How to Be in the World, Not of It: The Rhetoric of Place, Time, and Subjectivity in Independent Christian Cinema

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Kendall R. Phillips


affect, christian, christian cinema, film rhetoric, religious right

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis project explores three prominent films developed as part of the Christian independent film industry between 1970 and 2014. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s work in affect theory, I identify how certain films resonated with the U.S. Evangelical subculture during times of cultural shift and, thus, strengthened affective orientations among members of the Evangelical community who consumed them. Released in 1970, The Cross and the Switchblade strengthens fears of urban decay to encourage evangelism and social reform in a conservative response to the Civil Rights movement and the perception of rising urban crime. At the turn of the century, The Omega Code (1999) assured Christians that though the Religious Right was failing, true Christians would always succeed in the end if they trusted in God’s divine timeline. Finally, God’s Not Dead (2014) validated feelings of Christian persecution and a need to unite Christians under a single totalizing identity. Throughout the thesis, I consistently return to the phrase, “in the world, not of the world,” arguing that the affective and rhetorical arguments in each of these films offer a different interpretation of the edict within their specific historical context.

Keywords: Christian Cinema, Affect, Film, Religion


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