This book explicates how many films intersect black suffering and God-talk in ways that instantiate secular limitations to divine efficacy. The book’s concept of a modern God introduces a new method of analysis that reimagines theodical discourses as mechanisms of modern identities and filmmakers as skillful exegetes who recalibrate divine attributes to the sensemaking cadences of their contemporaries. Shayne Lee demonstrates how cinematic theodicy navigates a happy medium between affirming divine benevolence and sidelining supernatural activity and that filmic characters, like their real-world counterparts, are quite clever at triangulating rationality, faith, and tragedy. In addition to positing synergistic links between theodicy and secularity, Lee offers critical insights into cinema’s relevance to the sociology of evil by specifying how films code and narrate malevolent actions and outcomes, demarcate clear lines of distinction between victims and perpetrators, clarify societal dynamics driving inequality and oppression, and transform individual episodes of suffering into collective and memorialized identities of trauma. This book illuminates how filmic treatments of theodicy construct evil and suffering in calculated ways that connect specific acts, effects, and institutions to greater structures of meaning.
Shayne Lee is associate professor of sociology at the University of Houston.
Chapter 1. Theodical Secularity
Chapter 2. Tactical Deists: Black Liberation Theology and Cinema
Chapter 3. Cinema and American Slavery
Chapter 4. Ousmane Sembène: Toward a New and Modern Africa
Chapter 5. Contemporary African-American Films
Epilogue. Africa: The New Cinematic Holocaust
About the Author
Packed with astute readings -- of films, of the Black experience, and of scholarship on modern religion -- this book challenges us to see the way cinema has been a creative arena of reflection on how a 'sidelined' divine sovereign can be both present and absent in Black suffering. This is a critical contribution to how we think about the presence of spiritual realities in everyday life.