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The Gospel according to Hollywood Paperback – June 19, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It is easy to see the religious imagery in movies like The Passion of the Christ and The Mission, but much more difficult to uncover it in mainstream Hollywood films. Garrett, professor of English at Baylor University and popular author, analyzes dozens of films and extracts their religious and spiritual themes. Rather than focus solely on contemporary films, Garrett digs into the past five decades and investigates important works that are often overlooked in similar books. He masterfully weaves threads of Christian history, doctrine and tradition into the chapters, utilizing these films as platforms from which to teach the reader. The chapter on peace and justice is especially powerful, as the author not only instructs but also advocates for working toward a more just society. Being a Christian means to put one's faith in action, and Garrett is able to elucidate how these movies can have the power to encourage some to live a more authentic Christian life. While he realizes that not all Christians will buy into his primary thesis—that movies can reveal something about spirituality and God's action in the world—he also understands that many theologians have argued that nothing in creation is outside the scope of God. This is a bold and courageous belief, and kudos to Garrett for advancing it. (July)
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About the Author

Greg Garrett is Professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He serves the Episcopal Church as Writer-in-Residence at the Seminary of the Southwest and as lay preacher at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of numerous books, including the critically-acclaimed novel Free Bird.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Gospel according to...
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (June 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664230520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664230524
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,900,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Dr. James Gardner VINE VOICE on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book thinking it was an historical account of the portrayal of the gospels in Hollywood. There are many such books around that cover the history of blacks, homosexuals, drugs, and other topics in films, and the title suggested this was another of those type of books. It isn't. So what is it? In the author's own words - "I want to offer you a learned yet accessible look at films that can inspire as well as entertain, to show how you might use these films to discuss theological issues, and, wherever possible, to tie the stories of these films back to our core narratives about salvation and the life of faith (xxii - xxiii)."

Leaving aside my disappointment in not finding the historical account I was looking for, we need to evaluate the book on the basis of the author's goals, not my expectations. This is a well written book and the author is obviously a film buff, but I wouldn't go so far as to call this text a "learned" approach to film. There is very little depth to Mr. Garrett's film analysis, nor is there much backstory nor sociopolitical concurrents. In addition, Garrett usually ignores the box office information which I would have thought added value to any discussion of the film's impact. Mostly it is Garrett's reactions to films, rehashing the plots and reminding us of the actors whom played the various parts.

As far as being a teaching tool, I didn't see that either. Perhaps I am being too concrete and looking for teaching lesson material here. Of course Garrett's examples can be adopted by others and used for teaching, or any other purpose. But the book itself is hardly a teaching tool, even if the contents itself can be used for teaching.

Another problem I have with this book is that it is not particularly concerned with the gospels.
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Format: Paperback
Garrett writes from a "neo-evangelical" perspective, in the vein of Ron Sider or Sojourners Magazine. So his theology leans toward the conservative; his social and political views are slanted in a more liberal direction.

Garrett finds Christian themes in films ranging from old classics (The Philadelphia Story, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cool Hand Luke) to more recent movies (Pulp Fiction, Magnolia, American Beauty).

The first four chapters deal with more theological themes in films such as faith, the Trinity, sin, and redemption. The final two chapters explore more social and political themes such as war and peace, justice, poverty and race.

While I occasionally disagreed with Garrett's theololgy (and/or his politics), I found his insights into the spiritual themes in films unerringly accurate and insightful. The author avoids two common traps in Christian interpretation of film. He does not try to read explictly Christian ideas into movies where the filmmakers clearly did not intend them. Nor does he wholisticlally condemn films that contain offensive elements such as nudity or violence.

Instead he looks for the filmmakers intended themes and compares and contrasts them with Christian belief and practice. Although I have frequently taught college and greaduate classes on the spiritual themes in Hollywood movies, I learned a great deal from Garret's analysis.

Readers who are interested in this topic may also want to read "Hollywood Worldviews" by Brian Godawa.
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