Give the gift of Faith & Film for the new year, and become a friend of the remarkably prophetic Edward McNulty

MY MENTOR ED McNULTY IN A HISTORIC SUMMER—This is a rare photograph of the prophetic faith-and-film critic, the Rev. Edward McNulty, taken way back in 1964 when he was part of the life-and-death campaign known as Freedom Summer. That summer at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Ed was assigned to work at the Shaw Freedom Center in a tiny town in Mississippi. While in Shaw, one day, someone convinced him to pose for this photo with some of the young friends who attended that center’s educational programs.

Why should you subscribe to Ed’s Visual Parables Journal for 2024?

Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine

Among all the journalists I have known over my half a century of reporting on religious and cultural diversity, the Rev. Edward McNulty holds a record: He is the single least-photographed journalist I have ever known.

That’s appropriate because what Ed wants us to look at is not himself. He wants us to look at the movie screens we all share, these days, and he also wants us to look deeply into the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to discover inspiring and thought-provoking connections.

At this point in his long life as a pastor, peace activist, journalist and author, Ed stands alone as the venerable dean of faith-based film critics. Back in the mid-20th Century, many major denominations had film critics—including the Catholic church. Some of those denominationally based critics had broad influence in that earlier era—but that official role faded in the ’80s, ’90s and now is largely forgotten.

But not Ed. He has been officially anointed and remains the film critic of the Presbyterian Church USA, a still-influential hold-over to that earlier era.

This is a vocation—a true calling—for Ed. In each weekly issue of our ReadTheSpirit magazine, Ed freely gives away faith-and-film reviews of new releases from Hollywood and production houses around the world. He reviews dramas, comedies, musicals, super-hero epics, animated films, bio-pics as well as indie productions, documentaries and sometimes streaming TV series. When he writes, his knowledge of both scriptures and film history is vast.

The one way Ed tries to support his ongoing travels to preview films and continue with his vocation is through selling annual subscriptions to Visual Parables Journal.

Please, right now, if you are a film lover who also cares about the roots of Abrahamic faith traditions, click here to visit Ed’s Visual Parables Journal page in our online magazine and consider subscribing. You’ll enjoy the next 12 issues, each one packed with the latest reviews as well as Ed’s widely used discussion guides for those movies—and you’ll be doing a small part in continuing Ed’s work.

One reason I am writing such an enthusiastic endorsement of Ed’s work is that he is one of my personal mentors—or, in the language of faith, a true guiding saint in my life. At this point, he now has a uniquely influential, inspirational and thought-provoking career in American journalism. I hope that I can continue writing such inspiring and prophetic columns as long as Ed has done—and continues to do.

There are many stories I could summarize here to illustrate my deep respect for Ed.

First, he was baptized by fire in his long-time support for civil rights. In the late 1950s, when he still was an undergraduate at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ed also worked part-time running an after-school program for children at a Presbyterian church. Because he felt moved by his faith to join an early civil rights protest in Indianapolis—aimed at breaking down racial barriers in hiring at a local chain of grocery stores—Ed was punished by church leaders. He was called up on charges in his denomination and was grilled by a Presbyterian panel of white church leaders who did not want their employees publicly siding with the city’s Black residents. You can read his column about that experience here.

Ed survived that psychologically abusive ordeal—ultimately strengthened in his own resolve to support Civil Rights. I admire his courage in 1964 in heading South to serve in the historic Freedom Summer. I was only 9 years old that year, but in my family I read about the courage of those Freedom Summer workers, who risked life and limb to help register Black voters. Today, I am honored to know and work with someone who served in that life-and-death campaign.

In 2014, Ed marked the 50th anniversary of that historic Freedom Summer with a column denouncing the movie Mississippi Burning, because of that film’s diminishment of local Black leaders’ courageous role in the civil rights movement. In that column, Ed shared some of his own experiences in Mississippi—and he agreed to publish the rare 1964 photograph I am sharing (above) today.

To this day, I am astonished at his courage—more than 1,000 people were arrested that summer, 80 of the volunteers were beaten and, most infamously, some were murdered. I also admire and take courage myself from Ed’s stories about that summer, including one of singing civil rights anthems in a small crowd led by Pete Seeger in a little church so hot that everyone’s shirts hung from their shoulders, soaked with sweat. He wrote a bit about that experience when Pete died at age 94.

That’s why my personal appeal, as the founding Editor of this online magazine and publishing house, is: Please, consider supporting the ongoing work of this remarkably prophetic journalist by subscribing to Visual Parables Journal.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

If you care to read more, the book we publish with Ed is also a great choice for holiday gift giving: Jesus Christ—Movie Staravailable from Amazon.

What’s in that book?

You’ll find complete discussion guides, including tips on selecting short film clips to show to your group, on 12 films. Some are straight-forward depictions of Jesus: The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Jesus, The Miracle Maker, The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John, The Passion of the Christ, Son of God, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Some feature inspiring and thought-provoking stories that have made many moviegoers think of Jesus’s life, including: Jesus of Montreal, Cool Hand Luke, Bagdad Café, Broadway Danny Rose and Babette’s Feast. In addition, the book has shorter overviews of dozens other Jesus-themed movies.

Please, whatever your faith tradition may be—consider meeting Ed McNulty through his Visual Parables Journal or through Jesus Christ—Movie Star.

Make that a New Year’s Resolution for 2024 to kick-start your own engagement with peace and justice—through faith and film in our world today.

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  1. ellen brownson says

    What a wonderful article about an amazing man I have admired all of my life. As his daughter, I often brought his Freedom Sunmer journal to school for sharing, and was lucky that he loved to take us kids to the movies. Thank you for honoring my father in this way!

  2. Susie says

    What a lovely tribute to a truly lovely person! I work with Ed’s son and have had the honor of attending concerts and dinners with the family. What a wonderful way to pay homage to a civil rights hero!

  3. David says

    Ed is such a pleasure to be with every time I have the opportunity to see him. I wasn’t aware of his film critic role until I had him read a sermon I preached addressing the issue of suicide and in it I used some excerpts from the movie Tender Mercies. His son Dan said it was one of his favorites. Ed is such a wonderful person!