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More stories about preachers

Posted by Robin Abrahams  March 6, 2013 02:00 PM

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Advice columnists and clergyfolk have a lot in common, I suspect. A fascination with the big questions that are buried in the mundane details of life. A sincere desire to help others combined with a desire to aggrandize the self just a wee bit. High needs for power and intimacy. It's no wonder I tend to like movies, plays, and novels about preachers, priests, and rabbis.

Since you like advice columns, maybe you like preacher stories, too. When I was writing my post about "The Last Exorcism," I asked my friends what their favorite clergy-person book, movie, or play was. Here are some of their recommendations for your reading and viewing lists:

  • "The Exorcist" (a work that is name-checked in "The Last Exorcism" much as the "Godfather" movies are a touchstone of the Sopranos' fictive world)
  • "Mass Appeal"
  • "The Apostle" (so many of my friends recommended this that I'm putting it on the list--but personally, I found it deadly boring--Duvall was a prophet of Morpheus for this lady)
  • "Keeping the Faith" (a romantic comedy about a priest, a rabbi, and the girl they both love--and remarkably, it's not stupid)
  • The Nun's Story (book and movie)
  • "Doubt"
  • "Wise Blood" (I've never heard of this one, but my friend described it as "strange, disconcerting, intimate, memorable"--and it stars the weird and wonderful Brad Dourif)
  • The Chosen (from my friend--"Not only does the central character deal with his desire to become a rabbi, but it also deals with the conflict between orthodox and reform Judaism and mixed feelings about Zionism." I loved this book as a teenager. Thirty years later, I find it is quite insightful about Judaism and utter romantic nonsense about psychology.)
  • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich ("An unconventional tale of priesthood to be sure, as it's a woman passing herself off as a man *and* a priest. But it's a beautiful book.")
  • "Of Gods and Men" ("I can't recommend it enough. based on the real-life story of a community of trappist monks in algeria in 1996 who were in the midst of the civil war there and had to make a decision about leaving or staying. i guarantee you will love it...and weep.")
  • The Name of the Rose
  • In this House of Brede

Needless to say, PeaceBang had some good recommendations to share:

The 1994 film "Priest" starring Linus Roache is amazing. And for me, "Dead Man Walking" was the most spot-on depiction of the terrifying demands and complexities of pastoral care I have ever seen. It probably goes without saying that there's a ton of truth in "The Vicar of Dibley." It is an entirely affectionate and honest look at life in a small parish, with genius comic writing. There is a Victorian era novel I love called Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss that is a series of journal entries by a young woman. One of her key relationships is with her pastor and she writes a lot about going to church, hearing the sermon and then trying to actually put into practice some of what the minister preaches. Some may find it corny but I think it's a wonderful book. It was a huge bestseller in its day. But I'm saving the best for last..... Gilead by Marilynn Robinson. Far and away the best clergy character produced by an American author in the past decade.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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