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Religion and Film

The interview explores S. Brent Plate’s personal research journey into this relatively young field, charting the history of the field in the process. Discussion then turns to the key terms involved… what are we meaning by “religion and film”? The relationship of established “world religions” to cinema? Religion/s on Film? Documentaries? Critiques and Parodies? Religions that exist only in Film? Films as Religious Experiences? Audience reactions to film? Films as myth? Films as a modern form of religion? And so on…

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  • What is RSP?

    The Religious Studies Project (RSP) is an international collaborative enterprise producing weekly podcasts with leading scholars on the social-scientific study of religion. Find out more…

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  • Stretching Good Faith: A Response to Candy Gunther Brown

    If Candy Gunther Brown’s work is so divergent with her peers in academia, how does one contextualize her understanding of yoga and her approach to it? In keeping with Bender’s assessment that Brown “exemplifies the ‘caveat emptor’ genre of popular writing about CAM,” I would argue that Brown’s writings on yoga are most similar to the genre of Christian-based criticism of yoga.

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    Black Religious Movements and Religio-Racial Identities during the Great Migration

    In this podcast, Judith Weisenfeld talks to Brad Stoddard about her new book, New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Depression. In this book, Weisenfeld explores several social groups in the early 1900s who combined religious and racial rhetoric to fashion new identities. These groups include the Nation of Islam, the Moorish Science Temple, and Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, and various Ethiopian Hebrews.

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    Evangelical Yoga: Cultural Appropriation and Translation in American Religions

    In this interview, we discuss yoga as a new American phenomenon and the way that some evangelical Christians practice it. Brown provides a historic overview of bodily–religious practices in America, starting with mesmerism, occultism, osteopathy, and chiropractic in the nineteenth century. These practices challenged the standard “heroic” model of medicine: Instead of the patient experiencing torturous medical treatments, a practitioner simply realigns the patient’s body or does a quick procedure. Such bodily practices blurred, in some cases, with Pentecostal and Holiness Christians’ use of prayer as a medical treatment.

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    On Reading Ralph Ellison Theologically

    Most scholars examining invisibility in Ellison’s novel consider it a social metaphor: the novel’s protagonist is made invisible by people’s refusal to really see him. Yet Harriss claims invisibility is also a theological trope, with roots in biblical materials, Protestantism, and Kongo traditions, antecedents that establish it as an unmarked religious category. More than the social marginalization of black bodies, Harriss contends invisibility is metaphysical, too.

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    Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Theology

    By claiming the invisible not simply as a materialist term but a metaphysical one as well, Harriss contends that despite—or even because of—his status as a thoroughly “ secular” novelist and critic, Ellison’s writing reflects important theological trends and issues that mark his age and the cultural inheritances of his literary production. Harriss also identifies the scholars and thinkers who inform the methodological moves that he makes in the book, and he reflects on the abiding relevance of Ellison’s life and insights.

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    The Religious Meanings of Borders

    Maffly-Kipp offers what might be thought of as a mandate for borders for religious historians towards the end of the conversation. She and Gorman are talking about global histories, and specifically how global history re-shapes American religious history. Maffly-Kipp says it’s not enough to note borders and the crossing of borders, in religious histories. Instead, the meaning and affects and effects of borders on religion must be carefully examined.

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    Messengers of Many Gods: A Response to the RSP Interview with Tehri Utriainen

    Angels don’t just make esotericism accessible to Christians; they make the legacy of Christian thought and active dialogue with the Christian world accessible to people who have often left both on bad terms, and would not otherwise be willing or able to engage with them.

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    Angel Spirituality

    What is angel spirituality, and who does it appeal to (hint: women)? How do they challenge preconceptions about the relationship between new spiritualities and Christianity, and raise interesting questions about gender, and vernacular religion in supposedly post-Christian Europe?

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    Explaining Witchcraft: Response to ‘Witchcraft in Slovenia’

    In her interview, Mirjam Mencej discusses her fascinating research into witchcraft in rural Slovenia. She conducted field work in Eastern Slovenia into people’s beliefs on witchcraft. Though restricted to rural areas in Eastern Slovenia, she claims belief in witchcraft is very much alive. She distinguishes traditional witchcraft sharply from modern

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    Mormon, Jesuits, and the Pain of Replication: A Historical-Social Excursus

    In their interview dealing with the place of American religion in the world and ‘bodies in space’, Dan Gorman and Professor Laurie Maffly-Kipp cover a wide range of topics relevant to both American religious history and Mormon studies as they reflect on several important suggestions made by John McGreevy in

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    Jesuits, Mormons, and American Religion in the World

    My conversation with Maffly-Kipp begins with McGreevy’s book, expands to include her work on Mormonism in contrast to Catholicism, and ends with a discussion of evangelical historian Mark Noll, in whose honor Notre Dame was originally going to host a conference, but was cancelled at the last minute. This free-ranging conversation nonetheless centers on Jesuits, Mormons, and transnational religious history.

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    Could Empathy Encourage Hyperactive Authority Detection?

    Misplaced Faith? an interview with Professor Luke Galen, inspires some interesting speculations that I’ll offer in response.  First, the mention of gender differences in the context of individual differences in the “sensus divinitatis” and agency detection is potentially important.  Several factors that may help explain gender differences in religiousness are

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    Millennialism and Violence?

    Are we right to connect millennialism and violence? Are groups like Heaven’s Gate or the Branch Davidians typical, or rare exceptions, magnified out of proportion by the lens of the media – and scholarship? How do we account for the popularity of mllennialism outside of religious traditions, new, extreme or otherwise?

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    Unwitchers and Witchcraft Discourse as Social Control: In Response to Mirjam Mencej

    In a recent interview with the Religious Studies Project, Mirjam Mencej, PhD, Professor of Folklore Studies and Comparative Mythology at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Ljubljana speaks about her ethnographic research and findings which are presented in her 2017 publication Styrian Witches in European

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    Witchcraft in Rural Slovenia

    Based on her ethnographic fieldwork in the area, Mencej describes witchcraft from a variety of angles, from psychological to anthropological and historical, providing a detailed understanding of witchcraft as part of the lived social reality of the community. In what kind of situations are witchcraft narratives evoked? What makes them effective? Who could gain the reputation of being a witch and why?

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