Crowd Control

Article by John Dominic Crossan

Every version of the Passion story deviates fundamentally from the New Testament, which contains four divergent Gospels rather than one conflated version. The Gospels also emphasize the life before and the resurrection after the death. The life/death/resurrection proportions, judged by the number of chapters devoted to each part, vary — from a 13:2:1 ratio in …

Faithful to the Script

Article by William Willimon

In 1964 the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini created a new mode of presenting Jesus in film. His The Gospel according to St. Matthew is a word-for-word rendering of Matthew’s Gospel. It contains no additional dialogue and shows only the scenes described by Matthew. The film was a radical departure from the Jesus genre, which …

Frodo’s Faith

Article by Ralph C. Wood

At the end of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, as King Aragorn is preparing to die, he utters his final words to Arwen, his elven queen — words that contain a hint of resurrection: “In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound forever …

Garrison Keillor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’: Gospel of the Airwaves

Article by Doug Thorpe

It has been decreed in my neighborhood that every week all serious work ends at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, when Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” comes on the air. There might be laundry to do or dishes to wash; a letter to write or bills to pay; or perhaps simply a book or magazine to …

Jesus on Film

Article by Gerald Forshey

In 1954, encouraged by new scholarship on Jesus’ life and by the rising tide of church membership and attendance, the Episcopal Church helped finance a film on the life of Jesus, The Day of Triumph. It forthrightly pictured Jesus full-face for the first time since DeMille’s King of Kings (1927). The film portrayed Judas as …

Larger Than Life: Religious Functions of Television

Article by Peter Horsfield

Redefining the religious Traditionally the scientific study of religion had been limited to those aspects of life and culture explicitly linked with belief in a supernatural being or forces. Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, for example, proposed that the study of religion is concerned with "the traditional acts and observances, regarded by the natives as sacred, carried …

Mister Rogers

Article by Carol Zaleski

In the two decades since MTV captured the restless souls and short attention spans of our youth, it has become increasingly evident that teaching and learning require new strategies. The classroom lecture is dead, reading is an endangered art, and memorization belongs next to exorcism in the dustbin of discarded teaching arts. To engage the …

Not Global Villagers, but Global Voyeurs

Article by Randall K. Bush

Thirty years ago, Marshall McLuhan struck the public fancy with pithy and perceptive theories on mass media. Several of his terms are still bandied about. "Global village," for example, crops up on magazine covers and in conversations among cocktail-party sociologists. Unfortunately, the "global village" does not exist. McLuhan’s thinking on the subject began with the …

Schemes from a Marriage

Article by Janet Karsten Lawson

The film, Scene’s from a Marriage, leaves unexamined the questions of how to redeem community in the larger society; it seems to have gone irrevocably to the devil as it has become technically more nearly perfect. Text: Ingmar Bergman’s film Scenes from a Marriage tells, like the Lenten season, a serialized story culminating in violence, …

Simpsons Have Soul

Article by John Dart

The enormous popularity of The Simpsons, now in its 12th television season, suggests that religious people have a sense of humor — contrary to the usual wisdom in Hollywood. The program takes more satirical jabs at spiritual matters than any other TV show, yet the erratic cartoon family has an appreciative audience among many people …

Superheroes, Antiheroes, and the Heroism Void in Children’s TV

Article by Edward M. Berckman

 “Just When We Need a Hero Most, Here Comes CAPTAIN AMERICA.” So goes an advertisement for a recent two-hour “adventure spectacular” on CBS television. The ad displays recognition of what may be an increasing public demand or need for models of moral heroism. This demand is worthy of notice; the supply of television heroes, however, …

The Enemy Church

Article by Edward and Tom Johnson Higgins

Philip Pullman, the British author of the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, is an avowed atheist who makes no attempt to disguise his distaste for religion and especially for Christianity. As one of his characters (the scientist and exnun Mary Malone) says, "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all." In …

The Making of Jesus

Article by John Dart

Oklahoma-raised Bill Bright came to Los Angeles in 1944 and started a business selling candies, fruits and jams. He was drawn to the large First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood and there came under the considerable influence of Christian educator Henrietta Mears. Her circle of friends included the men who founded Fuller Seminary in 1947 and …

Tolkien the Movie

Article by Ralph C. Wood

The first of three annual film installments of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1,500-page epic The Lord of the Rings, directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, has many fine qualifies. The New Zealand scenery evokes the fantastically real world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and the tunnely hobbit-homes are finely rendered. The special effects — whether in the …

Woody Allen, Theologian

Article by John Dart

Kant was right. The mind imposes order. It also tells you how much to tip. I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. God is silent. Now if we can only get man to shut up. Quickly now, who penned those mortal lines? Nineteenth century philosopher …

Your Kid or Mine?

Article by Lynn Schofield Clark

The movie Thirteen does not represent every teen’s story, but it does show every parent’s nightmare. It’s the story of an angry girl. Tracy (played by Evan Rachel Wood) is angry at her well-meaning mother, Mel (played by Holly Hunter), whose harried life as a single parent makes her resort too often to responses like, …