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Selling Salvation

Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2005

Looking at the use of film in the promotion of religion and morality, from the BBC/OU's series Nation on Film.

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Benny Hinn, TV Evangelist Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

For over a quarter of a century from the end of the Second World War, the Church battled with what it believed was a tide of immorality sweeping the nation. One weapon they used in the battle to save the British soul was film. Selling Salvation looks at the successes and failures of a cross-section of films produced during the 50s and 60s. We explore films which attempted to offer salvation by admonishing the evils of a permissive society. Some, as with examples from the Methodist movement, tried promoting virtuous Christian values; others tackled the immorality head-on, as with the Mothers’ Union film containing extraordinary scenes of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Set in context of ever-shifting cultural values and shocks, the programme asks what prompted the religious organisations concerned to respond to an increasingly uninterested public with such striking visual methods. We look at how alternative spiritual groups turned to film as a way of recruiting congregations; and we learn how a home-grown Pastor of a faith-healing church from Manchester filmed unsettling supernatural events in his services. In the slums of Leeds we see the results of a Christian film-maker who recorded the squalor as part of an attempt to raise the profile of a local welfare church.

The programme also looks at the arrival of American evangelism and how Billy Graham used film to promote this new style of Christianity. The films were unashamedly aimed at winning back congregations and an attempt to stem the tide of perceived immorality.

 

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