Faith Goes Pop Round-Up: Was Jaws Jewish?

JawsWas Jaws Jewish?

That’s right, to pop off on this Faith Goes Pop round-up I’ll start with a sighting of an opinion piece from film critic and academic Nathan Abrams of Bangor University who made the claim that the film Jaws, which celebrated its 40th anniversary back in June, was really all about the Jews (see the piece in The Jewish Chronicle HERE).

Not only was it directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfus (both Jewish), but there was substantial Jewish input (from Jewish scuba experts and extras) and inspiration (the shark was nicknamed “Bruce” after Spielberg’s favorite lawyer). More than that, Abrams makes the argument that the triangle-finned protagonist represented the misunderstood and maligned Jew whose representation in the film, “taps into age-old fears of the Jew as predatory, lusting after gentile women and the blood of young Christian children.”

While at times Abrams’ analysis may seem a bit too forced he brings up salient points that seem to show there is some credence to his thesis. At the very least, Abrams forces us to look beyond the sheen of summer blockbusters and popular films to read the subtext. Often, you’ll find faith-filled themes lurking behind some of your favorite flicks.

Who knows, maybe AntMan is about atheists and the establishment or maybe Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation is about Messianic return. At the very least, we often see people read onto films their own religious meanings and themes. Just take a look at the various “movie Bible studies” that seem to be popular at evangelical Christian churches during the summer.

Also, you’ll never see A Clockwork Orange the same again after you know that most of it was a not-so-subtle critique of atheist Stanley Kubrick’s view of religion (specifically Christianity) or the religious intimations at work in Blade Runner or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

*You might also like “Christian television as the new digital cathedrals.” 

The new "Jim Gaffigan Show" kicks off with a religion-themed pilot that is sure to get you laughing...and learning what it means to be Catholic in the U.S. these days.

The new “Jim Gaffigan Show” kicks off with a religion-themed pilot that is sure to get you laughing…and learning what it means to be Catholic in the U.S. these days.

Jim Gaffigan is Catholic & wants to throw a Bible in a trash-bag. Welcome to the 21st-century. 

Lovable comedian & father-figure Jim Gaffigan also made a splash this summer with the premier of his new show “The Jim Gaffigan Show.”

The entire first episode swirls around his juggling act between his “Shi’ite Catholic” wife, his own Catholic faith, popular culture, and mainstream media. And as Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service wrote, “Jokes about somebody’s religious beliefs are often…duds.”

That begs the question – why would the “Hot-Pocket comedian” dive into such a hot topic for his debut episode? Winston asked for my perspective on the show because of the work we are doing here at #FaithGoesPop. Here’s an excerpt from her excellent story:

Ken Chitwood, a scholar who writes about religion and popular culture, said Jim Gaffigan’s comedic inner voice is key to what is new and different about this show in terms of religion — it presents a TV family that is simultaneously sacred and secular, funny and poignant.

“They are not this super holy, sanctimonious family,” Chitwood said. “They kind of hold their Catholicism lightly (in terms of humor). They are able to show Jim as this new kind of Catholic —  he is mainstream, he is funny and he is friends with Chris Rock.”

photo-1Brewtherans, Presbeertyerians, & Episco-PaleAle-ians?

Beer is one of my things. Apparently, I’m not alone. One of the major trends in the U.S. right now (or indeed, the world over) is an artisanal shift toward craft beer production and consumption. Part of this is due to the consumer’s need to feel authentic and local in their constant competition with the international, imitated, and invisible hand of the market. Part of it is also because this beer is damn good. But another part of it is, well, religious.

Many different religious interactions and intersections are part of the craft beer craze going on right now. There are beer hymn sings in the U.K., Oregon, and Colorado, brewery Bible studies, “Theo-pubs,” beer-troversies over religious symbolism, and explicitly religious themed beer production lines. Which brings us to ask — what’s with all this “craft-brewed” religion?

Certainly, there are lots of different angles to take and I’ve taken a few of them. Check out the following to learn more about beer & religion throughout history, about how beer and religion are interacting today, & how I think you can pour beer to the glory of God as a Brewtheran…I mean Lutheran…pastor:

Gospel roller skating and religion on the move

IMG_3449RKHPL on Parallel Bible snapped this image of a “Gospel Roller Skating” rink in Philly. I came to discover that “Gospel roller skating” isn’t all that uncommon as skate-enthusiasts with a hankerin’ for Gospel music can hop, or skate, down to their local rink for a fusion of the two fine arts.

It’s also a perfect example of what David Chidester calls the “haptics of the heart” — the embodied, tactile, and physical tactics of moving that animate religious belief in the U.S. in a modern world. In his formulation, the free movement of roller skating to Gospel music and making known the Messiah through the movement of the body on the floor is a way of freedom of religion amidst a modern world of pressure from all sides. Held, bound, and burdened in place in the past new religious movements are just that — movements — seeking to embody themselves in new physical practices that liberate body and spirit. In this instance, such liberation seems to be achieved through roller-skating across the slick-top and sliding to the soulful rhythms of Gospel music.

More #FaithGoesPop sightings? 

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Next week, I’m back to share my experiences teaching & talking “Faith Goes Pop” with some community college students in Florida.

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