Deep within every blogger’s heart is a strong, almost irresistible compulsion to make a list of the top ten of something.
This means that practically every possible top ten list has already been made. This is a problem, since I, being but a mortal man, am not exempt from the desire to feature a top ten list of some kind on TMTF.
Then it occurred to me a few days ago that there are many notable, unusual or simply awesome priests, ministers, chaplains, monks, nuns and clergymen in fiction, many of whom deserve notice and none of whom (to the best of my knowledge) are commonly featured on top ten lists.
It is, therefore, with pride and satisfaction that TMTF repairs this deficiency by presenting…
The TMTF List of Top Ten Fictional Clergy!
Note that when pictures of the characters themselves are not available, pictures of the author have been featured instead.
10. Friar Tuck (Ivanhoe)
He may be a sham and a scoundrel, but I can’t help but like Friar Tuck: a trusted companion of Robin Hood, a formidable fighter and an unapologetic drinker. His reputation as a man of the cloth is questionable, but his cheerful disregard for his priestly duties is somewhat endearing all the same.
9. The Impressive Clergyman (The Princess Bride)
“Marriage is what brings us together today.” That’s all I have to say.
8. Graham Hess (Signs)
For a movie about aliens, M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs gives quite a touching picture of a man torn between faith and cynicism. After his wife dies in a car accident, Graham resigns from the ministry and becomes an agnostic. He spends much of the film struggling with doubt, and the rest of the film defending his family from alien invaders: a courageous man on both fronts.
7. Shepherd Book (Firefly)
Firefly is a show about criminals, rogues and scoundrels. The cast includes a smuggler, a trigger-happy gunman, a wanted criminal, a lunatic and a classy prostitute. In the midst of these (surprisingly charming and likable) rogues is a kindly, compassionate, grandfatherly gentleman known as Shepherd Book. While one or two of his theological beliefs are slightly suspect, he may be the most genuinely Christ-like character I’ve seen in any television series of the last decade.
6. Dinah Morris (Adam Bede)
For those who have wondered, Adam Bede is not a cheerful book. It’s a novel about vanity and betrayal, and several of its characters end up dead or disillusioned. The gloominess of the novel makes Dinah shine all the brighter. Apart from demonstrating great selflessness and compassion, she is patient with even the characters whom the reader detests: a remarkable feat.
5. Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun)
One thing must be made clear from the beginning: Nicholas D. Wolfwood has questionable morals. His morals are so questionable, in fact, that even other characters object to them. Nevertheless, his character is a fantastic depiction of a man trying to do the right thing the wrong way. He believes in absolute justice—he who lives by the sword must die by the sword—and can’t understand his friend Vash, who somehow solves crises without killing anyone. Vash and Wolfwood are easily two of the most complex and compelling characters I’ve seen on television.
4. Sister Carlotta (Ender’s Shadow)
Compassionate, patient and delightfully sarcastic, Sister Carlotta rescues orphans and street kids in her search for a child genius to defend Earth from a potential extraterrestrial invasion. She demonstrates great patience toward the children in her care and no patience whatsoever toward her haughty superiors—one of whom complains, “I didn’t know nuns were allowed to be sarcastic.” Like Christ himself, Sister Carlotta is kind, gentle and unafraid to speak out against foolishness.
3. Sebastião Rodrigues (Silence)
When Sebastião Rodrigues, a Portuguese priest, travels to medieval Japan to learn the truth behind the alleged apostasy of another priest, he finds himself in a crisis unlike anything he could even have imagined. He was prepared to be martyred for the sake of Christ. He wasn’t prepared to watch as Japanese Christians were martyred instead. Rodrigues is given a choice: renounce his faith or watch as his brethren are slaughtered. Desperate for divine guidance, he is instead tormented by the silence of God. Rodrigues finds himself asking, as another great Priest once asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Sebastião Rodrigues ranks high on this list for the depth of his character and his earnest desire to help others at any cost.
2. Charles François-Bienvenu Myriel (Les Misérables)
Monsieur Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, once goes on a journey to visit a remote village because, he explains, its residents “need someone occasionally to tell them of the goodness of God.” He is warned that dangerous bandits roam the area; if he travels toward the village, he may meet them. “True,” says the bishop. “I am thinking of that. You are right. I may meet them. They too must need some one to tell them of the goodness of God.” Unlike the pompous, self-righteous bishops of his day, the Bishop of Digne is humble, selfless, kind, patient and generous. It is a single selfless action of the Bishop of Digne that saves Jean Valjean, a disillusioned convict and the protagonist of Les Misérables, from a bitter life of crime.
1. Father Brown (The Innocence of Father Brown)
Number one on this list is my all-time favorite fictional character. Father Brown is a short, clumsy, disheveled Roman Catholic priest with a blank face, a compassionate heart and a keen understanding of human nature. He’s also a brilliant detective, albeit an apologetic one. Most remarkable is his concern for criminals. Sherlock Holmes throws his archenemy over a precipice to a violent death. Father Brown, by contrast, persuades his archenemy to give up crime and become a private investigator; they later become close friends. As a detective, as a priest and as a fictional character, Father Brown is amazing.
What notable, unusual or simply awesome fictional clergy do you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
Not a bad list. I especially like Father Brown and Friar Tuck. One of these days, I’m going to have to start reading George Eliot.
A few other notable clergy:
(1) Mr. Beebe from E.M. Forster’s novel, A ROOM WITH A VIEW
(2) Mr. Prendergast from Evelyn Waugh’s novel, DECLINE AND FALL
(3) The old priest from Flannery O’Connor’s story, “The Enduring Chill”
(4) The Preacher from Clint Eastwood’s movie, PALE RIDER
(5) The Reverend Mr. Black from the Kingston Trio’s song, “The Reverend Mr. Black” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfEA_4gFDgo)
I forgot about the fellow from Pale Rider. Handy with an axe handle, if I remember correctly.
I got nervous, hoping I would see Father Myriel on there – such a relief to see him near the top! I absolutely adore him and while I love all of Les Miserables, he completely wins me over whenever I read it.
Thanks for some ideas of other great things to check out, too!
Father Myriel (and Father Brown) were the inspiration for the list!
Honorable Mention for memorable fictional clergy should go to:
Reverend John Ames in Gilead
Stephen Kumalo and Theophilus Msimangu in Cry The Beloved Country
Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Elton in Emma – both so despicable it leads one to wonder about Jane Austen’s life as a rector’s daughter
-Father Mulcahey from M*A*S*H
-“William of Baskerville (Sean Connery’s monk character from “The Name of the Rose”)
-Silas (the albino monk from The DaVinci Code)