Sanctuary Cinema: Origins of the Christian Film Industry

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NYU Press, Feb 12, 2007 - Performing Arts - 303 pages

Winner of the Religious Communication Association Book of the Year Award for 2008

Sanctuary Cinema provides the first history of the origins of the Christian film industry. Focusing on the early days of film during the silent era, it traces the ways in which the Church came to adopt film making as a way of conveying the Christian message to adherents. Surprisingly, rather than separating themselves from Hollywood or the American entertainment culture, early Christian film makers embraced Hollywood cinematic techniques and often populated their films with attractive actors and actresses. But they communicated their sectarian message effectively to believers, and helped to shape subsequent understandings of the Gospel message, which had historically been almost exclusively verbal, not communicated through visual media.

Despite early successes in attracting new adherents with the lure of the film, the early Christian film industry ultimately failed, in large part due to growing fears that film would corrupt the church by substituting an American “civil religion” in place of solid Christian values and amidst continuing Christian unease about the potential for the glorification of images to revert to idolatry. While radio eclipsed the motion picture as the Christian communication media of choice by the 1920, the early film makers had laid the foundations for the current re-emergence of Christian film and entertainment, from Veggie Tales to The Passion of the Christ.


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Page 16 - Th' infernal Serpent ; he it was, whose guile, Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived The mother of mankind...
Page 20 - Putnam wrote the editor of a prominent magazine: The performance of this play in New York by living actors and actresses was prohibited by the conscientious sentiment of the people, the influence of the press and the action of the authorities. But to the rendition of it by these pictures there can be no objection. One might as well object to the illustrations of Dore and other artists in the large quarto Bibles. Intensely realistic they are, and it is this feature which gives them truthfulness and...
Page 18 - You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Page 32 - For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring 'the Hellenic mind', as the law, the Hebrews, 'to Christ'.
Page 3 - What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from 'the porch of Solomon,' who had himself taught that 'the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.
Page 26 - Bonaventure (f/.1274) is representative of the contemporary outlook: 1. lImagesl were made for the simplicity of the ignorant, so that the uneducated who are unable to read scripture can, through statues and paintings of this kind, read about the sacraments of our faith in, as it were, more open scriptures. 2, They were introduced because of the sluggishness of the affections, so that men who are not aroused to devotion when they hear with the ear about those things which Christ has done for us,...

About the author (2007)

Terry Lindvall is C. S. Lewis Chair of Communication and Christian Thought at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. Previously he taught at Duke University's Divinity School and was the Walter Mason Fellow of Religious Studies at The College of William and Mary. He is the former president of Regent University, where he was professor of film and communication and the arts and held the Distinguished Chair of Visual Communication. He is the author of Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis; The Mother of All Laughter: Sarah and the Genesis of Comedy; and The Silents of God: Selected Issues and Documents in Silent American Film and Religion, 1908-1926, among other works.

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