THEOREL 101G The Bible in Popular Culture

THEOREL 101G | Open | Semester Two 2021 | City Campus | 15 points


Why is Jesus always played by white actors in Jesus movies? Why is the Bible so popular in contemporary advertising? Who is the new messiah – Harry Potter or LeBron James? Does Beyonce think she's the Virgin Mary? Why are filmmakers so obsessed with the end of the world? What do Winston Peters and Donald Trump know about the Bible? And why should we care?

This course introduces you to the various ways that biblical themes, images and characters have an enduring presence and influence within contemporary popular culture. By learning to analyse religious and biblical references found in music, film, TV, art, advertising and the media, you will discover that, even in today’s increasingly secular world, the Bible continues to both influence and be influenced by our cultural, political, and religious landscapes.

Some of the cultural texts we'll be studying will include:

  • Movies such as Samson and Delilah, The Passion of the Christ, and Harry Potter;
  • Political figures, from Greta Thunberg and #BlackLivesMatter to Winston Peters and Donald Trump;
  • Social media sites, including popular blogs, vlogs, Twitter, and FB;
  • Musicians and celebrities such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Stormzy; 
  • TV shows such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Lucifer;
  • Visual arts and advertising images that depict biblical themes and characters.

The class will interest you regardless of your knowledge of the Bible. Any student can study the Bible whether they are of the Jewish or Christian faith, another faith, or of no religious faith at all. The Bible is explored as a cultural text in this course and all we require from students is a desire to learn more about the cultural significance and influence of the Bible in contemporary society, both national and global. 

Learning Outcomes

After finishing the course, you should:

  • Be familiar with the basic theories of analysing popular culture and be able to apply these to cultural texts, including those encountered in class.
  • Be able to explain how the Bible influences popular culture and how popular culture influences interpretations of the biblical texts.
  • Be familiar with the ways in which the Bible functions as a cultural resource (or "prop") in a wide variety of contemporary contexts and cultures, including political debates, social media engagement, and social discourses of gender, sexuality, race and class.
  • Be able to identify some significant Biblical themes and characters as they appear in popular culture texts, including film, music, art, advertising and television.
  • Demonstrate the ability to research and write a short, well-written essay on a theme from the course that captures your imagination.

Student Feedback

'The lecturer’s passion and approach to the material were beyond inspiring and really helped me grasp the information… This should be taken by every student.'

'I loved this paper and would thoroughly recommend it. It has made me want to take THEOREL as a minor in my BA. My expectations were high but this paper surpassed all of them. A great lecturer who presented fascinating course material in an interesting way.'

'One of the most enthusiastic and approachable lecturers I’ve ever had. It was always very clear what we’d be learning about and what was expected of us – this was very valuable.'

'As someone who’s (almost) never picked up a Bible, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this course… This will definitely be helpful for my degree.'

'This course was amazing! I loved it! It was so thought-provoking, enjoyable, and an interesting experience.'

'This was the best course I have ever done, and if I wasn’t in my last semester I would definitely have switched to a THEOREL major.'

'This was an excellent General Education course that I would highly recommend.'

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