Historians examine diaries, newspapers, and legal documents to understand the past. They also examine movies. Although it is uncommon when a Hollywood movie accurately represents the past, movies frequently express the religious, cultural, and political values of the movie producers’ era.
Campers will watch several Hollywood movies, most of them old classics! Dr. Spinney will lead campers in identifying the various eras’ mores and worldviews expressed in the movies. For example, the 1952 movie High Noon (starring Gary Cooper) appears on first viewing to be a standard Western drama with a good sheriff facing down bad criminals. (Some regard it as one of the best Westerns ever made.) It was actually a thinly veiled allegory on domestic Cold War tensions, especially the House Un-American Activities Committee’s investigation of communist influences in Hollywood. The Western genre was used by liberal moviemakers to address what they perceived as an American social problem. The movie was so obviously a Left-leaning Cold War drama that iconic actor and political conservative John Wayne denounced it. The actor Wayne teamed up with director and producer Howard Hawks to create Rio Bravo (1959) as a rebuttal to High Noon.
The camp’s goal is for campers to learn how to use film as a historical document. This skill will also enable campers to more readily identify the worldviews that are implicitly communicated in film.
Dr. Robert Spinney, Professor of History
Ph.D. in History, Vanderbilt University
M.A. in History, Vanderbilt University
B.A. in Government and History, Harvard University
Dr. Robert Spinney teaches American history courses at Patrick Henry College. He also teaches the college’s Historiography course, which is a semester-long examination of what it means to do history from a Christian perspective. The textbook that is currently being used in PHC’s freshman-level American History course was written by Dr. Spinney. He has published two additional history books (a comprehensive history of Chicago and a history of 1935-1950 Nashville, Tennessee) and numerous ministry-related booklets with titles like Did God Create Sports Also? Thinking Christianly About Sports, Peeking Into the Devil’s Playbook: Satan’s Strategies for Tempting Christians to Sin, and Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Thinking Biblically About the Problem of Sin in Our World. In addition to serving as a pastor for six years, Dr. Spinney was formerly a member of the faculty at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL).