Faith and Films, Faith and Fiction

Next month, our pastor is starting a new series of sermons titled Faith and Films.  And yes, I’m looking forward to it.  Heck, I use popular culture in literature and composition classes, so it’s only natural that a pastor would, too. 

So what films has he chosen?  “The Bucket List”, “Whale Rider” and “Amazing Grace”.   I’ve only seen “Whale Rider” and while it’s a beautiful film it seems to be more about faith in one’s self than in a “higher power”–but it has been a while since I’ve seen it.  I’m curious to hear what connections he makes with the films. I’m hoping it’s not another series on the power of positive thinking, something this pastor so strongly believes in.  He was an English/drama major in his youth–I am always hopeful that he’ll add some intellectual flavor to his Oprah-esque sermons. But, then, I’m the agnostic in the crowd, so clearly not his target audience.

Now, a series on Faith and Fiction: that is something I would actually enjoy “preaching” about someday. Picture such a course series of sermons:

A Prayer for Owen Mean/John Irving
Cathedral/Raymond Carver
A Good Man is Hard to Find or Good Country People/Flannery O’Connor
Gilead/Marilynne Robinson

I’d start there, with that list of works, works that both question and quest for faith.

4 responses to “Faith and Films, Faith and Fiction

  1. What a terrific list. I’m not a John Irving fan but I teach Carver and O’Connor every year, and “Gilead” is just stunning: so human and tender while also telling some harsh truths about the human condition. I’d love to hear these sermons!

    I’ve also taught Whale Rider in a class called Literature Into Film: students read the book and then watched the film and we talked about adaptation issues. The book is very different from the film, more engaged with the world outside the small Maori village.

    I was in New Zealand doing some research the summer the film was released, and I was privileged to interview Witi Ihimaera. One interesting bit of trivia: the film is set in the author’s ancestral village and many of the bit parts in the film are non-actors drawn from Ihimaera’s wide family tree, his grand-nephews and cousins and so on. The “faith” on view in the film seems to be more focused on self and family than anything else, which, for the Maori community, means reconnecting with its own cultural traditions.

  2. Hi Bev,

    Thank you for the info on Whale Rider: I’m adding the book to my Wish List immediately. How serendipitous that you were in New Zealand that summer: my luck is being in Siena when Daniel Craig closes down the Palio to film Quantum of Solace (not that it wasn’t fun seeing Daniel Craig in a white tux, but still….).

    I led an adult ed class on “Gilead” last year at the church (Presbyterian, too, so we could all get Robinson’s insider jokes about God’s frozen people and bad casseroles)but it was not entirely successful: some retired pastors and their wives simply loved the book for personal reasons, while others struggled to get engaged with the work, probably because of the “harsh” truths that vibrated for us both. Yet, “Home” is now out, and waiting patiently for me on my bedstand and I’ve been requested to do another adult ed class, so we’ll see. Have you read that yet?

    And someday give A Prayer for Owen Meany another go: it sneaks up on you! What else could we add to our imagined Faith and Fiction series? Annie Dillard comes to mind (though she is a challenge for students)….I know there are others…

  3. I had very high hopes for “Home,” but alas, it was just too slow and eventless. Three people sit around talking about everything except what they ought to be talking about; in an odd way, it reminded me of “The Magic Mountain,” only without the TB or the humor.

    I would add a short story by Anthony Doerr called “The Shell Collector” (also the name of his first collection). It’s beautifully written and it offers an entirely unexpected way of thinking about sin, suffering, and incarnation.

  4. Ah, sadly, I’ve heard that about “Home”—but I’ll try it anyway (maybe when I’m in a “slow” mood–so certainly not while the academic year is in full swing), and thank you for the Anthony Doerr recommendation: I haven’t read him yet, and “unexpected” is just what I love.

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