Lived Theology and the BLM Movement: Transcending Boundaries Through Film

by Annie Webber, 2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

Growing up, the only time I saw religion was in church. What I did not realize was that religion did in fact have a place in my life outside of church, but I did not know how to see or find it. Then I took my first religion class, which transformed my view of the world and how I saw religion in it. My professor taught us about lived religion through the eyes of Robert Orsi’s Thank You, St. Jude and about the worship of idols, such as Selena Quintanilla after her death. This opened my eyes to the fact that religion is everywhere, and sparked my interest in how lived theology impacts people’s lives today and how to search for the sacred in the profane. In this modern world where technology pervades our society, especially during the time of COVID-19, it can be hard to see how lived religion functions online. But during this time, I have seen how people have come together, online and in person, in the name of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Though the Civil Rights Movement had an obvious attachment to lived religion through the beloved Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hammer, and many others, I think it is important to look at lived religion in today’s social movements, especially in a world where technology seems to saturate everything and where young people seem to push religion aside. 

I am researching how lived theology has played a role in the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests from last summer, specifically in Charlottesville. The end goal of this project is to create a short film, which will make the topic of lived theology in the BLM movement accessible to all, in a way that is understandable to a wide audience. I have always enjoyed telling stories through art; photography and film are ways to create visual testimonies that can be powerful and generative. The medium of film can transcend the boundaries of written work and allow an easier understanding of concepts through a visual form. 

I am originally from Charlottesville, which is where I will be conducting my research and interviews this summer. I have enjoyed reading about lived theology, the Black Lives Matter movement, and filmmaking. Looking forward to the next couple of weeks, I am excited to start conducting interviews and putting together a film.

Learn more about the 2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.