have much to do with poor sermons, insensitive pastors, or a host of other conditions that have plagued every religious institution since the banishment from Eden. American films downplay, distort, and criticize popular religion because American filmmakers want to do so (p. 94).

If this is the case, then the Church has a new mission, namely, to counteract and/or defend their congregations against such negative cinematic portrayals. Since there is nothing intrinsic that automatically makes cinema offensive, religionists can start by becoming knowledgeable about the film arts and not be lead astray. Indeed, as S. Brent Plate (2003, p. 159) argued: “Unless theologians and religious leaders can critically examine the formal nature and modes of production of film itself (everything from cinematography to mise-en-scene to editing), they will do little to build the bridge between theology and culture.” Once technically knowledgeable, the profession then has to put it to work as a proactive act of applied cinema, for as Don C. Richter (2001) advised:

It’s one thing to claim that culture has religious significance and that we can reflect on culture (including popular culture) theologically. It’s another thing, however, to turn to contemporary pop culture for spiritual guidance and nourishment. Pop culture cannot “preach” unless we put it into dynamic interplay with the stories and imagery of the gospel (p. 76).

More excitingly, the faith can become religious filmmakers and/or consultants themselves. For example, the Lutherans produced Martin Luther as a theatrical form of witnessing and ministry (Lee, 2003). Roman Catholics have Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical on Motion Pictures (1934), Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical on Motion Pictures, Radio & TV (1957) and Pope John Paul II’s address (31 October 1978) entitled: The Cinema and the Promotion of Human Values to guide them in their pastoralia of the media responsibilities. These Pontifical pronouncements acknowledged the role, place and value of cinema in promoting both mental culture and spiritual growth. They also highlighted the value of teaching using methods that went beyond abstract reasoning, and thus of the shaping of society and Christian consciousness via the civilising influence of the moving image.

The Belated Honouring of Hollywood’s Religious Filmmakers

Not surprisingly, many religious academics have come to praise biblical filmmakers who have been ignored for far too long. For example, Prof. Elisabeth Flynn (1990) was very complementary concerning the second version of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. As she argued:

It was DeMille’s vision and his careful research and studies that showed us that the story of Moses still captures both the imagination and the spirit of modern man. The exhaustive research involved in this undertaking, recorded in a volume by Henry S. Noerdlinger, leads one to admire the dedication, craftsmanship, and creativity of DeMille (p. 275).8

Scripture scholar Prof. J. Cheryl Exum (2002, p. 255) was similarly enamoured by DeMille’s Samson and Delilah. She argued that it “is a masterpiece of biblical film making (it gets better after repeated viewings); the 1949 film sparkles in spite of its age, with memorable dialogue and impressive overacting.” Scripture scholar J. Clinton McCann (2002) even acknowledged DeMille’s seminal role in shaping popular attitudes about the Bible:

The last and probably best known of the judges is Samson, although most people’s knowledge of Samson is limited to his relationship with Delilah ([Judg.] 16:4-31); and the source of people’s knowledge is as likely to be Cecil B. DeMille’s film Samson and Delilah as it is the biblical text. Samson’s story contains all the features that make for a top-rated movie—excessive violence, romance and sex, and R-rated humor. No wonder it attracted DeMille! (p. 92).

Just as important, popular films need to be critically investigated today simply because this is the age of the moving image, and thus a central focus of young peoples’ lives which inherently demands attention and respect. As Steve Rabey (1995) exhorted:

“But this stuff is horrible,” you say. “Why even give it the time of day?” Because you need to know what popular culture is saying. Because, right or wrong, popular culture is important to your kids. Think of Jesus, who never attended a rock concert or movie, but who took every available opportunity to talk with the sinners and tax gatherers, listening to them as they talked about their lives and their concerns. Often, these conversations turned to topics of eternal importance, and Jesus was always ready to let people know the score. Or think of Paul, whose bold reconnaissance mission to pagan Athenian deities (recorded in Acts 17) stands in sharp contrast to modern Christians who have few significant relationships with non-Christians and who run with fear at the sight of an alien god…Many of these young people would welcome the presence of a loving and caring adult who was brave enough to enter their lives and talk to them about the music and movies they love (pp. 94-95).

Indeed, even if popular films are rooted in fictional make-believe, “Almighty God is not menaced by Hollywood fakery” (Billingsley, 1989, p. 200), and so families should not shirk their cultural responsibilities because of it. In fact, it is one’s Christian duty to scrutinise “the signs of the times” (Matt 16:3), and so responsible “Christian families are called upon to face the secularized arts today in the strength of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and to show themselves approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15-16)” (Seerveld, 1994, p. 493). This means rooting faith in biblical knowledge and then studying the nature and history of film so as not to be fooled into approving or judging the wrong things.

Of course, this sort of moral-cum-educative responsibility is not limited to or about Christianity. For example, Jeffrey B. Ho (2003) used the SF classic-in-the-making, The Matrix, to teach concepts of Eastern Mysticism in the tertiary classroom. He did so because it was a popular American film that was familiar to his students. It was also non-threatening, and less risky for them to articulate their true beliefs about religious topics. After all, it is difficult to be very critical about a religion while simultaneously trying not to offend true believers. Or if a true believer oneself, to avoid espousing the religious party line without some fear of institutional retaliation (whether from peers, superiors or the Divine), as hinted at by Fr. Richard Blake’s (1995, p. xi) half serious concern about heresy and inquisitional responses concerning his Woody Allen book. Nor are profound emotional responses limited to just Western audiences with or without a religious bent. As Pierre Delattre (1978, p. 66) delightful recalled about the young Dalai Lama’s movie-watching experiences: “The king came as close as a god can come to a mental breakdown after the movies. The Regent kept having to remind him, ‘John Wayne, too, will achieve Buddhahood, O Tender One.’”

Conclusion

Popular feature films are not intrinsically evil, bad or wrong, nor do they necessarily have to be sacrilegious, criticising or devaluing of the faith. However, they can be used for nefarious, condescending or degrading purposes if so desired. Such negative possibilities therefore require constant monitoring, vigilance and control by all faith communities for integrity, protection and quality assurance reasons. One would argue that this strategy is the only truly viable alternative for popular film in our moving image culture. The past tactical responses of cinematic abstinence or film-faith separatism is nowadays impractical, impossible, and in the final analysis, unnecessary.

It is impractical because faith communities do not have the financial, material or temporal resources to block the existence of contemporary screen culture, nor the political clout to enforce it for very long even if they tried. Pragmatically speaking, it is impossible to filter out either the affects or effects of filmdom, even if there were a strong desire and commitment by religionists to do so. The history of film is littered with religions’ struggling attempts to control this supposedly unruly “Tenth Muse” (Vidal, 1993, p. 2), and then failing spectacularly in the end (Black, 1998; Skinner, 1993; Walsh, 1996). Popular films and its numerous spin-off products (e.g., literature, music, TV programs, cartoons, comic books, advertisements, magazines, personal endorsements, cybercommunication) so permeates and intertwines our modern world that separation on any practical scale is literally impossible. In short, “Popular culture is everywhere, like the air we breathe” (Forbes, 2003, p. 245).

Turning ones’ back on popular culture in an Ostrich-like fashion is also unnecessary and unwise. Why? Because popular film is a cultural touchstone and an intellectual legacy that should be proactively employed as a legitimate product of the 20th (and now 21st) century. It is also an effective means of social empowerment. Indeed, to “ignore popular culture is to allow it to act upon us blindly. To reflect upon it critically allows us to make choices” (Forbes, 2003, p. 245). Therefore, religionists need to go forward, not backwards in meeting the challenges of the future. As Ian Maher (2002, p. 5) succinctly put it: “Christians cannot afford to be out of touch with popular films if they are to remain in touch with the swirling currents of contemporary society.” Or as Don C. Richter (2001, p. 76) more colourfully put it: “being Christian does not remove us from the world like some Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie.” Ernest L. Simmons (2003, p. 254) came to the same essential conclusion. He argued that: “For many people today, especially the young, popular culture is culture, and theology, to remain true to its calling, must take such cultural expressions seriously.” These arguments of course also apply to their non-Christian equivalents whose pop culture products are just as worthy of critical analysis and reflection.

The Second Coming of Religious Cinema

Once the anti-film fears are surmounted, popular film can be legitimately employed to further the religious ideals of the faith, whether in the classroom, home or pulpit. “The challenge, then, is not simply to ignore these creative efforts but to engage them in a constructive manner that affirms as well as critiques—indeed, to engage popular culture theologically” (Simmons, 2003, p. 254). Just like Scripture scholar Mark Goodacre (2000) who used Jesus films to investigate the synoptic problem, or Meyers and Willhauck (2003) who used the chic flick Thelma & Louise to reflect upon their vocation as religious educators. Overall, as Bill Salier (2003, p. 5) succinctly put it: “we should neither cut ourselves off from all movies nor watch anything and everything. It comes down to exercising wisdom in each circumstance and being informed and sensible as we consider how we are going to spend our leisure time and dollars,” whether at home, work or play.

A closer, more sympathetic examination of the religion-and-film genre and its attendant film fears will yield many more insights, delights and anti-film defences unacknowledged and unappreciated to date. Not surprisingly, the genre of religion-and-film has “emerged as a vital new field of research…[it] has arrived” (Plate, 2003, p. 158). Nor do “the academics in film studies titter and scornfully dismiss churchy types who dare to bring God into the rarified presence of cinematic discourse” (Ortiz, 1998, p. 173), well, not as often as they once did! Only additional quality scholarship will silence this tittering altogether, therefore, further research into this exciting interdisciplinary genre is definitely needed, wanted and highly recommended.

Notes

1.             There is some uncertainty about which film this title specifically refers too. Many films called The Passion Play and/or about the Passion play existed in the pre-1933 era (see Campbell & Pitts, 1981). However, it is temporarily assumed to be by the German director Dimitri Buchowetzki because of its notoriety, historical importance, and for being in the same aesthetic league as Cecil B. DeMille’s Jesus film, The King of Kings.

2.             Scripturally speaking, there are many passages from the Christian Bible that unequivocally indicates that the senior Jewish religious authorities earnestly desired to kill Jesus (e.g., Matt. 26:3-4, 59; 27:1, 20, 22-23; Mark 14:1; Luke 22:2). Nor were they averse to harassing Jesus, his followers or his fledgling sociopolitical-religious movement (e.g., Matt. 27:41-42; John 12:10-12).

3.             That young girl was played by a teenage Lisa Mitchell whom I had the pleasure of interviewing in 1998. She told me that she went through numerous retakes to get the exact emotional quality that DeMille required for the scene. It may have been Hollywood kitsch, but it was an exacting kitsch made by a people’s director who was truly a master of mass entertainment. As David O. Selznick once told Louis B. Mayer: “it is impossible to believe that the blatancy of his [DeMille’s] style is due to anything but a most artful and deliberate and knowing technique of appeal to the common denominator of public taste. He must be saluted by any but hypocritical or envious members of the picture business” (Behlmer, 1972, p. 400).

4.             Jeffrey Hunter starred in King of Kings, Max von Sydow starred in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Willem Dafoe starred in The Last Temptation of Christ (see Kinnard & Davis, 1992; Stern, Jefford & DeBona, 1999; Tatum, 1997; Walsh, 2003).

5.             The Authorized King James Version of the Bible (KJV aka AV) will be used throughout, unless quoting other translations.

6.             For example, nineteen-year-old, virgin postal worker Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love was a Christ-figure. The object of his love was the sexually promiscuous Maria Magdalena (Frazyna Szapolowska), metaphorically Mary Magdalene, and the whole film was a cinematic explication of the sixth commandment of the Mosaic law. In particular, the film is “the story of a love-relationship that is authentic, committed and redemptive, a love-story that is nothing less than an elaborate metaphor of the redemptive-salvific encounter of Jesus Christ and the sinner [Luke 7:36-50]” (Baugh, 2003, p. 552).

7.             When the author went to his local video store to hire this Jesus film, he discovered that it was filed in the Pornography section and not the Drama section. When asked why it was put there, he was told that the shop manager was a Catholic, that the film offended Catholics and so it deserved to be filed there. Arguments to the contrary were listened to but politely ignored.

8.             See Noerdlinger (1956).

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Filmography

Air Force One (1997, dir. Wolfgang Petersen)

Aladdin (1992, dir. John Musker, Ron Clements)

At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991, dir. Hector Babenco)

Ben-Hur (1959, dir. William Wyler)

Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl (1926, dir. Irving Cummings)

The Birth of a Nation (1915, dir. D. W. Griffith)

Black Narcissus (1946, dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)

Brigham Young (aka Brigham Young - Frontiersman) (1940, dir. Henry Hathaway)

The Callahans and the Murphys (1927, dir. George W. Hill)

Cape Fear (1991, dir. Martin Scorsese)

The Chosen (1981, dir. Jeremy Paul Kagan)

Copycat (1995, dir. Jon Amiel)

The Craft (1996, dir. Andrew Fleming)

The Crucible (1996, dir. Nicholas Hytner)

The Devil’s Playground (1976, dir. Fred Schepsi)

Dune (1984, dir. David Lynch)

Elmer Gantry (1960, dir. Richard Brooks)

Executive Decision (1996, dir. Stuart Baird)

Eye For An Eye (1996, dir. John Schlesinger)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1993, dir. Mike Newell)

Gone with the Wind (1939, dir. Victor Fleming)

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, dir. George Stevens)

Hail Mary (1985, dir. Jean-Luc Godard)

Him (1974, prod. Edward D. Louise)

Hollywood vs. Catholicism (1996, prod. Chatham Hill Foundation)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Inherit the Wind (1960, dir. Stanley Kramer)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, dir. Don Siegel)

Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973, dir. Norman Jewison)

Jesus of Nazareth (1977, dir. Franco Zeffirelli)

Joan the Woman (1917, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

Johnny Mnemonic (1995, dir. Robert Longo)

The King of Kings (1927, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

King of Kings (1961, dir. Nicholas Ray)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, dir. Martin Scorsese)

Little Witches (1996, dir. Jane Simpson)

Luther (2003, dir. Eric Till)

Martin Luther (1953, dir. Irving Pichel)

The Matrix (1999, dir. Andy & Larry Wachowski)

The Miracle (1951, dir. Roberto Rossellini)

Misery (1990, dir. Rob Reiner)

Mission: Impossible (1996, dir. Brian de Palma)

Monsignor (1982, dir. Frank Perry)

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979, dir. Terry Jones)

The Mormon Maid (1917, dir. Robert Z. Leonard)

Nasty Habits (1977, dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg)

Navy Seals (1990, dir. Lewis Teague)

Not Without My Daughter (1991, dir. Brian Gilbert)

The Passion of the Christ (2004, dir. Mel Gibson)

The Passion Play (1924, dir. Dimitri Buchowetzki)

Phenomenon (1996, dir. Jon Turteltaub)

The Pope Must Diet (aka The Pope Must Die) (1991, dir. Peter Richardson)

Practical Magic (1998, dir. Griffin Dunne)

Priest (1995, dir. Antonia Bird)

Primal Fear (1996, dir. Gregory Hoblit)

The Prince of Egypt (1998, dir. Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner & Simon Wells)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Rules of Engagement (2000, dir. William Friedkin)

Samson and Delilah (1949, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

The Scarlet Letter (1926, dir. Victor Seastrom)

Se7en (1995, dir. David Fincher)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994, dir. Frank Darabont)

A Short Film About Love (aka Do Not Desire the Wife of Another; aka Decalogue Six) (1988, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski)

The Siege (1998, dir. Edward Zwick)

Sign of the Cross (1932, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

Star Wars (1977, dir. George Lucas)

The Story of a Nun (circa 1910-20s, dir. unknown)

A Stranger Among Us (1992, dir. Sidney Lumet)

Superman: The Movie (aka Superman) (1978, dir. Richard Donner)

The Ten Commandments (1923, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

The Ten Commandments (1956, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)

Thelma & Louise (1991, dir. Ridley Scott)

Three Kings (1999, dir. David O. Russell)

True Lies (1994, dir. James Cameron)

Wishmaster (1997, dir. Wes Craven)

ANTON KARL KOZLOVIC BA, BEd, DipEd (Adelaide), BA (Deakin), GradDipEd(RelEd) (SACAE), GradDipMedia (AFTRS), MA, MEd, MEdStudies (Flinders) is a PhD candidate in Screen Studies, School of Humanities, Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia). He is interested in Religion-and-Film, Interreligious Dialogue, DeMille Studies, Computer Films, Popular Culture, and is currently writing a doctoral dissertation on the biblical cinema of Cecil B. DeMille. He has published academic articles in over thirty different journals in ten different countries, as well as various book chapters and dictionary enteries, including multiple items in the forthcoming *Religion and Popular Culture* (co-editor with Adam Possamai) and *Encyclopedia of Religion and Film* (ed. Eric Mazur).

Emerging Church Economics

There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren’s book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined

Mordecai Kaplan: Rethinking Judaism for the New World

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