Film history meets church history through the ritual of prayers.
Moments of prayer have been represented in Hollywood movies since the silent era, appearing unexpectedly in films as diverse as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Frankenstein, Amistad, Easy Rider, Talladega Nights, and Alien 3, as well as in religiously inspired classics such as Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments. Here, Terry Lindvall examines how films have reflected, and sometimes sought to prescribe, ideas about how one ought to pray. He surveys the landscape of those films that employ prayer in their narratives, beginning with the silent era and moving through the uplifting and inspirational movies of the Great Depression and World War II, the cynical, anti-establishment films of the 60s and 70s, and the sci-fi and fantasy blockbusters of today. Lindvall considers how the presentation of cinematic prayer varies across race, age, and gender, and places the use of prayer in film in historical context, shedding light on the religious currents at play during those time periods.
Searching for God on the Big Screen demonstrates that the way prayer is presented in film during each historical period tells us a great deal about America’s broader relationship with religion.