5 Sacred Matters in American Religion: Movies, Death, Wrestling, Foreign Policy, and Cartoons

By Michael J. Altman

Over at Sacred Matters, we've posted some articles that RiAH folks might find interesting. Here are five "religious currents" you shouldn't miss.

1. "Jesus Christ Movie Star: A Brief History of Religion and Cinema" by S. Brent Plate

Plate examines the sacred power of the silver screen:
There is something about the very medium of film that promotes production of the divine. With cinema, a powerful new spiritual force was unleashed, and its energy had to be subdued, tamed by existing religious authorities. Today’s spirited, and occasionally obnoxious, debates over religion on film have over a century’s worth of precursors.
2. "Religion is Dead; Long Live…the Sacred" by Gary Laderman

Laderman gives American culture the Durkheimian treatment.

So while Religion is in the throes of death nowadays, the sacred won’t go away, though it will look different than the Religion Americans are used to. Everyone is writing about new forms of sacred life and experience, unhinged and uncoupled from Religion and its institutional structures. Surfing the waves and online communities; combinative beliefs drawing from multiple religious streams and celebrity culture; gothic themes and hell, even God— these are sources for sacred expression and ritual activity in American cultures today for more and more people dissatisfied with Religion.
3. "Sacred Spinebusters, Transcendent Toe Holds: The Confluence of Religion and Professional Wrestling" by Dan Mathewson

Mathewson, AKA Mr. Canada, argues that the wrestling ring holds up a mirror to our assumptions about religion.
Assumptions about religion abound in contemporary American society- assumptions about what qualifies as religion and what does not, about what true religious devotion consists of, about religion’s rightful (and wrongful) place within civil society, and so forth. Though these assumptions often remain unspoken and unexamined, they frequently explode to the surface during public discussions of contentious social issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration, national security – even the so-called War on Christmas.
In what follows, I will make the case that the world of professional wrestling offers a sophisticated – if sometimes troubling – presentation and commentary on many of the predominant assumptions about religion that exist in contemporary society.
4. "An Interview with Shaun Casey: Religion and Presidential Politics"

Secretary Kerry appointed Dr. Shaun Casey to lead Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. A professor of theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Dr. Casey visited Emory University on February 6–7, 2014, and graciously granted a long interview with Sacred Matters. In this candid conversation with Emory’s Dr. Jim Hoesterey, watch Dr. Casey address the academic critiques, describe his intellectual and political influences, discuss OFBCI’s work thus far, and share his vision for the future role of religion and diplomacy at the State Department.

5. "Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Heart: Learning About the New Age from After School Cartoons" by Beth Singler

Singler takes us back to Saturday morning cartoons in her story of the Indigo Children of the New Age.

This then, is one of the main interests of my research: seeing the connections between the spiritual and the media and how they mutually influence each other. In the case of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the idea that “The Power is Yours” is particularly resonant with the Indigo Children, who are thought to be now in their 30s and possibly making television programs and after-school cartoons of their own.