Faith plays evident role on big screen

The crowd erupted with laughter, spending their Wednesday chapel watching a clip from Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

“Dear Lord, baby Jesus …. We thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell,” he prayed.

Dr. Robert Johnston, author of the book Reel Spirituality, spoke in chapel Oct. 14. about faith and the movies. He followed up the clip of Ricky Bobby by saying, “One can actually take that little sequence and think pretty strongly, fully, deeply, about the nature of prayer, about your relationship with God, about the nature of God.”

The movie industry is a 50 billion dollar a year business worldwide. Johnston thinks that movies can be good for students’ spiritual health.

“Movies are also a primary source of spiritual insight,” Johnston said. “Some
movies have the ability to reach in and grab our spirit. Some movies have the possibility of even transforming our life.”

Ashli Lawson, junior math and chemistry double major, was impressed by how movies affect the viewer.

“Movies can bring you to tears. So, since our emotions are being affected, I think it’s important to realize that (movies) lend themselves to affect us spiritually,” Lawson said.

Junior computer graphics design major Heather Myers noticed through reading the book Reel Spirituality, “how much movies affect us and how much they become a part of everyday life,” she said.

Johnston also gave the example of spirituality in the 2004 movie Crash, a film about a carjacking in Los Angeles.

“The movie invites you and me to not look at the subject at arm’s length,” Johnston said. “The movie actually forces you and me to say ‘is that me?’ ‘Is that who I should be?’ ‘Is that who God is calling me to be?’”

Senior finance and economics major Nathan Berryman said one thing that stood out to him in Johnston’s book was his ability to find theological truths in film.

“Different aspects of film or scenes in film that we don’t necessarily think have any theological or spiritual significance actually do depending on how we look at it,” Berryman said.

Another example Johnston used was Shawshank Redemption, a fi lm that bombed in theatres. He said this movie is powerful, not because of ticket sales, but because of its emotional appeal.

“Shawshank Redemption crawls underneath your skin …. It’s not a movie about hope; it’s a movie that gives you hope,” Johnston said.

He believes films are prompting a conversation of spirituality and religion. Johnston’s question is, “will the church join in the discussion?”

He closed his lecture by telling the student body, “I hope this weekend you’ll see a good movie.”

Author: Evangeline Grace Ciupek

Evangeline Grace Ciupek is currently studying English at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and plans to graduate in May 2011. She joined The Bells staff Spring 2009. She is usually found reading enormous books assigned to her by professors, battling bugs in her parents' garden, playing acoustic guitar, or knitting the lone sock she's been working on since last Thanksgiving. While a career in journalism remains somewhat undesirable to her, Evangeline is grateful for the opportunity to improve her writing skills through involvement on The Bells staff. Her dream career would be that of a starving artist.

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