A few years ago, I was lecturing on John's "Revelation" in a New Testament course when a student approached me after class with a question. He wanted to know if I had seen the movie The Seventh Sign and if it was based on the Christian Apocalypse. Unaware that Demi Moore had just appeared in a movie by that title, I assumed the student was referring to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and answered him accordingly. He quickly corrected me and challenged me to see The Seventh Sign. I watched the movie soon after that, and although it was not the greatest film I had seen, I used it as a basis for class discussion. The student response was phenomenal. Most had seen the movie and were eager to participate in class discussion. The resulting enthusiasm and "common ground" of material energized our class work on apocalypticism for several class periods.

From the success of that experiment, I reevaluated my teaching and course materials and decided to explore using films in my religion classes. This seemed to be a logical extension of my teaching since my training is in religion and culture and religion and literature. I quickly discovered, however, that skills in literary analysis do not necessarily translate to or correlate with film analysis, and I began to retrain myself in the methods of film studies in order to incorporate films in my classes. My learning resulted in Screening the Sacred, a volume of essays on religion and popular American films I co-edited with my colleague, Joel Martin. Meanwhile, I was discovering more and more how films can serve as powerful tools in the classroom.