by Phillip Luke Sinitiere
I'm not a big moviegoer, but I do watch movies. And, the nerd that I am, I've seen my fair share of documentaries. Always thinking about how to incorporate films clips and media into my classes, on occasion I've used clips of Michael Moore documentaries, segments that often create great discussion.
So, when I heard Moore interviewed last week on Democracy Now! about his latest flick, Capitalism: A Love Story (in theaters this week), my ears perked up when the interviewers addressed the way he incorporates religion in his film. Today I read a review of Moore's film in Political Affairs Magazine, and further peaking my interest the reviewer noted where religion fit into Moore's story:
Raised a Catholic, Moore spares no time in ripping the role of the Catholic church. In Capitalism, he puts the obvious question: what would Christ do with all the greed in the world? He answered that question by showing a more positive picture of the church which played a good role in supporting the historical worker sit-in at the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago. After receiving billions in Wall Street bailout money, the Bank of America refused to extend credit to the owners of that factory, forcing it to close down and lay off the union workers without paying contracted wage and health care benefits. The workers occupied the plant and convinced even President Obama to condemn Bank of America's actions. Within days, the money was released and the owners of the factory agreed to pay what they owed to the workers. Eventually the factory was sold to a California "green energy" company that agreed to rehire the laid-off workers. In addition, Moore paints a positive picture of the liberation theology still held by many in the Catholic leadership in the city of Detroit.
I have not seen Capitalism: A Love Story yet, but from all that I've read, Moore emphasizes that religion is a private matter (read another interview here). But with its presence in the film he makes the discussion public. One might suggest that in a certain way Moore is reframing the age-old question (and marketing gimmick), "What Would Jesus Do?" This is all interesting stuff for scholars of American religion, and I'm planning to incorporate this aspect of Moore's film later this fall in my American religion class.
I wonder if those whose specialties are religion and class (or, for that matter, religion and film and religion and healing) might chime in on these topics, as well as readers in the blogsophere who have seen the film? Or, with a nod to teaching, perhaps readers might share teaching experiences and strategies as to how we incorporate religion and class into American religion courses?