Material success and prosperity are the aspirational goal for many Americans. The myth of meritocracy embedded in this national ethos has made this dream a civil religion. In Profane Parables: Film and the American Dream
(Baylor University Press
, 2016), Matthew S. Rindge
, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University, explores critiques of this vision of contemporary America in popular cinema. Through a close investigation of the films Fight Club
(1999), American Beauty
(1999), and About Schmidt
(2002) Rindge dissects constructions of the relationship between national success and the accompanying denial of death. Myth has long been a central motif in the study of religion so he frames film as parables that dismantle orthodox myths. Putting these films in conversation with biblical texts Rindge demonstrates how cinema can be situated as both myth-maker and myth deconstruction. In our conversation we discussed the prosperity gospel of American nationalism, creating a meaningful life, the denial of human fragility, biblical laments, and the field of religion and film.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab
(Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled
The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes
Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and
New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.