After more than 40 years of publishing film reviews, study guides, and books, Visual Parables host Edward McNulty is a trusted friend in faith communities nationwide. His body of work explores the connections between faith and popular culture.
Thousands of people have enjoyed his books, monthly journals, and have spoken with him at his workshops in the US and Canada. Many small groups have used his materials for retreats and Bible studies. Ed’s commentary has often been echoed from pulpits by clergy who subscribe to his journal, some reporting that the first section they turn to is Lectionary Links for a possible film relating to one of the Common Lectionary Texts for the month.
From Ed McNulty
My long career in ministry spans many turbulent changes in American life. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me as a young man–indeed, he indirectly came close to getting me fired. I played my own small part in the civil rights movement—as did many others in that era. That deep commitment to peacemaking and nonviolent activism extended into my ministry in teaching and writing about faith and film. I agree with those writers who have suggested that, had Jesus arrived in our midst in the 21st century, he might have become a filmmaker. Jesus’ potent stories still speak to us after thousands of years—as do stories from the Hebrew scriptures and from other faith traditions around the world. Thus, the name Visual Parables was inspired by Jesus ‘parables.
Visual Parables History
I began writing about television, Christian music, and film in Catholic, Protestant and secular publications in the 1970s. During this period, a few magazines commissioned me to write articles about Fred Rogers, with whom I shared the concern that commercial TV was a corrupting influence upon children. In 1976 Abbey Press published my book Gadgets, Gimmicks & Grace: Multi-Media in the Church. That same year Abingdon Press issued my book TELEVISION: A Guide for Christian–what a year that was! Then, in 1990 — while serving as a pastor in Dayton, Ohio — I began sending out a one-page newsletter with short reviews of films called Visual Parables. VP was literally a cut and paste affair. These newsletters expanded from 2 pages to 4 and more, eventually became a full-scale magazine.
Since then, the Visual Parables Journal has been published in various formats, and by various companies, including a Catholic order . Now, we deliver it digitally to subscribers. Each issue is packed with reviews, articles, discussion guides, and much more.
Helping people see the many connections between faith and film is a ministry — a true vocational calling — for all of us who produce the journal. For that reason, I include thousands of free online movie reviews on this site. We used to publish a monthly set of Film Capsules, which are short, paragraph-length reviews for clergy, newsletter editors and webmasters to share with their own readers. However, this service was suspended a few years ago. The ones we did publish are still available on this site.
What Makes VP Special
There are many online sites and magazines offering film reviews that cover a wide range of viewpoints. However, most ignore the spiritual side of film. In fact, many film critics deplore attempts by filmmakers to bring religious themes to viewers. While there are critics who review movies from what they call a “Christian” point of view, most offer either moralistic judgments or are aimed at alerting parents about problematic content like coarse language or nudity. Many of these critics would condemn a film if it presented an LGBTQ character in a favorable light.
I have a high regard for many long-time colleagues, including Fred and Mary Ann Brussat, who include film reviews on their site Spirituality and Practice. I also recommend the work of my colleague Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM, in his website Fr. Dennis at the Movies—and David Bruce’s Hollywood Jesus. I could list more, but my point here is that you can look at the reviews on these other sites and you will see that Visual Parables is different, in that I want readers to use film in study groups, sermons, and training for peace making. .
The materials available on this site and in the Journal are widely trusted. Readers have studied and enjoyed Visual Parables for around 30 years. In addition, each issue of the Journal is practical — directly connecting film reviews to the faith and practice of readers. Our motto is: “Film & Faith in Dialogue.” The sets of Reflection and Discussion Questions that accompany the reviews in each issue of the Journal form ready-made study guides.
Throughout the year, I add much more, including:
- Seasonal suggestions for appropriate films for small groups and congregations
- Occasional interviews
- Coverage of new DVDs and books about film by my longtime colleague and friend, The Rev. Doug Sweet. If you want to bring the power of movies into your spiritual life, this is the Journal you will want to read.
I began exploring the connections between faith and film in the 1960s, when such programs involved projecting 16 mm reels of film. I have moved through VHS to DVD and now into online video. I’ve transitioned from typewriter to computer, from print to digital. At present, I hope that this website will be an exciting resource for you, your family, your small group—and your entire community.
Visual Parables Staff
Reviewer & Editor
- The Rev. Doc. Edward N. McNulty
- The Rev. Markus Watson
- Rev. Douglas Sweet