Friday, August 7, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: The Pastor Character



If you are new to Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday, please read this post, it will tell you everything you need to know!

Today's Topic:

I read this interview at Wrapped up in Books with YA author Sara Zarr (you ought to read the whole interview, it's great!) and it sparked a question for me about the fictional portrayal of clergy. This may be a bit more interesting to me, because I grew up a pastor's kid. And it always felt like there was so much misunderstanding around that! Anyway, here's a bit of what Sarah said,

I expect that the most prodding or critical response will come from inside the Christian community. The father character, a pastor, is flawed (as my characters generally are - especially parents!). I think Christians get tired of negative portrayals of clergy and I can understand that, especially when it's ham-handed and cartoonish. (Like having a preacher character literally thumping a Bible. In my 38 years in the Christian world I have never witnessed anyone, anywhere thump a Bible except in fictional settings.) But I hope that I've treated the father/pastor character with as much compassion as I try to give every character. Like everyone, pastors are human, and limited.


This made me sigh and think...oh boy. LOL. I haven't read any of Zarr's books, but I do have the ARC of this and will try to read it soon. Anyway, it did make me think about the general portrayal of clergy in fiction. What do you think about the portrayal of pastors and ministers in general market fiction? How about Christian fiction? How was the pastor portrayed in the last book you read with a minister? What's your favorite fictional minister? What do you think is an accurate and realistic fictional clergyman?

My Answer:
I really really had to think about this. The last Christian fiction book I read definitely depicted the minister as a wise, patient man which is pretty common in Christian fiction. The pastors generally serve the role of spouting out the appropriate Bible verses, doing marital counseling, or preaching the sermon that causes the protagonist to change. (yawn)

The last general market book I read went to the other stereotype extreme and depicted the minister as a complete hypocrite with no morals whatsoever who abused and abandoned his family and was an alcoholic.

Thinking about the realistic and favorite portrayals is rather hard. I think the portrayal of female clergy Betsy Blessing in Beth Patillo's books was pretty good, even though she had to have that cheesy name. But I can't seem to think of a good portrayal of a pastor's family...which would be interesting to me! For the record, I loathe the TV family in 7th Heaven, the Camdens. I mean, they're fine as a family, but my family was nothing like that! And I always worried that people thought that's what it was like in a pastor's family. Blech! I both loved and didn't love being the pastor's kid. At times, it was great, my church was really and truly like a second family, and I knew their love and concern for me. But just like a family, things could get pretty heated and ugly and when that happened it was easy to feel quite isolated. Anyway, I look forward to reading your answers...maybe you can spark my memory!


9 comments:

Deborah said...

i don't understand why the first link is to The Calligrapher's Daughter??

Amee said...

I haven't read any general fiction that deals with a preacher (that I can remember) so my answer is mostly in Christian fiction where the preachers are almost always (again, not sure if I've read a negative portrayal within Christian fiction or non-fiction) positive.

My favorite portrayal of a preacher would have to be in Catherine Marshall's A Man Called Peter which is actually a sort of biography of her husband, Peter Marshall. Maybe because he was real that's why I enjoy it most. Catherine Marshall also writes of a preacher in her book Christy. He's fresh out of seminary so it's probably the closest I've come to a "negative" portrayal. He still struggles with his faith and whether he is in the right profession.

My favorite fictional account of a preacher is The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke. I can't remember if Emily is ever actually referred to as a preacher officially or not, but she is sent to start a church. So whether official or not, she is one! Oke also wrote the book Measure of a Heart about a preacher's wife. Lori Wick's Big Sky Dreams series features a preacher's romance with a former prostitute in the second book, Sabrina, which I haven't read yet but because of this post I want to now! I've been meaning to finish the series anyway because I did really like the preacher's portrayal as a secondary character in the first book of the series.

I haven't read it yet, but Wanda Brunstetter has a book called The Bishop's Daughter which is about the daughter of an Amish preacher's daughter. That should be interesting to see how the role is treated in Amish fiction, even indirectly as it probably is since it's more about his daughter.

Wow, long response! I didn't mean to ramble on so long. :P

Deborah said...

btw if anyone is into audio drama/radio theater/British mysteries, Focus on the Family Radio Theater had an audio drama series called the Father Gilbert Mysteries that featured an Anglican priest/vicar who had formerly been a Scotland Yard detective. Wonderful mysteries and really suspenseful and puts a whole new spin on pastors. Kinda like the Father Dowling mysteries.

Shauna said...

I just finished reading Agatha Christie's Murder in the Vicarage, which was narrated by the vicar, a likable character with intellect and a sense of humor. Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain is Christian fiction that shows a very flawed pastor who has little understanding of grace.

Marie said...

I know Faith'n' Fiction is about Christian lit, but it's interesting to me to read this because of all the ways rabbis are portrayed in Jewish fiction. They can be anything from the wisest sage to a silly fool, and especially in contemporary American fiction with its wide range of Jewish practice and observance, often are anything and everything. neat topic.

Kristen said...

What about Jan Karon's Mitford books?

Robin said...

The last book I read about a pastor was one of Lynn Hinton's books. I really enjoy reading her books and the pastor portrayed in the book is a single woman who has bonded with various other women in the community. If I remember the name of the community is Hope Springs and that is also one of the titles of Ms. Hinton's books. Ms. Hinton is in fact a minister herself. The books relate to many situations in small town life, but mainly on the relationships and friendships of women. If I remember correctly the first title in the series is Friendship Cake. Although I don't agree with all the solutions and situations in the books, these are good reads and very enjoyable. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy!

Dani in NC said...

The last book I read with a minister in it was a YA book (not Christian) called "Life As We Knew It". The minister in that book was portrayed as one step away from being a cult leader.

I've read the book "Sabrina" that Amee mentioned in her comment. As I recall, the minister in that book is portrayed as good man with wisdom and a sense of humor. I liked that character when he showed up in the first book and was glad that Wick gave him his own story.

Most of my memories of fictional pastors are from movies, though. I like those old movies from the 1940s and 1950s where a priest or minister takes over a new congregation. I wish I could think of titles, but only "The Bells of St. Mary's" comes to mind.

Color Online said...

Hi Amy,

I'm not sure if I'll be able to write a full post since both reads are dated for me, but there are two books I read where I really liked the pastor characters and I think they were written as fully developed characters. One is the pastor in Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer. I recommend this one to anyone who is okay with someone who opts to walk away from their religion. The author treats the characters and the topic of faith respectfully. The other is the priest from Purple Hibiscus by Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie. I really like the young man.

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