Profane Parables: Film and the American Dream

By Matthew S. Rindge

Religion & spirituality, General non-fiction | Hardback


The sacred ethos of the American Dream has become a central pillar of American religion. The belief that meaning is fashioned from a mixture of family, friends, a stable career, and financial security permeates American culture. Profane Parables examines three films that assault this venerated American myth. Fight Club (1999), American Beauty (1999), and About Schmidt (2002) indict the American Dream as a meaningless enterprise that is existentially, ethically, and aesthetically bankrupt. In their blistering critique of the hallowed wisdom of the American Dream, these films function like Jesus' parables. As narratives of disorientation, Jesus' parables upend conventional and cherished worldviews. Rindge illustrates the religious function of these films as parables of subversion that provoke rather than comfort and disturb rather than stabilize. Ultimately, Rindge considers how these parabolic films operate as sacred texts in their own right.


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The sacred ethos of the American Dream has become a central pillar of American religion. The belief that meaning is fashioned from a mixture of family, friends, a stable career, and financial security permeates American culture. Profane Parables examines three films that assault this venerated American myth. Fight Club (1999), American Beauty (1999), and About Schmidt (2002) indict the American Dream as a meaningless enterprise that is existentially, ethically, and aesthetically bankrupt. In their blistering critique of the hallowed wisdom of the American Dream, these films function like Jesus' parables. As narratives of disorientation, Jesus' parables upend conventional and cherished worldviews. Rindge illustrates the religious function of these films as parables of subversion that pro...


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Matthew S. Rindge is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University where he teaches courses on Religion and Film. Dr. Rindge is the author of Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-34 among Ancient Conversations on Death and Possessions (SBL's Early Christianity and Its Literature series, 2011). He has published scholarly articles on diverse topics (Death and Possessions in Ecclesiastes; Jewish Identity; Mark's Gospel, Social Outcasts, and Modern Slavery; Teaching the Bible and Film; Luke's Artistic Parables) in various academic journals. He has also written for public outlets such as The Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion News Service, and The Washington Post. In the Society of Biblical Literature, he chairs the Bible and Film section and serves on the steering committee for the Bible and Popular Culture section. In 2011, Dr. Rindge was honored to receive the Paul J. Achtemeier Award in New Testament Scholarship, and in 2012 he received a Gonzaga University Exemplary Faculty award.


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Matthew S. Rindge is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University where he teaches courses on Religion and Film. Dr. Rindge is the author of Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-34 among Ancient Conversations on Death and Possessions (SBL's Early Christianity and Its Literature series, 2011). He has published scholarly articles on diverse topics (Death and Possessi...


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