Craig Detweiler Finds Faith in Film

The co-author of A Matrix of Meanings talks about spirituality on screen.

Craig Detweiler is uniquely equipped to examine the intersections of faith and culture. He's a screenwriter with a filmmaking degree. He also has a degree from Fuller Seminary as a follower of Jesus. He's taught at the LA Film Studies Center, is now Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Biola University. He's co-author with Barry Taylor of a provocative new book, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Popular Culture.

What was the point at which you began to see these faith and film intersect?

I would say it was the moving Raging Bull. I saw it as a senior in high school. Martin Scorcese directing from a Paul Schrader script, and it was an ugly, tough, brutal film. It had two hours of boxer Jake LaMotta pounding his head literally against the wall. I have to tell you as a senior in high school, playing football, I actually related to all that aggression and frustration. At the end of the movie, after two hours of all this pain and suffering, the screen fades to black and something comes on the screen, and it says, "All I know is this: Once I was blind, but now I can see."

And I thought, boy, I understand blindness. I'm not sure what sight is. In a sense, the movie Raging Bull catapulted me on a serious search to learn to see, ultimately finding Jesus at the end of that journey.

I also studied a Master's of Divinity degree at Fuller, which is a full background in Bible, in church history and theology, and I really loved the depth of the understanding that I got about the kingdom of God and who Jesus was and who Jesus is and what does it mean to be followers of God in a community of faith. But it was a class on Christianity and pop culture that actually catapulted me to film school.

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