The TGC curriculum delves into many ideas, topics, and issues. The catalyst for these mind shaping discussions are the important books and films studied by the seminar groups. Though the list is subject to change, here are a few that have been on the curriculum in the past.
Silence, by Shusako Endo (Taplinger Publishing Co.)
Christianity first came to Japan in 1549 through the work of Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier. Within 60 years, there were more than 300,000 Japanese Christians. When the government outlawed Christianity in 1614, Christians were severely tortured and forced to apostatize by trampling on a fumie, an image of Christ. Many thousands were martyred. The novel raises complex questions of Christian belief and apostasy, strength of character, and the difficulties of "translating" European Christianity in a non-Western culture.
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok (Fawcett)
Many of the central themes of The Great Conversation feature prominently in The Chosen. These include worldview, character, vocation, faith communities, faith and learning, and dealing with differences and disagreement. This novel provides a useful springboard for introducing these themes.
A Rational Case For the Christian Faith: Mere Christianity, by C.S.Lewis (MacMillan)
C. S. Lewis is widely known as a writer of children's stories, science fiction, and Christian apologetics. Many with intellectual objections to Christianity have come to faith through reading his book, Mere Christianity. Books I and II of Mere Christianity develop a rational argument for the Christian faith and constitute the core of Lewis's apologetic writings. In addition to Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity discusses Christian ethics, and does so by introducing the traditional ideas of virtue and vice.
Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott (Anchor)
In sharp contrast with Lewis's formal and rational account of the Christian faith, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott illustrates a number of themes in vocation and a Christian world view. Lamott writes honestly and openly about her failings and her difficult path to Christ.
Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi (Random House)
This book shows the power of study in the liberal arts, particularly in literature and the fear of such study by people who fear free speech and thinking. As a book about devout and secular Muslims reading books written by western writers, the book gives us a chance to ask, "what benefits are there for a Christian student to understand other cultures, literature, and belief? As Christians, we hope to sift and winnow to retain the truth we find, wherever we find it.
Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton (Scribner)
Cry, The Beloved Country is a deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people driven by racial injustice.
Deep River, by Shusako Endo (New Directions)
Deep River builds on Silence. Endo continues his challenge to readers with the complex questions raised as a result of the introduction of European Christianity in a non-Western culture, affirming the Christian God as a God of Mystery. In Deep River, we are introduced to several Japanese characters whose lives intersect on a trip to India, converging on the banks of the Ganges River. Endo brings his Christ figure, Ostu, right into the middle of a literary interfaith dialogue between Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Endo asserts that Christ is quietly present in the sufferings of the contemporary world, even within non-Christian cultures. We are presented with the complex question: What is the nature of Christian service in a real world of religious pluralism?
Dead Man Walking, directed by Tom Robbins
Belief demands action. Embodying Christ in the world can be (should be) controversial, complicated, and maybe painful. This film provides an opportunity to reflect and articulate not only what Christians believe and what that looks like in the world, but also how a Christian can and should engage thoughtfully and virtuously with the world in particularly difficult circumstances. It's a challenging look at vocation in general (love) and specific (occupation) ways.
The Apostle, directed by Robert Duvall (MCA)
How do the three elements of Christianity, character, and culture affect each other? This film presents one picture in response to the question, "What does Christianity look like lived out (in a particular life and a particular subculture)?" It's a story about a man with a flawed character and an inescapable calling. The film is included here to provoke discussion about assumed values and processes in a Christian worldview, and to expose viewers to a particular cultural Christianity.
Hotel Rwanda, directed by Terry George (MGM)
Based on the experience of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, his family and co-workers, and nearly 1,000 refugees during the 1994 genocidal violence in Rwanda. As the city of Kigali erupts in horrific violence, Rusesabagina uses his connections and access in a luxury hotel to provide shelter for several weeks for over 1000 refugees.
Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, directed by Michael Brindley (Vision)
Entertaining Angels tells the story of Dorothy Day, a journalist and Christian who dedicated her whole self—food, clothing, shelter, income, family, and vocation—to living out Christ's Sermon on the Mount. This 1996 introduction to the life of Dorothy Day includes the hard living and the amazing sacrifices, wrenching doubt and miraculous faith, aching loneliness, and life-changing community. What is striking about the life of Dorothy Day is that at no point did any of her choices—many of them arguably inspired by God's love—result in an ever after, smooth, struggle-free life, emotionally, socially, or physically. We see Dorothy trying to figure out who she is, how she's gifted, and what is expected of her in light of (or despite?) her energy, her talents, her personality, her relationships, and even her faith.
Amistad, directed by Stephen Spielberg (Dreamworks)
This hugely important historical event reveals both the heartless depths to which humanity sinks as well as the miraculous reconciliation possible. The film functions here to encourage consideration of the importance of keeping stories alive as we look for examples in applying a Christian worldview. It demonstrates a range of character virtues and vices as well as examples of intentionally using one's gifts to serve those who need help. It's also useful in strengthening a broad, historical understanding of the state of human relations in our culture.