Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up at the Movies

Overview

Every human being, Roy Anker points out, is a pilgrim searching for a destination that promises meaning and welcome. We seek a glimpse of light or fire pointing the way to a place that soothes the soul. This light often shines most clearly in the stories we love to see on film. In Of Pilgrims and Fire Anker explores some of cinema's most profound moments of pilgrims looking for light. His movie choices are rarely those we might consider “religious,” yet he argues that they may be truer depictions of God's light ...
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Overview

Every human being, Roy Anker points out, is a pilgrim searching for a destination that promises meaning and welcome. We seek a glimpse of light or fire pointing the way to a place that soothes the soul. This light often shines most clearly in the stories we love to see on film. In Of Pilgrims and Fire Anker explores some of cinema's most profound moments of pilgrims looking for light. His movie choices are rarely those we might consider “religious,” yet he argues that they may be truer depictions of God's light because of their lack of overt Christianity. These select films depict the struggles of ordinary people trying to find some measure of light to make sense of the world and of themselves — sometimes running into surprising renditions of what God might look like. Each section begins with a basic filmography of the pictures discussed, including awards and ratings. Anker also provides a preview of each film and suggests what the filmmaker seems to convey. Finally each chapter includes a series of questions to guide personal or group discussion. Like the movies he chooses, Anker avoids the preachy or didactic and strives to make viewing and reflecting both enjoyable and provocative.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Roy Anker again illuminates film's powerful ability to enliven religious life. His earlier work in Catching Light is continued here with more films and further reflections on many of the same films. With lucid writing, helpful questions, and suggestive strategies for religious film viewing, Of Pilgrims and Fire will be a welcome resource to those who seek light in the dark spaces of the theater.”
— S. Brent Plate author of Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World

“A perfect follow-up to Anker's masterful Catching Light. It recognizes that some movies might dazzle, but only a few seek to show that Light which illumines the darkness of our own lives. In this book Anker introduces twenty such movies to his readers. Here is a book for you to use with a group of friends as you watch great movies together.”
— Robert K. Johnston coauthor of Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith

“Of Pilgrims and Fire is an ideal complement to Roy Anker's earlier text, Catching Light — ideal for university classes and adult discussion groups and for general readers who want to sharpen their understanding and appreciation of the religious dimensions of film.”
— John R. May author of Nourishing Faith through Fiction

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802865724
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Roy M. Anker teaches literature and film at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His other books include Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies and the two-volume Self-Help and Popular Religion in American Culture.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Of Pilgrims and Fire 1

A Dozen Tips for Smart Film Viewing 11

I The Gift of Splendor: "All Things Shining" 17

American Beauty 20

The Thin Red Line 30

The Color of Paradise 40

Decalogue I 49

II Wrestling with Angels (and Demons): The Collision of Morality and Belief 61

Crimes and Misdemeanors 63

The Godfather: Part III 74

Wide Awake 84

III The New Life: The Surprise of Love 97

Tender Mercies 100

The Shawshank Redemption 109

Dead Man Walking 120

The Mission 130

The Apostle 141

IV Facsimiles of God: The Whys and Whos of Incarnation 153

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 156

Superman: The Movie 167

Millions 178

V The Feast of Love 189

Places in the Heart 192

Grand Canyon 204

Babette's Feast 216

VI Signs and Wonders 227

Magnolia 229

Heaven 240

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