Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Film and Faith Course at Salt Lake Theological Seminary

On Thursday I begin co-teaching a course of film and faith on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. The course description reads as follows:

Christians engage with films in various ways, from rejection, to critique, to embracing these expressions of popular culture. While designed primarily for entertainment, popular films also shed light on religious, spiritual, and ethical aspects of the cultures in which we live. In this course, we will watch and reflect on a variety of genres of film to develop skills in both cinematic interpretation and theological reflection. This will allow us more responsively to engage the spiritual climate of cultures reflected in films and more faithfully to bring the Gospel into conversation with these cultures. Come join us for an interactive exploration of films and faith!

For my part will lead the first discussion that lays the foundation for engagement with film. The course textbook is Robert K. Johnston, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Baker Academic, 2000), and I will also be drawing upon Gordon Lynch, Understanding Theology and Popular Culture (Blackwell Publishing, 2005). As I discuss using the texts and practices of popular culture as material for theological reflection I will show clips from Minority Report (2002) (with the issues of divine foreknowledge and free will) and Devil's Advocate (1997) (with the issues of freedom and theodicy). Later on in the series I will lead a discussion on race and religion as we watch the original Planet of the Apes (1968) in its entirety, with the assistance of Eric Green, Planet of the Apes As American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture (Wesleyan University Press, 1996).


nic paton said...

Hi John
I hope this went well.
I wanted to ask you if you had formulated any thoughts about might we say hyper-short form film, specifically as utilised in VJ culture.

My angle on this is largely liturgical ie how can moving image be used in worship. And how short form contrasts with longer narrative approaches.

Related to this, I have recently been through a filmic epiphany; being bowled over by non-dialog, non-plot, non-actor long form works of Godfrey Reggio and Ron Frieke, most notably Koyaanisqatsi (1983) and Baraka (1992) but also including One Giant Leap and Nagoyaqatsi.

I am challenged to recognise these as sacred to the core, reflective, celebratory and critical all at the same time.

John W. Morehead said...

I'm not quite sure how to respond directly to your questions, Nic. The purpose of the film course at Salt Lake Seminary is to help students identify various ways in which Christians have approached film, running a spectrum from avoidance to recognizing divine encounter. This is Robert Johnston's typology that parallels Niebuhr's on interactions with culture.

I then built on this in our first session and used the work of Gordon Lynch to suggest that one way of engagement is to use film as a means of theological reflection. The film clips I showed from Minority Report and Devil's Advocate lend themselves to discussion of free will, divine foreknowledge and theodicy.

But I'm intrigued by your film work. I'd love ot hear more.

nic paton said...

As promised, I have done a piece on and