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Hey! Preacher! Leave Them Kids Alone! (2 Viewers)

Stormcat

Senior Member
*Ignore the "kids" in the title, this thread is about the preacher and the preacher alone.

****

I grew up Catholic, and the Priests and decons I knew were as far from the fire-and-brimstone type as you could get. However, in my story, I'm writing a Preacher-man based on the Infamous Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. Very much NOT a nice guy, but also not Catholic.

I don't live in Kansas or have attended any of the events his ilk picketed, but I have heard they're still up to no good, even though "grandpa" died years ago.

Anyways, how does a fire-and-brimstone preacher operate? Would they be just as awful outside the pulpit?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Anyways, how does a fire-and-brimstone preacher operate? Would they be just as awful outside the pulpit?
I was not replying to this as I don't have enough direct experience, but I hate to see a thread go unanswered for too long.

My answer to your question is going to suppose that some might be overly strict, and others probably "leave it at the office". I think it would be overly judgmental to suppose by one's own imagination that every individual would be "just awful". Even the phrase "just AS awful" isn't accurate. Plenty of the folks in the pews don't think it's awful. Some expect it, bask in it, then go home and act just like everyone else does. Logic suggests that if they thought it was "awful", they'd fail to show back up week after week. :)
 

ehbowen

Senior Member
I have been in Fundamentalist churches all of my life, and I've heard a lot of "fire and brimstone". Most (in my experience, virtually all) of those who so preach really, truly do believe what they're saying, and they're passionate about it in the same way that someone running back from the brink of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge yelling "Bridge Out!" would be. These guys are generally very kind and friendly out of the pulpit, have good home lives, and are great folks to be around.

BUT...there are some, only one in my personal experience but I have heard of several others...who qualify as "wolves in sheep's clothing". They don't really believe what they're saying; it's just a 'line' which they use to maintain their position and standing with the marks. If they did believe it they wouldn't dare to raid the bank accounts, extort kickbacks from outside contractors, or dally with vulnerable women (or girls, or even boys). They can put up a good front (hey, they have to be able to act to stay where they are), but something about them...feels off. This latter group sounds much more viable for your story concept.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
Respectfully - I would see things quite the other way around - an argument that is easy to make if we focus only on the Westborough Baptists. Fred holds to a rigid & ghastly interpretation of scripture, heads a cult to disseminate his perception. An exciting figure for fiction, monstrous veering insane or evil if you like...

The group, your latter group, are only snake oil charmers, if I wrote that right?

...
 

Crooked Bird

Senior Member
There's a third group. They believe what they're saying, but in a twisted way. They believe it because [their interpretation of] it benefits them by putting them at the top of the heap. Their worldview is hierarchical to a toxic degree, and they will be nice to you if you're acting as befits your place in the hierarchy, and they will be angry and condemning (with a self-confidence that's very hard to fully describe) if you are not. Their judgment on whether you're behaving appropriately isn't based on behavior alone but also on cultural markers. (Don't smoke!) I knew a guy (I've been in and out of fundamentalist churches quite a bit as well as other types of churches) who managed a business that employed interns whom (for reasons) he didn't get to pick out himself. He barely spoke to the female interns and showed great discomfort and even veiled disgust around them--I realized at some point that this was because, not wishing to get farmer-tan lines, they tended to wear less for outdoor work than he thought modest. He treated the male interns with varying degrees of respect or scorn, but the one he took to his heart and poured respect and regard on was a clean-cut, bright-eyed boy who talked religious jargon b/c he'd been brought up that way. (I knew another intern who had a scruffier "look," and who, while he was living onsite, was suspected by the boss of sneaking off to do sinful things whenever he was absent without telling boss where he was going. There was no basis for this & the young man was incensed about it when he found out. He was visiting friends.) Basically if your image fits what a person should be in their eyes (he probably would've been similarly kind, though still distant, with a really modest and respectful young woman of the type he'd have wanted his daughters to be), then they'll be very very nice.

I think if you portray this guy as being nice and not nice by turns, and let the reader discover the pattern of why and when, that might be pretty effective. There are also a bunch of tiny cultural cues that are hard to get right if you don't know the culture. I don't know just how much time I'd have for it, but I'm open to having a look at a passage and pointing things out if you like.

I will add, a person doesn't have to not believe in what they're saying in order to commit major sins and abuses (though the straight-up liar & wolf in sheep's clothing is absolutely a real thing.) Compartmentalization is real, people do fail to control their impulses and deal with their issues even if they sincerely believe, and what I've mostly noticed, in the couple of real situations I've witnessed, is that what great guilt mostly produces is great judgmentalism and suspicion that others are doing the same sinful stuff you're doing... in secret just like you. It's a sort of double life, the righteous guy and the sinful guy, and the righteous guy (being the sinful guy's roommate so to speak) has the inside story on what all the sinners out there are really like and geez it's bad. I also know of a case where a pastor who committed serious, criminal abuse spent the (simultaneous) other half of his life (I was told this was his thinking by someone who knew him well) attempting to "balance it out" by helping people. Humans are... something.
 

BadHouses

Senior Member
Some preachers on the whackier side who may provide additional inspiration:

Rev. Estus Pirkle produced the following film which proclaims that drive-ins are "a spawning house for sex," and dancing is "the front door to adultery." And don't get him started on communism.

And this fella who was known for his wild gesticulations.

At the least, he better have a fun name lol
 

ehbowen

Senior Member
Respectfully - I would see things quite the other way around - an argument that is easy to make if we focus only on the Westborough Baptists. Fred holds to a rigid & ghastly interpretation of scripture, heads a cult to disseminate his perception. An exciting figure for fiction, monstrous veering insane or evil if you like...

The group, your latter group, are only snake oil charmers, if I wrote that right?

...
I suggest that you take a look at some of Ann Barnhardt's blog writings on what she terms "Diabolical Narcissists", such as this blog post from yesterday. Caveat: I don't agree with her theologically; she's an uber-Catholic and I'm a Baptist fundamentalist (well, mostly). But she does have good insights into ministers who go bad, regardless of their denominational background.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
How about an anti-hero or villain who wasn’t very clever? A preacher possessing a blind obedience you might associate with low intelligence - as in an ‘it is because it is’ kind of a person like we come across often in our lives/our working lives. ‘We’ve always done it that way.’

He hasn’t ‘gone wrong’ - he is dogmatic and base in many respects, kind to old ladies as he overwhelms, confusing, gives you the creeps, you don’t quite know why...

also...everybody else likes him. Scary.

Keeps us on our toes.
 
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BornForBurning

Senior Member
I suggest that you take a look at some of Ann Barnhardt's blog writings on what she terms "Diabolical Narcissists", such as this blog post from yesterday. Caveat: I don't agree with her theologically; she's an uber-Catholic and I'm a Baptist fundamentalist (well, mostly). But she does have good insights into ministers who go bad, regardless of their denominational background.
Is this really a fair take on Jesuits? Lol. Not the first Catholic I've met who dislikes those guys. But, isn't any piece of theology that places certain people in a 'special' category of bad inherently heretical? As the Apostle says: "There is no one who is good, not even one," and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Etc. Frankly, I am extremely suspicious of any doctrine that extends a status of unique evil to any demographic. And if you are talking about False Prophets or False Teachers...just say that. Then everyone knows what you are talking about. In short, highly extrabiblical doctrine. As a sidenote, how does she have such intimate knowledge into the inner mental workings of these 'people'? Questionably speculative, at best.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
How about an anti-hero or villain who wasn’t very clever? A preacher possessing a blind obedience you might associate with low intelligence - as in an ‘it is because it is’ kind of a person like we come across often in our lives/our working lives. ‘We’ve always done it that way.’

He hasn’t ‘gone wrong’ - he is dogmatic and base in many respects, kind to old ladies as he overwhelms, confusing, gives you the creeps, you don’t quite know why...

also...everybody else likes him. Scary.

Keeps us on our toes.

Well, I have this preacher-man manipulating the emperor of my Fictional realm for his own devious reasons, but the Emporer himself is a very stupid man and doesn't realize he's being used.
 
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