Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film [NOOK Book]

Overview

How should Christians relate to the difficult and contradictory messages of modern movies? In Useless Beauty, Robert K. Johnston presents the bold position that films can be our "eyeglasses and hearing aids" in understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes. Taking up movies such as American Beauty, Magnolia, and About Schmidt, he addresses such biblical issues as life and death, chance and choice, loneliness and connection, and God's presence and ...
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Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film

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Overview

How should Christians relate to the difficult and contradictory messages of modern movies? In Useless Beauty, Robert K. Johnston presents the bold position that films can be our "eyeglasses and hearing aids" in understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes. Taking up movies such as American Beauty, Magnolia, and About Schmidt, he addresses such biblical issues as life and death, chance and choice, loneliness and connection, and God's presence and absence to deepen our understanding of life's beauty amid its confusion and pain.

Christian filmgoers, pastors, and youth leaders will find Johnston's book a valuable source of insight into the relationship between Christianity and popular culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing the title from a line in an Elvis Costello song about "all this useless beauty," Johnston, Fuller Seminary professor of theology and culture, invites us to consider connections between biblical wisdom literature and film. In particular, he compares Ecclesiastes with films such as American Beauty, Magnolia, About Schmidt and Signs. "Useless beauty" refers to the paradox described in Ecclesiastes (and in many of the selected films) of beauty in the midst of a life filled with vanity, futility and absurdity. Although the title promotes Ecclesiastes through the lens of film, it is really a treatment of film through the lens of Ecclesiastes, as Johnston intersperses key biblical passages in italics next to his rendition of film plots and characters showing us the dynamic analogies. Johnston's hope is that this will create a "two-way dialogue" that starts with the film but moves back and forth between the film and scripture. Narrowing in on Ecclesiastes-a book embraced by many different religious traditions-exposes Johnston to a wide audience, one that includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and even New Age hybrids. That's good for everyone, because Johnston's forte is helping us think more deeply about how God is revealed in popular culture, so that our notion of God is expanded even beyond our traditional understandings. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441206510
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2004
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,155,534
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Robert K. Johnston (Ph.D., Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of over twelve books, including Reel Spirituality and Finding God in the Movies. He served as dean at North Park Theological Seminary for eleven years and is currently president of the American Theological Society.
Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he has taught for over twenty years. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural Exegesis series and is the author or coauthor of several books, including Reel Spirituality, Reframing Theology and Film, and Finding God in the Movies.
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Table of Contents

1 A battered optimism : Ecclesiastes and our contemporary context 17
2 The existentialist alternative : Akira Kurosawa and Woody Allen 35
3 Death and life : Alan Ball and American beauty 57
4 The saddest happy ending : Paul Thomas Anderson and Magnolia 73
5 Chance and fate : Tom Tykwer and Run Lola run 93
6 An ambiguous joy : Marc Forster and Monster's ball 113
7 Can God be in this? : M. Night Shyamalan and Signs 127
8 Confessions of a workaholic : Alexander Payne, Election, and About Schmidt 147
9 Humanity at full stretch : let the "preacher" respond 169
App. A Ecclesiastes' history of interpretation 179
App. B Christian film criticism 183
App. C Biblical criticism and Useless beauty 187
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