Thursday, July 6, 2006

Left Behind: The Facts Behind the Fiction

News release from RNS July 6, 2006



LeAnn Snow Flesher

“The ‘Battle for the Bible’ continues, largely in a context where fear feeds ignorance. Flesher presents a careful, well-informed comment on dispensationalism in general and “left behind” eschatology in particular. Flesher shows the way in which Scripture is distorted to serve a political ideology that is grounded in fear. Her book is an accessible invitation to find out what the real scoop on the matter is. There is much to unlearn, and Flesher contributes to that task.”
—Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Millions of readers have bought, literally and figuratively, the Left Behind fiction series, co-authored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Although the books are fictional, they are based on a particular understanding of end-times events drawn from the authors’ interpretation of Scripture. These interpretations are not shared by an overwhelming majority of Bible scholars. Here, Flesher casts doubt on both the interpretive foundations and the conclusions that serve as the basis for the popular Left Behind series, and provides alternative understandings–rooted in Scripture–of end-times events.

Flesher outlines how to read the Bible with integrity, offers background to the books of Daniel and Revelation, and examines the literary genres of prophecy and apocalypse. She also discusses the ideology that surfaces in the Left Behind series as it relates to issues such as family values, homosexuality, racism, misogyny/feminism, abortion, terrorism, war, and natural disasters. In two chapters on end-times events, she exposes the abuse of Scripture to support the doctrines of rapture and tribulation in the Left Behind series, then ends witha chapter on reclaiming the message of Revelation for a postmodern world. Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction is must reading for anyone familiar with the Left Behind books.

About the Author
LeAnn Snow Flesher is Professor of Old Testament at American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California, and also serves on the faculty of the Graduate Theological Union. She is the author of the entries on Job and Lamentations, published in the IVP Women's Bible Commentary. Professor Flesher holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Drew University.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Who Is My Neighbor? Film Retreat

National Film Retreat 2006


      We hosted the 7th annual National Film Retreat this past weekend at our Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City June 30 – July 2. The theme of the retreat was “Who is My Neighbor?” and we screened Crash, The End of the Spear, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, The Station Agent, and The Mighty. After each film we had refreshments (coffee and cake during the day; wine and cheese at night) and then a very insightful and fruitful sharing on each film.  


(A group photo....)



This year’s retreat was framed by Marjorie Suchocki’s ‘9 Hints for Watching a Film Theologically’Marjorie Suchocki is professor emerita of theology at Claremont School of Theology and director of the Whitehead International Film Festival. Her framework of inquiry guided us to find seeds of the Gospel in the films we watched. (Marjorie has been a member of the ecumenical jury at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004 and will serve again in 2007.)


(At lunch in our patio outside our book store)


32 people from eight states, including Wyoming, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, and Georgia attended the weekend retreat. Most participants, however, were from Southern California including Irvine, El Cajon, and San Diego. More than 200 people have made the retreat since 2000, and some folks have come 2, 3, even 4 times. It's wonderful when people come again, because a kind of community is formed.


Among the group were catechists, a member of NACMP (National Association for Catechetical Media Professionals), screenwriters, two Catholic high school teachers, a college film instructor, an actor, a filmmaker, two priests, a college student, a grad student in theology, and a diocesan young adult minister.


The first National Film Retreat was held in the Camden, NJ diocese in 2000 and was the brainchild of Camden priest Father Michael Mannion and Frank Frost who identified the desire of many film lovers to gather, talk about, and pray the movies in a retreat setting. Since then retreats have been held at the St. Thecla Retreat House in Billerica, MA, Marymount University in Arlington, VA, the Center for Spiritual Development in Orange, CA, St. Leo’s University in Florida, St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, PA, and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


(At Mass)


We all want to thank our sponsors of the retreat that include the Sisters of my own community, the Daughters of St. Paul, Paulist Productions, Open Call, Catholics in Media Associates, Deeper Dimensions, and the Academy for Communication Arts Professionals. This assistance is invaluable to the continuation of the retreat.


One retreatant said that she thought the retreat’s theme: ‘Who is My Neighbor’ is timely because of “today’s ongoing debate about immigration laws. The films addressed this question in challenging ways for believers.” “And I appreciated the opportunity to encounter God,” said Carmen Svensrud of Torrance, “through the art form of contemporary films and to see them from the different perspectives of other people at the retreat.”



(Going to dinner at the Chinese restaurant across the street on Saturday evening)


For more information about this year’s retreat and for the 2007 retreat (that information willbe posted around January 1st), visit



(One of our conversations after a film)


Writing our personal prayers of integration at the end of the retreat....



Nine Questions for Watching a Film Theologically

By Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

 1)        What issues does the filmmaker select for emphasis?

 2)        How does the film frame the problematic aspects of human existence?

3)         How does the film resonate with typical religious ways of framing the problematic aspect of human existence?

4)         Does the film offer new insight into this problematic?

 5)        What kind of resolution does the film suggest?

6)         How does the film handle ambiguity?

7)         How does the resolution within the film compare with your religiousunderstanding concerning resolution?  What is the role of ambiguity for you?

8)         Is there an implicit or explicit spirituality within the film? If so, how is it expressed?

9)         Does the film challenge, contradict, or enlarge your views of the issues it presents?



The Claremont School of Theology E-Journal of 1-06

[From Creative Transformation (Fall 2004), a quarterly journal of process-themed essays, liturgies, and reflections.  Published by Process and Faith, The Center for Process Studies.]


(Sr. Rose caught munching a fortune cookie on the way back from dinner on Saturday evening!)