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November 23, 2021

Columbia and Penn Alumni Discuss Films

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Alumni from Columbia and Penn gathered in person and virtually to discuss religious themes in film. Spearheaded by Columbia alumnus Stephen Cone ’20, who was a Film and Media Studies major, the alumni recently gathered at the CU Lumine Ministry Center on the day of the Columbia vs. Penn football game for the discussion entitled, “Where Is God in the Movies?”

Old cine-film. Film strip on a blur background. Black and white photo.

The event came together as the CU Lumine Cornerstone Partner Board brainstormed ways they might connect with CU Lumine at Columbia alumni as well as other Christian Union alumni who live in the area. Christian Union Vice President of Alumni Engagement Christine Foster anticipates that events like this will continue to produce fruitful fellowship, engagement, and networking. 

After time to talk and eat a light brunch, attendees sat down for a presentation from Cone examining the role of religion in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). “As both a Film and Media Studies major and a Christian in college, I loved exploring the connections between the Bible and movies,” says Cone. “When discussing possible alumni activities with the CU Lumine Alumni Board, I immediately believed that my leading a discussion on faith and film would not only allow me to share this passion with others but also provoke a thoughtful discussion about the relationship between Christianity and the arts.”

The discussion dove deep into the question of how Christian artists ought to represent and convey their faith through their medium. Should Christians aim to be explicit in presenting the gospel and the nature of God in their work, or is it better or more convincing for one’s faith to be woven into the arts in a more subtle way? Though we certainly see both represented in the arts, the question led to a lively discussion about how to view and consider the arts from a Christian lens.

1 ConeStephen Cone, Columbia '20Cone, who recently earned his MPhil in Film and Screen Studies from the University of Cambridge and is currently applying to Ph.D. programs related to Film, Literature, and American Studies, is eager to engage believers in considering not only how the arts convey Christian themes, but also how the arts can deepen one’s faith in God.

“Though our world may appear to be heading in a more secular direction, Christian and religious themes continue to influence artists, including filmmakers,” Cone states. “Understanding these cinematic connections not only deepens our faith, but also allows us to appreciate another aspect of His presence here on earth that we initially may not recognize.”

Developing an eye to see God and His work in our world and lives is critical for every believer to mature in their faith. For Cone, participating in the Christian community at CU Lumine pushed him to grow in his faith and consider how God is at work in our world. 

“Through CU Lumine, I not only made many lifelong friends but also expanded my understanding of Christianity through rigorous Bible studies and insightful conversations with my peers from all corners of the world,” he said.

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After graduation, Cone realized that having a ministry family as he did as an undergrad was essential for the ongoing spiritual growth he knew he needed. This is where the alumni network and support provided by the Christian Union Cornerstone Partner Boards is pivotal in helping graduates remain connected to the formative community they had while also investing in the future of the ministry. Cornerstone Partner Boards exist at all nine campuses as a means for alumni both of CU ministries as well as interested and invested partners of the ministry to support current students and faculty in their needs. The Boards do everything from providing funding for current students to receive mental health counseling to offering discipleship to students from alumni and provide a dynamic relationship between alumni and students who are still on their way. Cone joined the board shortly after graduation and currently serves as the head. 

Because of the fruitful conversation that the event gathered, the CU Lumine Cornerstone Partner Board is already planning a follow-up event in February that will be geared towards discussing religion in the Oscar-nominated films prior to the awards ceremony. Cone has also created a list of films that are currently out now that the group should watch to consider how religious themes are conveyed. 

As the Cornerstone Partner Boards continue to grow in depth and commitment, events like these will become more regular and also extend to current students as a way to further network the next generation of our nation’s leaders.

Watch the discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP_SsU12Ze0
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