Religion and Social Change on Film: A Time for Burning (@Yale)

A Time for BurningA Time for Burning
Bill Jersey
USA, 1967

Discussion with Bill Jersey, the director of the film, and Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University
Moderated by Briallen Hopper, Yale University

Presented with Films at the Whitney, the program in American Studies, the department of African American studies, the department of religious studies, the Film Studies Program, and the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion

Melissa Mathison dies at 65; screenwriter of ‘Kundun’

Melissa MathisonMathison’s film credits also include “The Black Stallion” (1979), “The Escape Artist” (1982) and “The Indian in the Cupboard” (1995).

Kundun” (1997), a movie about the Dalai Lama’s childhood and growth into a young man, reflected her decades-long interest in Tibet.

She received an Oscar nomination for her work on Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.,” which was released in 1982.

“Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.,” the director said in a statement Wednesday.

Religion and Film podcast with S. Brent Plate

From the The Religious Studies Project

This week’s podcast features Chris speaking with S. Brent Plate at the recent XXI World Congress of the IAHR in Erfurt.

The interview begins with Plate’s personal research journey into this relatively young field, charting the history of the field in the process. Discussion then turns to the key terms involved… what are we meaning by “religion and film”? The relationship of established “world religions” to cinema?

Listen to the podcast

Mennonite article of faith and zombie nativity “Z Nation” (Season 2, Episode 5)

The latest episode (Season 2, Episode 5) of the  light zombie TV series “Z Nation” had two a serious and a silly religious theme in it. The serious one occurred  when some of the heroes from the show decided to enter the hall that the Mennonite community was using as a hospital and take their medicine. They did so, because it was enough to save two of their own, but not enough to save all the Mennonites. They did it at gunpoint and the Mennonites just recited their article of a faith, instead of resisting.

Mennonite article of faith

In an earlier conversation it was made clear tat they believe it is better to be killed than to kill someone. Here are the exact words they said:

We believe that peace is the way of God. We follow the way of peace, justice unity. We practice not to resist. Even through violence, even through war. All suffering comes from resisting. God is called us to seek justice and to make peace. To love our enemies. And to never seek revenge.

I tried to find where this article of faith come from, but didn’t. On one hand the shows creators made sure that we see the Mennonites as heroes as they manage to resists to defend themselves from being robbed of the medicine that could save some of them. On the other hand the viewers were also made to think of them as weak, who ultimately will not survive in this harsh new world.

Parallel to these events a woman was giving birth in a barn to the very first child conceived by a half-zombie. There were at least three elements introduced to draw a similarity to Jesus’ birth. There were three oriental-looking zombies approaching the place of the birth tagging alone a camel, which was out of place. There were also all sorts of animals free gathering towards this new focal point. And finally if this wasn’t enough a bright star appeared over the barn. The writers of the show made sure that we know it was a distorted Nativity scene. I assume the “Z(ombie) nation” savior was born there and then. We’ll surely see in upcoming episodes, whether this assumption is correct.


Watch the show on or check it out on Syfy, IMDB, Wikipedia,

The Devil’s Advocate in the first episode of “You, Me and the Apocalypse” (TV series)

What image comes up to your mind when you hear the term the Devil’s advocate? How about a chain-smoking, swearing Catholic priest, named Jude? That’s exactly what Rob Lowe plays in the new comedy “You, Me and the Apocalypse”.


I am grateful for the show that it introduces and explains the historical origin of the term “Devil’s Advocate” to the masses but I wish it would have been more precise. Here is the one thing that wasn’t fully accurate: The office of the “Promoter of the Faith”, i.e. “promotor fidei”(, which in common language is known as the Devil’s Advocate) was not abolished by Pope John Paul II in 1983. Therefore it couldn’t have been reinstated now as the show suggests. The other important elements that was said about it was true though:

  • The term indeed refers to the lawyer, whose role is to be skeptical during the canonization process in the Catholic church and try to disprove that the person in question was a saint, i.e. thoroughly good and performed miracles.
  • It is also a fact that Pope John Paul changed the process in 1983 in a way that resulted in many more beautification.

The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age If you really want to dig into this I recommend John Thavis The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age. Meanwhile I recommend the show to see how the young nun, who becomes the researcher for Devil’s Advocate, does her job.

The show on IMDB, Facebook and Wikipedia

Summary from IMDB: When a group of ordinary people learn that an eight-mile wide comet is on a collision course with Earth, they hunker beneath the town of Slough to watch the end of the world on television.

Human | Religion | Faith

Humanity dictates how a person defines his life regardless of where he is born and what religion he follows.

An interview crew reaches an orphanage to take an interview of the founder. Soon they notice a boy who is sitting all alone, they try to talk to him but he doesn’t respond. Soon they follow the guy and find out some thing about him, which touches their heart. Watch this touching short film to be touched by a beautiful emotion.

Cast & Crew: Director: Dhaval Singh
Music / Sound: Vinit Shah
Editor: Dhaval Singh
Cinematographer: Rushabh Buricha
Actors: Hitesh Purohit, Rishika Bhavnani, Rushabh Buricha, Dhaval Singh, Jaynu Bhanushali

God as the father of angels in Dominion (tv show)

Is God considered the “father” of the angels or just their creator? If the latter why do they talk about God in the TV show Dominion, as children talk about a lost parent? I have several answers for that question, but meanwhile want to explore the Jewish and Christian theological answers too. Before going into that here is a shortened version of the synopsis from wikipedia for the series:

God vanishes and in his absence the archangel Gabriel and his army of lower angels wage war against mankind, believing them to be the cause of God’s absence. Twenty-five years later, mankind survives in a few fortified cities. The Archangel Michael has chosen to side with humanity against Gabriel, living among humans in the fortified city of Vega (once Las Vegas) until the time a prophesied savior appears to save mankind.

In the (Hebrew) Bible the primary function of angels is to be messengers (“malach“) and are without physical form or gender. In the Torah, the five books of Moses, not a single one of them is named, although later books mention names: Gabriel in Daniel 9:20 and “Michael, one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13.

Here are my answers to the original question.

1. In the Bible the genderless angels, who do not have their own will either, never refer to God as their father. In the show In the TV show they are definitely male and there are positively female angels too (see picture). If the angels became gendered and anthropomorphized then why not give them a male father, instead of a neutral creator, even if the latter was all powerful.

Female angel

2. Fathers and their children is a main theme of this TV show. There is David the ruthless politician, who left his son, William, to be killed in the desert. There is Claire, whose father is General Riesen a rather imperfect soldier. And finally the same Claire almost becomes the mother of a child by Alex, the “chosen one.” If the major human characters of the show struggle with their fathers and children why not balance it by showing how angels suffer and long for their absent father.

3. Speaking of longing: the angels language of speaking of God is reminiscent of Jesus’ famous words, (coming from Psalm 22;1): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This evokes the concept of  Jesus, son of God, but also the Holy Trinity. Angels may not fit directly into either, but for a TV show it is enough to build emotional or conceptual links, doesn’t need to be theologically accurate.

Any other takes?


My Life, My Religion: Hinduism

What does it mean to be a Hindu? 14-year-old Simran explains all about her religion, Hinduism, in this Learning Zone programme for primary school children.

Simran loves music and photography, and spending time with her younger brother Vraj. Simran and Vraj tell us all about the festival of Raksha Bandhan that celebrates the love between siblings. During the Hindu festival of Diwali, Simran and Vraj make rangoli patterns and at Holi they cover one another in colourful paints. Simran tells us all about the traditions that take place at Hindu weddings.

Simran’s younger brother, 11-year-old Vraj, tells us all about the different Hindu gods and tells us how he worships God both at home and at the Mandir.

Meanwhile, Simran meets with her friends to share stories about pilgrimages they have been on to important Hindu religious sites.

My Life, My Religion: Hinduism is one of a series of programmes aimed at Key Stage 2 Religious Studies.

Hebrew Death in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3, Episode 1)

This post contains a spoiler: In the latest episode of the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The character Leo is looking for something again that might give a clue on how to save his friend. Other members of his team believe she is gone but he still keeps going after clues. This time he visits some bad people in Morocco in the hope of exchanging a modern weapon for an ancient artifact. After the deal goes down and he gets and opens up the wrapped up cylinder Leo finds a piece of old-looking parchment with a simple word on it. The word is not encouraging for his quest of the lost friend: According to him it is “death” in Hebrew. I have to admit though the that middle of the three letters looked like a Resh and not like Vav to me, which would make the word’s meaning either “bitter” or “Mrs.” The latter would forebode better as he loves the lost friend and companion. I hope that in later episodes of the season we learn whether this has any significance. Decide for yourself, here is the screenshot of the word.

Death? in Hebrew


Judge The Individual Not The Religion

Is religion the only parameter to categorize human being? A noir drama with social message. Judge The Individual Not The Religion

Cast & Crew: Director: Yogesh chiplunkar
Music / Sound: Pritam Kale
Editor: Nizamuddin Tolan
Cinematographer: Yogesh chiplunkar
Actors: Tahir Bhasin, Soham Jadhav, Shantanu Jadhav, Suvarna Jadhav