A Call for Films in Faith/Spirituality

With the new year not far away, I'm looking to finalize some lesson plans and would like reader input on the subject of faith and film. A little background: This upcoming year, I will teach a course called "Senior Synthesis," a semester-long class for -- as the name suggests -- seniors. Throughout the semester, students work on a paper, written in four chapters, that articulates what they believe and why. They research major questions through the lens of their own religious tradition and analyze the experiences that have made them who they are. Though students tend to dread, at the start, the prospect of a twenty-page paper, they end up relishing the self-knowledge the class and research provide. It helps them gain a sense of what they've come to believe about God -- and, for the school, stands as a kind of exit interview. The papers are authentic and honest, and students generally develop a nice snapshot of where they stand, at 18, with faith and religion.  

When I teach the course, I provide a background survey of the Judeo-Christian tradition and (re)-introduce the major emphases of Catholic Christianity. Through books and various readings, we discuss that faith is a gift, and that it involves a transformation (metanoia) along with a lifelong commitment to develop a relationship with the Creator who loved us into being.

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I usually assign a few books in the genre of spiritual memoir, and I also try to show a film or two. "Field of Dreams" is a good one for highlighting the themes of call and response, and "Forrest Gump" is a nice metaphor for God's enduring faithfulness and friendship.

I have a few more on the list, but I'd like to hear from readers. What do you recommend for faith and film? It doesn't have to be explicitly religious; sometimes very secular movies serve, in the manner of parables, as extended metaphors for biblical themes.

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Tiffany Reisz
3 years 8 months ago
Priest, the movie starring Linus Roche as a gay priest who is caught having an affair with a man. The scene at the end when he and the girl in his parish who has been raped by her father embrace is the most perfect representation of God's saving love I've ever seen. The movie saved my faith on more than one occasion. Tiffany Reisz
Joshua Erlandson
3 years 8 months ago
I love the Movie "Kingdom of Heaven" starring Orlando Bloom. I have two favorite quotes from this movie: (1) Balian of Ibelin: What man is a man who does not make the world better. and (2) Hospitaller: I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What god desires is here [points to head] Hospitaller: and here [points to heart] Hospitaller: and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man - or not. These remind me that God CCares about my decisions and the motive behind them. Are they for personal gain, or for Christ's glory?
Joshua Hughes
3 years 8 months ago
My recommendations are as follows: - "The Tree of Life" (A moving meditation on grace amidst suffering, this film, directed by Terence Malick, is among the best works of modern cinema on the subject of faith. This film brought me to Christ.) - "To the Wonder" (In many ways, this film, also by Terence Malick, is the sequel to the aforementioned selection. Ostensibly, it is a parable of the biblical "Song of Songs" and explores thematic motifs related to the nature of faith, love, and grace. The prayers at the conclusion always bring me to tears.)
Andrew Russell
3 years 8 months ago
Breakfast Club - dated, and needs debriefing for some immorality, but there are good messages about life.
Steven Reynolds
3 years 8 months ago
Beyond the Gates (2005). Lesser known film than the popular Hotel Rwanda set in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. John Hurt plays a Catholic priest working at an international school. In particular an amazing scene involving Eucharist in the midst of suffering and seeming hopelessness.

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