Cutting up “The Birth of a Nation”

S. Brent Plate Cut up D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and it bleeds a little. Rearrange the pieces, as Griffith so expertly cut up film sequences, and put them together in new ways. Splice it into histories, the stories of photography, race, literature, the KKK, bodies, film technique, and it comes out looking different. But it’s gonna bleed. The following articles, are such cuts, such incisive interventions.

Birth of the Klan’s Nation

Kelly J. Baker At midnight on November 25, 1915, seventeen men climbed to the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia with a large wooden cross. On that Thanksgiving night, they lit the cross on fire and pledged allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, American ideals, and “the tenets of the Christian religion. Read More…

What Star Wars Taught Me About the Bible

Jonathan Homrighausen Apocalyptic has always been one of my least favorite biblical genres. First, it can make for very tedious reading, with its densely symbolic accounts of battles and political turmoil. And second, I’ve always struggled with the black-and-white moral dimension of it. To me the world just doesn’t work like that. . . . But then I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and, oddly enough, it helped me understand the Bible better.

Progressive Priests and Pastors in Recent Popular Media

S. Brent Plate But I am interested in the complexity of human identity, and the ways these complexities allow a variety of practices, beliefs, and behaviors. Simply for the sake of accuracy, it is important to represent diverse channels of human character. Religious identities intersect with sexual, ethnic, racial, gendered, and national identities, and none of these are monolithic. In spite of what we might think based on media representations, not all Christians are conservatives, and not all Christian clergy are narrow-minded, abstaining teetotalers in ignorant servitude to some “Church,” some tradition.

Hell House

Kelly J. Baker I want to go to a Hell House, the evangelical Christian alternative to the ubiquitous haunted houses that pop up every October. I say this almost every year, but I’ve yet to attend one. I’ve only had near misses. When I was in high school in the 1990s, local churches took their youth groups to a Judgement House, the kissing cousin of the Hell House, in Dothan, Alabama. The ride was about 90 minutes round trip, but Judgement House’s message about dangers of the modern world were apparently worth cramming boisterous teens into buses and church vans.

“Islam” is Not a Person

Hussein Rashid There is an idea of “Islam,” as a signifier of something foreign and threatening, that continues to plague American discussion of the religion. It is part of the shooting in Chattanooga, and it part of the debate around the Iran nuclear deal. This view of Islam has been part of how America has defined itself since the founding of the country.

Jesus Never Tapped Out: A Review of “Fight Church”

Kelly J. Gannon “Can you love your neighbor as yourself, and at the same time, knee him in the face as hard as you can?” So asks Fight Church, a new film by directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel, that looks at a growing trend in evangelizing ministries that brings mixed martial arts (“MMA”) into the church. The film follows the MMA ministries of several men who are both pastors and fighters. Are fighting and Jesus diametrically opposed? Or is MMA a way to bring “tough guys” to Jesus? These are the main questions that drive Junge and Storkel’s project. 

Why Susan Sontag Matters

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. For anyone who is interested in religion and the arts, Susan Sontag’s (1933-2004) work remains essential. She burst upon the New York arts scene in 1966 with the publication of her collection of essays, Against Interpretation. The book was a tour de force examination of everything from second rate horror films to Critical Theory. Her primary interests were the performative arts, photography and film.

The Weight of the Guru: A Review of Kumaré

By Anandi Leela Salinas In Sanskrit, the term guru is defined as: “important,” “valuable,” “respectable,” and “heavy,” in addition to the definition that finds more currency in 21st century America: spiritual teacher in a general “Eastern” tradition. There have been a number of recently published works analyzing the role of the transnational spiritual guru in modern day America (Gurus in America, Transcendent in America, and Homegrown Gurus to name a few), but ethnographies of transnational South Asian religious movements in the United States have yet to explore the experience of joining, belonging, and reflecting within these communities from the perspective of the devotees. The 2012 film […]

Jesus Christ Movie Star: A Brief History of Religion and Cinema

By S. Brent Plate In the beginning was the Jesus film . . . The birth of cinema dates from the Lumière brother’s first public screening for a paying audience in a Paris café in December 1895. The following decade saw at least a half-dozen filmed versions of the life and passion of Jesus Christ and a handful of Moses films. Some of these were even made by the inventors of cinema themselves, Thomas Edison and Louis Lumière. Soon after the birth of film, the “father” of Indian film, D. G. Phalke, was inspired by a film of the life […]