RS 350: Special Topics- Christianity in Film

Syllabus- Spring 2003

M/F 11:30-12:20 pm
SE 113

W 6:30 pm->
SCI 111


Raymond A. Patterson


JE 148


ex. 2427


Web Page:

Office Hours:



10-11 am
4-5 pm
11-12 pm
and by appointment

Course Description

RS 350: Christianity in Film is an examination of the treatment accorded to the Christian tradition by the film industry. The course will attempt to identify common themes and biases when representing Christianity in film, as well as the unique perspective on the Christian message that only film can bring. The course is divided into three major segments:


Films devoted to Jesus


Films that reflect aspects of the Catholic cosmology, including the themes of martyrdom, mission, the religious life, and the sacraments


Films that reflect aspects of the Protestant cosmology, including charismatic experience, revivalism, apocalyptic expectation, and evangelical Christianity



Required Texts:

Students should have access to a Bible. I’ll be using the New American Bible, but other versions are acceptable. The texts for the class, available at the bookstore, are:

Tautm, W. Barnes. Jesus at the Movies. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1997.


Other readings will be made available on Reserve or through the Internet. Students should search the library catalog for the reserve readings, which are organized by the title of the articles listed under my name. Select the title to see the folder number of the article. Please do not mark the Reserve readings when taking notes.

Class Requirements:

Regular attendance is expected of all students. If a student is unable to attend class, he or she should notify the instructor. More than one absence without the instructor’s permission will negatively impact the final grade. Frequent absences will result in a failing grade.

Students should be on time for class. Arriving late or leaving during the class period can be disruptive for the instructor and other members of the class. Excessive tardiness will be reflected in a lower grade for class attendance.

Students will be evaluated on the following course work:

Mid-term Take-Home Exam


Final Take Home Exam


Two 3 page Film Critiques


Class Participation/Weekly Reflection Papers


Each week the class will be several reflection questions for viewing the film shown on Wednesday night. Each student should turn in their answers to my office (JE 148) by

9 am every Friday. Students should bring their own copy of their answers to class on Friday for the discussion section.

Academic Integrity:

Students are expected to adhere to the Academic Integrity Policy established by St. Michael’s College and distributed to all students.

Class Schedule

(The instructor reserves the right to change the schedule. Students will be notified in class of any changes.)


January 13

Class Requirements

Introduction-Christianity and Film

Theme: Jesus Movies- The Standards

January 15

Film: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Reading: Jesus at the Movies 1-19, 103-115.

January 17


January 20

Theme: Jesus Movies- The Controversial Films

Reading: Jesus at the Movies 161-188.

January 22

Film: Jesus of Montreal

January 24


January 27

Theme: Jesus Movies: The Musicals

Reading: Jesus at the Movies 117-133

January 29

Films: 6:30 pm Godspell
           8:15 pm Jesus Christ Superstar

January 31


February 2

Film: Life of Brian

Celluloid Jesus- The Christ Film Web Pages

Jesus: Real to Reel: Bibliography and Web Resources

February 3

Theme: The Catholic Cosmology

February 5

Film: The Seventh Seal


February 7


Seventh Seal Analysis

February 10

Theme: Martyrdom

February 12

Film: 6:30 pm A Man for All Seasons

NY Times Review

February 13 Film: 7 pm The Passion of Joan of Arc

February 14


Passion of Joan Review

Ebert Review

February 17

Theme: Missions


February 19

Film: The Mission


February 21


The Mission Website

March 3

Theme: Catholic Clergy

March 5

Film: Going My Way

March 7


Take-Home Exam Due

March 9

Film: Mean Streets

March 10

Theme: Religious Life


March 12

Film: Agnes of God


March 14



March 17

Theme: Eucharistic Theology


March 19

Film: Babette’s Feast


March 21



March 24

Theme: The Protestant Cosmology


March 26

Film: Ordet


March 28



March 31

Theme: African-American Experience


April 2

Film: 6:30 Hallelujah!
         8:30 Say Amen, Somebody


April 4



April 7

Theme: Revivalism


April 9

Film: Elmer Gantry


April 11



April 14

Theme: Apocalyptic Expectation

Film Review #2 Due

April 16

Film: The Rapture

Rapture article

April 18

Good Friday

April 21


Easter Monday

April 23

Film: The Apostle

Duval on "The Apostle"

April 25



April 28

Theme: Christian Parody


April 30

Optional Film: Dogma

Take-Home Final Due