Friday, March 28, 2014

Biblical Films and Civil Religion

I love waking up to radio stories that are directly related to what I've been teaching. Check it our for yourself: Biblical Films are Fruitful and Multiplying

Actually, it's kind of eerie. We just watched a clip from Cecil B. deMille's 1956 The Ten Commandments in Wednesday's class. I was talking about religion in the 1950s and we were placing the outpouring of Biblical epics from Hollywood in the context of the Cold War and considering this genre as appealing to this new idea of America as a Judeo-Christian nation.  Or, as sociologist Will Herberg put it in 1955, a nation composed of "Protestant-Catholic-Jew." (You can read a selection from Herberg here.)

Today we'll be talking more about Herberg's analysis of the "American way of life" and considering the degree to which Herberg's own inquiry was driven by a sense that something had been lost in this broad-based generic religiosity of the mid-20th century.

Monday, March 24, 2014

American Religion in Film

This semester, as part of my Religion in American History course, my students will be writing a paper about the representation of American religion in film.  I've been compiling a long list of films, culled from around the web and from my own social networks.  (And I'll eagerly entertain suggestions!)  One of the delights of this project is that it gives me an opportunity to both revisit and discover all of the ways in which cinema has explored religious communities, individual faith journeys, questions of religious identity, and religious debates in American life and history.

Last week, in an introductory lesson on pentecostalism, we watched clips from The Apostle (1994).  Robert Duvall wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which tells of the downfall and redemption of a southern pentecostal preacher as he tries to outrun the law after murdering his wife's lover.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Re-living the Cold War Online

It may seem odd to start out this blog with a post about the Cold War, but one of the delights of teaching the second half of the U.S. history survey is that I get to go spelunking in the amazing resources on youTube.  You heard that right, youTube.  There are so many videos available from this time that I could devote an entire week of classes to watching things like...