Godly Heretics

Essays on Alternative Christianity in Literature and Popular Culture


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About the Book

When computers freeze, they are “rebooted” and soon working properly again. Similarly, legendary thinkers throughout history have argued that Christianity should start fresh by recapturing the humanitarian spirit of Jesus’ original message. These include such disparate individuals as Thomas Jefferson, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, and the religious leaders of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Surprisingly enough, even classic television shows and films meant to be entertaining—Lost, Battlestar Galactica, It’s a Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day, Decalogue, and A Charlie Brown Christmas—are attempts to apply the basic principles of Christianity to modern times. This book offers new essays by scholars of literature, film, history, theology and philosophy examining how various thinkers and storytellers over time have conceived of a reinvented Christianity. In confronting this controversial idea, this book examines how unorthodox interpretations of the Bible can be some of the most valid, how visions of Jesus as a revolutionary may be the most historically sound, and how compassionate Christians such as Origen have wrestled with the eternal questions of the existence of evil, the gift of free will and the promise of universal salvation.

About the Author(s)

Marc DiPaolo is an assistant professor of English at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He has written books on Jane Austen and on environmentalist science fiction and fantasy. DiPaolo has been interviewed on NPR, BBC4, and appeared in the AMC documentary Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Marc DiPaolo
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 276
Bibliographic Info: 15 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6780-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0240-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Introduction: Authentic vs. Imperialist Christianity in Literature and Film 1

Part I. Rewritten Bibles, Alternative Christs
Revolution by Other Means: Jefferson, the Jefferson Bible, and Jesus (Tim H. Blessing) 25
Portraying Jesus as Human: The Last Temptation of Christ  (Katherine Brown Downey) 43
Nietzsche and Tolstoy on Authentic Christianity (Marc Lucht) 62
Amnesty for the Devil (Gerald S. Vigna) 79
Lamb Unslain: Nonhuman Animals and Shelley’s Panentheism (Ruth Vanita) 98
Shaw’s Subversion of Biblical Language  (Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín) 114
Song of Myself: Teaching Whitman’s New Bible Today  (Tracy Floreani) 133

Part II. Angels and Demons Among Us: The Politics and Economics of Heaven and Hell in Popular Culture
The Gospel According to Comic Strips: On Peanuts and The Far Side  (Eric Michael Mazur) 143
Religious Discourse in Lost and Battlestar Galactica (Val Nolan) 162
The Radical Theology of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue (Matthew Yde) 180
Fanaticism and Familicide from Wieland to The Shining (Dara Downey) 199
From Bedford Falls to Punxsutawney: Refashioning A Christmas Carol (Grace Moore) 221
Reclaiming the Relation of Religion, Politics, and Economics (Joerg Rieger) 239

About the Contributors 255
Index 259

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “The breadth and depth of learning on display in this book is outstanding, and DiPaolo deserves critical plaudits for a job well done. This book is highly recommended”—Religious Studies Review
  • “In an age of violent fundamentalism, in which certainty breeds so much hatred, it is good to be reminded of the continuing challenge posed by the figure of Jesus. Godly Heretics makes us realize how frequently those who claim to speak on behalf of Jesus are really engaged in preserving their own power and wealth, and denying access to his living message.”—Laurence Coupe, author of Myth