Pop Culture Role Models

One has to look far and wide to find positive images of Christianity and in particular the Catholic Church in today’s mainstream media and in the overall culture. Television shows (The Young Pope), movies (Spotlight) and novels (The Da Vinci Code) constantly show the evils and hypocrisy of the members of the Church or its clergy. Pundits and legislators constantly harp about freeing yourself and society from religion.

The reason for this hostility is that Christianity is the true counter-culture ideology. Living the way Christ wants us to live stands in stark contrast to basic human nature. Man’s nature is to be greedy, prideful, lazy, glutinousness, and to pursue activities that instantly gratify.

Before Christ came and the early Church fathers memorialized Christ’s teachings, most gods of the popular religions at the time did not care about the individual. These gods cared little if the person abused himself or others. As long as the person worshiped and sacrificed for his god, the god was satisfied.

When God’s Word became flesh, His teachings revolutionized humanity. Man was taught not to abuse himself or others. The Incarnate God taught man None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Truly revolutionary, Christ centered on the fact that God loves each individual. He wanted man to love his neighbor, love his enemies, and forgive his trespassers.

But people do not want rules or regulations to deny themselves their “happiness”. According to Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1718, this is a false happiness since true happiness is only through God. Christ taught the way to happiness exist through living the Beatitudes.

Living in the age of the worship of the self, no wonder ant-Christian films, shows, novels and outright hostility pervade our culture today. People feel that their freedom and happiness will be taken away. But this was the same reaction to Christ when he came down to earth over 2,000 years ago. Now we see it in our modern culture. The author of Ecclesiastes rightly declared, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

With the hostility towards Christians growing today, it is surprising to find popular television shows or movies that portray the Catholic Church and its adherents in a positive light. Although not a big indulger of popular culture, I discovered the following shows portray priests in a positive light.

Father Brown:

The most recent and longest running show is the series named Father Brown. I might be the last Catholic in America to have had heard of this show! My family just discovered it a few months ago. We watched through season five. Produced by the BBC, this show centers on Father Brown, a Catholic priest in a quaint English village in the early 1950s. Based on the novels written by GK Chesterton, this priest goes around his parish solving murder mysteries. Father Brown is a good natured, ardent believer of God, and unashamed to proclaim the Good News.

Calvary:

This movie is very dark. Though the films centers on the child abuse scandal in Ireland, the main character is a Catholic priest threatened to be murdered for the crimes of an unknown priest. Innocent of any crime, the perpetrator nevertheless selects the priest to kill since he represents the Church. We follow him through the movie while he struggles to decide on what he should do. He remains a believer throughout the movie though death might be waiting for him at the end. Calvary portrays the strength of a Catholic priest facing a real crisis.

Gran Torino:

Though not a main character, the Catholic priest in this movie is important to the script. The priest is a naïve, but earnest young man trying to follow the wishes of a dead, devout Catholic woman and convince her husband to go to confession. This priest reaches out to the widower and is persistent in his quest. He learns from his mistakes and is not afraid to mingle with his flawed, dirty sheep.

Common Traits of the Priests in These Shows:

They are shepherds walking amongst his dirty sheep

They are well read and educated

They do not back down

They take the Word of God seriously

They proclaim the power of redemption

They evangelize

They are persistent; and most importantly

They are very human and make mistakes just as we all do

Emulation:

While many other novels, movies and television shows may contain pro-Christian themes, I selected the above shows because the main or supporting character is unabashedly Catholic and is a positive role model.

We all should emulate these characters in these shows. I think they are powerful examples of great priests and servants of Christ. These are very human priests and they are not afraid to stand up for what is right and proclaim God’s word.

Though there is much hostility to Christ and the Church in the popular culture we should take heart that the above shows act as beacons to bring the positive message of Church to millions of viewers!