Teaching American Religion Through Film


The H-Amrel listserv currently has an ongoing discussion about useful films for teaching American religious history. The most popular suggestions seem to be Black Robe, The Apostle, anything by PBS's American Experience, and Malcolm X.

So following this discussion, I would encourage our blog readers to post their favorite films in the comments section. I currently like to use a documentary on Appalachian snake handlers called the Holy Ghost People, available here, and I am toying with Jesus Camp and Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple. (Also, Internet Archive has great resources, including documentaries and video clips, for class.)


Anonymous said…
Jonestown is just amazing, and piecing clips together could be powerful for students. The PBS Mormons documentary is good too.

I'm considering using segments this summer of the new Lonnie Frisbee documentry--the most famous evangelical, gay, hippie-for-Jesus most people have not heard of. He was heavily involved with the Calvary Chapel movement.
Luke Harlow said…
I think Hell House would work well. I've never used it in a class, but I hope to use it in the future.
Anonymous said…
Here it goes:
Blue Collar and Buddha
The Return of Sarah's Daughters
Hell House
The Devil's Playground
Holy Ghost People
Hands to Work, Hearts to God
Malcolm X: Make it Plain
The Peyote Road, excerpts
Searcging for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, excerpts
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
The Spiritual Telegraph
Matt Hedstrom said…
I like Frisbee: Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. Good length (about 50 minutes if I recall correctly) and captures the moment nicely.
Kelly J. Baker said…
Two others I use for gender/sexuality and American religion are Trembling Before G_d (a documentary on gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews) and Sweating Indian Style (about the appropriation of Native American ritual by white women).
Anonymous said…
Not only is the Jonestown film a great way to talk about the concept of "cult," but is also a wonderful way to balance discussions of religious violence that sometimes tend to focus on conservative groups. Abortion clinic bombers, Branch Davidians, and 9/11 bombers are all fine, but I think students also need to be reminded that The Peoples Temple was, among other things, a group attempting to extend the legacy of Martin Luther King and Father Divine. Liberal Christianity turned violent! Are the UUs next?
brotherroy said…
The Chosen is a great film which highlights the differences between the Orthodox (Hasidic) and Conservative movements during the mid-20th century.
pam said…
Arranged is a good one!
This is the link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848542/

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