When Hollywood Goes to Church: 18 Stereotypes

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Hollywood has been telling stories that include churches and pastors for almost a century. You’d think they’d get it right by now. I’m still waiting.

But, just for today, let’s have a little fun with it.

Here are 18 stereotypes about church and pastoring that Hollywood regularly portrays. See how many you recognize.

Read more at Pivot

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18 thoughts on “When Hollywood Goes to Church: 18 Stereotypes”

  1. I’ve seen those movies! One TV show that came closer to reality than the others is Seventh Heaven. In one episode the pastor decides to start having Sunday night services again (OK, what pastor ever decided to do that?). But the part they got right was when they gathered on Sunday evening it was ONLY the pastor’s family that was there.

  2. Ooh, I’ve got one: Pastors are always shocked, shocked, at hearing about somebody’s sin, as if they’ve never heard of anything so foul in their cloistered lives.

    If you remember M*A*S*H, Father Mulcahy used to come near fainting every time something kinda naughty came up. Considering he was the only confessor in the unit for every Catholic who passed through, the poor man must’ve been discombobulated every time he heard confession.

    Even we Protestants hear the worst of the worst of the worst—and some of us used to be the worst of the worst. (1Ti 1.15) Yet Hollywood always portrays us as naïfs when it comes to sin.

  3. There are only a few songs that churches sing, “Amazing Grace”, “The Old Rugged Cross” but i haven’t heard it for awhile. i haven’t heard a current worship song from K-Love or any where else in church in the movies or TV
    thanks Karl great list

    1. Yep, that’s true, Charley. Watching the movies, you’d think no one has written a song for church in hundreds of years. The only exception I know to that is the recent movie Soul Surfer, where they had church on the beach and sang a recent song – I think it was “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

  4. the Pastors are dressed in clergy robes – no matter the denomination or the time of day – the women are always nuns in old time habits – never mind that a lot of us clergy wear regular, modern street clothing

    1. Good one, Sandy. The same goes for clerical collars, whether the denomination uses them or not. The collar gives the pastor something to throw in the trash when they’re fed up with God or the ministry, only to have it re-appear when (if) they find their faith again.

  5. I don’t really have any stereotypes to add, but I have noticed that almost all pastors/priests in the movies fall in the category of an enabler to the hero(es), like Robert DeNiro in Sleepers; a patsy to the villain(s), like the poor clergyman in Die Hard 2 who was minding his own business when the terrorists came in and took over his church or the bishop in Robin Hood who is forced to do the bidding of the Sheriff of Nottingham; or a villain himself, like the often-corrupt Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons or the stern preacher from Footloose (both versions). I must add that the most respectful portrayal of a preacher I can recall is Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H (the show, not the movie), and also Susan Sarandon’s character in Dead Man Walking (though she did portray a nun rather than an actual priest).

  6. Of course there has to be a clergy person or a church even to have a stereotype. Remember “Doc Hollywood”?? A full length picture with Michael J. Fox stranded in a Bible-belt town, and a church never, never ever, appears in the film. Does anyone know a South Carolina town without a church?

  7. I’ve very rarely been to a wedding where the objection line isn’t used. It is generally stated, followed by the briefest of pauses, before the service continues. Never once has anyone actually objected. Also, as a preacher’s kid and now an Anglican Priest I always hated Seventh Heaven. I thought the pastor horribly whining and mewling.

  8. Dan from Georgia

    The one about the line spoken at weddings! Always good for a laugh in sitcoms, but rarely if ever heard in actual weddings that I have attended!

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