Cinema meets synagogue, redefining entertainment and understanding storytelling. Help publish the book with online examples & support!
Do you like movies? Love stories? Are you a filmmaker? Storyteller? Deep thinker? Spiritual seeker? Cinemagogue is definitely for you. If you're just a casual consumer who thinks entertainment is for diversion, Cinemagogue may change your life.
What began over a decade ago as “film and theology” events in Seattle grew into the Cinemagogue website with examinations of current and classic film, television and more, challenging assumptions about how and why we interact with entertainment: understanding the shared story in which we all play a part, connecting human creativity with the impulse of our Creator, and exploring the relationship between images and imaging God.
Illuminating film through the lens of faith.
Your support in this project will take Cinemagogue to the next level with an introductory book and a catalog of examples, including:
- Finalized book editing, formatting, layout and design
- Print & eBook: Cinemagogue: reclaiming entertainment & navigating narrative for the myths & metaphors they were meant to be
- At least 100 practical examples you'll help choose to illustrate basics of the book, examples to foster dialogue and discussion.
Depending on funding level achieved, it could also include:
- Double the number of examples provided in various genres for more helpful illustrations that include your favorite films and stories.
- Production of four, 5-minute videos that quickly address important highlights of the key chapters of the book (to interest and engage non-readers and the YouTube set).
As chief contributor I've been able to inspire and instruct viewers, filmmakers, pastors and leaders, traveling to speak at churches, schools, conferences and institutions. I’ve been blessed to lecture and preach for over a decade, contribute written and video content for The Resurgence, publish articles for Collide Magazine. (check out the links for style, content and teaching).
$15,000 - PRIMARY GOAL: Publish the Book with 100 examples putting premise and principles into action.
Primary Goal funds publishing the Cinemagogue book as well as creating and cataloging 100 new, supplemental examinations of stories accessible online (new and classic stories fleshing out the fundamentals illustrated in the book).
$25,000 - Stretch Goal: Double down, with video
Our rewards (right) allow you to select films of your choice for review. If funding and requests reach this level we'll double the number of examples and have 200 fresh examinations of film illustrating the principles of the book.
Let's be honest: some people don't read unless forced... or intrigued. This stretch goal will also trigger production of a short video series, overviews of the chapters addressing common concerns or objections: something to send friends and intrigue them to read the book or consider the ideas with you, creating a lower "bar of entry" for non-readers and the YouTube set.
About the Book
Peppered with movie quotes and metaphors from popular films and cult classics, we take the reader on a journey through the incredible changes film and other forms of storytelling have had on culture in the last century and the importance of understanding entertainment. Instead of an overly-academic offering on film and faith, the book weaves a silly-but-serious narrative from the author's own pop culture saturated life to the Greatest Story Ever Told: from Superman to Citizen Kane, Bertrand Russell to John Frame, Kurt Vonnegut to the apostle Paul, Jesus to Yoda.
“There is no such thing as chance; and what to us seems merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny.” – Freidrich von Schiller, Wallenstein
“Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.” – Optimus Prime, Transformers
Next, we look at classic notions of story structure, similarity, and “monomyth”, the hero’s journey and universally shared themes in both popular and classic tales, how they measure up against the meganarrative of the Bible. From there, we show readers how to begin with any film or story, to pull back the trappings and see the core of shared creativity and inherent worldview from which conversation can spring.
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
After a dozen examples of popular film in chapter five (with example questions for reflection and discussion) the back half of the book deals with common questions and objections in dealing with genre and content, challenging stereotypes and conservative assumptions about the use of horror, magic, violence, language, and sexuality in films that is sure to be provocative and controversial. Traditional objections can often be trumped by incredible opportunities for those brave enough to overcome fear and wade into the stream of culture secure in their faith.
“Get in there, you furry oaf. I don’t care what you smell!”
– Han Solo,Star Wars
The book culminates with a call to those who consider themselves spiritual and religious: to get their heads out of the sand, realizing and utilizing the power of popular narrative. It includes a final appeal to story lovers and storytellers... to consider where that impulse comes from, creating images as image-bearers of the Master Storyteller.
You can read the prologue to the book and part of chapter one: just right click and download the PDF.
Alright, you've read the book: maybe it rewrites or revitalizes your approach to entertainment, filling your head with new ideas... NOW what? For all it's value, a book is limited. New ideas must be supplemented and cemented with practice and conversation, and the best place to start is with the stories you already know and repetition. This is the testing ground where transformed attitudes become active. Putting them all in the book would create a tome surpassing 1,000 pages. Our goal is to keep the book accessibly sized and let you choose from the other stories to explore from a resource online.
Cinemagogue.com has already examined and catalogued more than 125 films comprising several hundred posts using audio, video and written content, podcasts of live lectures and more. There are also instructional videos like our Film and Theology 101 series to help people understand storytelling, image-bearing, redeeming their entertainment time and how to pull out a story's root message. The goal of this project is that, with a book on basics, we also provide sufficient examples to cover classic and new stories: samplings from each era of film addressing drama, action, horror, science fiction, romantic comedy and more that meets everyone where they already live and breath the stories of our cinema culture. The additional 100 built into our primary goal will allow for a modest spread covering genre and generation, while our stretch goal will help more fully address these areas. See the rewards: your support even allows you to select the films.
Feedback from readers and listeners is what inspired us to launch this initiative:
“I grew up in Longview Washington and am currently in Afghanistan with the US Air Force. I recently stumbled across your (content)… Thoughtful, blessed, right on target.”
“Your talk was one of the final confirmations of our move to Los Angeles to re-engage the film business by getting upstream in culture and trying to influence from the top down. Worked as an assistant on a TV series for a year, and now I’m working at a digital marketing agency that does a ton of film/TV work, as well as writing/producing my own projects.”
“…opened my eyes to examine what I watch even closer. I have my favorite movies, but now I’ve been asking myself, “why are they my favorite?” Some I had immediate answers to and others I had to think for a while.”
“I am South African, but I am a Junior film and Television student at Savannah College of Art & Design, and your interpretations of film have helped formed the kind of filmmaker I am becoming.”
“…I grew up on television in the 80s and can relate to the context you grew up in…. I thank God for you and your ability to glorify him in everything, no matter what – even cinema.”
(Cinemagogue) “…really convicted me in both the movie and gaming arena to analyze what I am watching/playing and why. I had almost zero discernment before stumbling onto your series…”
"You actually see how the artist's worldview really comes through."
Instead of a rebuking or condemning approach, Cinemagogue seeks to inspire communities, to have them consider the greater joy and fun to be had when these ideas of engagement with modern media are entertained and practiced. The tone is designed to equip those who love the "Greatest Story Ever Told" as well as encourage those who don't to consider that there might be something more. Still want to know more? Check out the CinemABOUT page on our website. Thanks in advance for partnering with us, and remember:
"Watch to Glorify, Create to Magnify"
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
You'll be listed on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website. James will also think of you every time B-movie actor Bruce Campbell says "Gimme some sugar, baby".Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
A CINEMAGOGUE T-shirt, as well as listing on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website. James will also imagine you're in those endless credits at the end of The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
A SIGNED copy of the book "CINEMAGOGUE: reclaiming entertainment and navigating narrative for the myths and metaphors they were meant to be" with tender loving care and mostly legible handwriting by the author. Customized movie quote optional. Also, you'll be listed on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
A written Cinemagogue review of your favorite film (or film of your choice) by James Harleman. Also, a signed copy of the book (with optional movie quote), and listing on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website as well as a listing in the CREDITS of the book.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $750 or moreYou selected
A Cinemagogue Video review of your favorite film (or film of your choice) by James Harleman featuring your picture and maybe a loving, sarcastic quip or two. (Basically James will make fun of you, now THERE's incentive!) Also, a signed copy of the book, and listing on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website as well as a listing in the CREDITS of the book.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
James will come and speak at your very own Film & Theology event. This can be at your house, your MOM's house, your church, your community center, etc. You just need to host it and he will be there and speak on the film in question. Audio will be recorded and it will be posted on the website includng an interview with the host (you!) (Note: you'll just need to figure out and fund getting him there if it's more than an hour drive from Seattle). Also, a signed copy of the book, and listing on our SUPPORTER page "Cinemaphiles" on the website as well as a listing in the CREDITS of the book.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $10,000 or moreYou selected
In addition to previous rewards, James will be SPEECHLESS for 24 hours. (NOTE: that has never happened before and will likely never happen again.) After that, he would very much like to take you to dinner and a movie.Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)