This intelligent, insightful volume is an exercise in urban anthropology. Religious imagination is the subject and the movie house is its location. The authors show that the religious imagination is irrepressible, and shows up in our best-known example of popular cultures, movies. Contrary to conservative opinion that suggests that Hollywood is anti-religious, Greeley and Bergesen find just the opposite. Ordinary movies, not explicitly about religion and not made by particularly religious individuals often demonstrate some basic religious theme, point, or message. "God in the Movies "does not judge or approve, recommend or criticize; the authors simply alert the reader to the great variety of metaphors for God, angels, heaven, and hell, from beautiful women to white light at the end of the tunnel to Groundhog Day. They are not concerned with explicitly religious movies. This is not a study of "Ben Huror The Last Temptations of Christ, "but rather of ordinary mass-release movies, including "Field of Dreams, Always, All That Jazz, Commandments, Babette's Feast, Fearless, Breaking the Waves, Jacob's Ladder, Flatliners, Ghost, Pale Rider, Star Wars, 2001, Dogma, "and even Japanimation, like "Ghost in the Shell."
The authors' vivid explication of various cinematic metaphors for God is accompanied by an analysis of what these movies tell about our sociological attitudes toward life and death. They also discuss the social conditions that give rise to various kinds of imagery and forms of movies. In a real sense, this book is for both the professional concerned with religion, sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, media and cinema studies, and the layperson interested in how popular movies also contain religious imagery.
This study of their work clarifies their contributions to the analysis of culture and shows the converging assumptions that the authors believe are laying the foundation for a new approach to the study of culture. The focus is specifically on culture, a concept that remains subject to ambiguities of treatment, and concentrates on questions concerning the definition and content of culture, its construction, its relations with social conditions, and the manner in which it may be changing. The books demonstrates how these writers have made strides towards defining culture as an objective element of social interaction which can be subjected to critical investigation.