Faith in Action: The Value of Transcendence

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Of all the programs I’ve put together for the PRPL Classic Film Series, Cinema of Transcendence was the least popular. Nevertheless, it was the most rewarding one on a personal level. Exploring the role of faith in film was something I always wanted to do, and many who did attend appreciated what we had to offer. From Opening Night with Douglas Fairbanks to our finale last Thursday, this was the best collection of films we’ve ever presented. Even the rarities in the series– films like Gabriel Over the White House and Dante’s Inferno— were of great interest and added a unique dimension to the theme.

Dealing with such themes as redemption, sacrifice, and forgiveness, the films in the series reflected the best of human nature. They showed religion in a positive light. (For instance, the John Stahl version of Magnificent Obsession was more likely to be presented here than the Douglas Sirk one simply because of the sincerity of its message.) This was not a series about cynicism or challenging one’s beliefs. There were no black comedies, scathing indictments, or negative portrayals about religious fanaticism. We certainly see enough of that in the news and in popular culture.

It’s not surprising that church attendance is dropping now when there are so many scandals. No wonder people become disenchanted with those who lead the church as well as frustrated by the policies, which often change with the times. One church in Park Ridge is asking members of its congregation to “donate” exorbitant amounts of money for their renovations. Contrast those expectations with how William Spence went about building his church in One Foot in Heaven. Of course, church leaders in Park Ridge might’ve learned a few things from the likes of a William Spence or a Parson Gray from Stars in My Crown– if they had bothered to attend.

Cinema of Transcendence was our own revival meeting and we hope we revived peoples’ interest in these films if not their faith in a Hereafter. The films showed the value of faith and how it works in the community at large. The principles of Christianity were at work in every film screened even if the characters in the films did not profess to be religious. One great example comes in Stars in My Crown when Alan Hale’s Jed Isbell offers to rebuild Uncle Famous’ farm after it had been destroyed by the Klan-like “Night Riders.” That’s a wonderful moment that shows Christian charity at work, and that’s what this series was all about.

~M.C.H.

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