The five pastors you’ll meet in Hollywood

by Todd Hertz

In the film “Priest,” opening Friday, the titular clergymen is a divinely gifted warrior priest belonging to a sacred order of vampire assassins. Accuracy to real-life clergy is questionable.

Still, I’m betting this priest is not all that different from other fictional clergy characters. After all, movie and TV pastors and priests tend to fit very distinct molds. In fact, if you see Christian clergy on the screen, chances are he or she can be described as one of the following:

Lapsed. Narratives with a pastor or priest often include an excuse for why he or she acts in ways someone may not expect – including, apparently, the tendency to doubt or struggle. One such device is featuring those who have left the faith – or at least, the church. In faith-affirming films such as “The Apostle” and “Signs,” this device allows for vulnerable drama as the lapsed believer navigates through trial and eventually re-commits to faith. In other films, such as “Contact,” lapsed clergy seem to speak for a public that wants a spiritual voice, but not one attached to a particular religious system. In the case of Harvey Keitel in “From Dusk Till Dawn,” he was probably only written to be lapsed so he could make holy water – and still kick vampire butt.

Corrupt. With the sexual abuse scandals of the last 20 years, the mind first turns to predatory Catholic priest characters like Father Brendan Flynn in “Doubt,” but criminal, sketchy or villainous clergy are not new. These portrayals include huckster profiteers – “Leap of Faith,” “Dragnet,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” “The Tudors” – and those too self-interested to do the right thing – “Agnes of God,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons,” “At Play in the Fields of the Lord.”

Likable, but… This seems to be a growing category: Clergy persons who are nice enough, but seem to stand for nothing, don’t know what they believe or just have confused theology…


The five pastors you’ll meet in Hollywood | Think Christian

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