For a long time, studies linking religion and films have focused on describing the fidelity of films to religious texts, or their worth as tools in religious ministries and missions. In reality, films have been used to either portray religion as it was in the past, is currently or is expected to be in the future. Additionally, religious entities have used films to further their belief while some entities use films to criticize religion. Either way, the link is undeniable.
In Ostwalt (1998), the author notes how watching the Seventh seal opened him to the idea of suing films as an extension in teaching religion. This basically affirms the existence of a factual link between religion and films worth using in expounding on religious issues to learners. The author highlights a number of benefits in using films can be used in teaching religion within classroom settings. These include student empowerment, instructiveness and motivation.
He further notes that there quite a significant number of films which treat religion in a manner which elicits debate and as such open an avenue for evaluation of religion in depth (Ostwalt, 1998). For instance, he cites the Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Montreal, as well as the Scarlet Letter, among others (Ostwalt, 1998). Even then, there is no love lost between films and religion; some implicitly advance the role of religion in social well-being.
It’s not only Ostwalt who acknowledges the link between religion and films, Lindvall (2004) provides a more detailed coverage of the relationship between religion and films. In the research, Lindvall, a lecturer at Duke Divinity School highlights how religion has been treated in films and vice-versa.
From the satirical portrayals of the biblical stories in films, the use of films to represent contemporary religions, the representation of Roman Catholics and the Legion of Decency in films, as well as use of films to criticize some religious practices considered oppressive in the ancient and modern times (Lindvall, 2004). In the article, the author notes how film scholars have come to terms with the importance of religion in engineering the religious landscape that dots films.
The author sites the films that take viewers through the past century exhibitions and the role that religion played in the same. Religious extremism, religious sadists, and use of religion as tool for power are among the most commonly highlighted themes in the films.
The author further highlights the undeniable and predominant perception of religion in films from a negative and hostile point of view (Lindvall, 2004). It is noted that religion as a subject has received harsh treatment in various films which at times fail to portrayal religion as it rather opting to create a dinosaur out of cat just to meet its entertainment thresholds.
The hard reality though, is the fact that they ultimately elicit lots of discussion with respect to its portrayal of religion. It is the aftermath of such movies, he cites, that has seen some religions like Islam throwing in strong sentiments at any movie that attempts to puts spots to its credibility (Lindvall, 2004). However, Christian and contemporary religions have remained open to thrashing, ridicule and in some cases furtherance within a number of films.
In conclusion, it’s important to note that both authors converge to one point, various films are intertwined to religion and impact on the fundamentals of the religion they address. The role of religion in film creation and the role of films in religion are worth studying in addition to providing an avenue for debates and discussion of religion. As Ostwalt (1998) puts, films elicit hot debates that help students and the general public delve deeper into understanding religion.
Lindvall, T. (2004). Religion and Film. Part I: History and Criticism. Communication Research Trends, 23 (4-7), pp. 2-44.
Ostwalt, C. (1998). Religion and Popular Movies. Journal of Religion and Film, 2(3)