The Medium and the Spirit: On Teaching Religion and Film

  • Author(s): Torey L. Lightcap
  • When: 1997-03
  • Where: Annual Joint Meetings of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association
  • To raise the consciousness of adults regarding their mental and social processing of popular media, specifically movies, a course was implemented through a Colorado Episcopal parish's adult education program. The course was designed to show students how to better understand the ways in which their presuppositions create meaning in what they view as well as how they allow what they view to alter their own ideas. By course end, participants had a better grasp of how the divine encounters people in their seemingly most mundane moments--that is, watching movies. Films included in the course were: "Star Wars"; "The Graduate"; "Crimes & Misdemeanors"; "Priest"; and "Unforgiven." Objectives for the course were for students to: (1) attune to media messages, especially in film, more accurately than before the course began; (2) recognize and read the rudimentary language of movies, the visual and aural tools used by filmmakers to communicate their messages; (3) understand and state the arguments made by filmmakers about religious topics, whether or not they are presented overtly; and (4) make informed judgments about the content of such films. The course, which was team taught by a film student and a Bible scholar, was evaluated as successful based on the achievement of the stated objectives in the unique culture of the church.

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