I may not be a practicing Catholic – heck, I can barely be classified as a Christian anymore – but my upbringing was definitely strongly influenced by the teachings of Christ. In fact, some of my favorite songs while I was growing up were actually songs I learned as part of a church choir.
I mean, listen to this:
This and pretty much every Christian ritual I’ve experienced are there to give you a sense of uplifting inclusiveness. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo – many people in many congregations use their faith to exclude, shame, and outright punish “others”. As wonderful as the actual religion is, as cool as Jesus Christ is, many of its believers suck as human beings. Even priests fuck it up despite all those biblical examples of helping the downtrodden. Pope Francis may be doing fairly well in rehabilitating the Church’s image, but so many OTHER leaders in the Catholic community have trouble with practicing what they preach (which should include “loving your neighbors” on top of loving God).
Maybe that’s the reason why I appreciate FICTIONAL Christians. While a whole lot of them may be played for laughs, many of them still serve as great examples of the principles of Christianity (some even make Catholic symbolism cool).
After talking to my dad, who basically shares my appreciation for fictional Christians, I ended up with a list of my absolute favorite fictional Christian characters:
- The Confessor (Astro City) – A Roman Catholic priest who once gave in to temptation, he atones for his sins by fighting as a costumed superhero vampire. It’s less cheesy than you think.
- Father Brown (Father Brown Stories) – Also a Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown uses his insight into evil, born out of years of listening to confessions, to solve crimes. I just love how he proves that being faithful doesn’t mean being irrational.
- Ned Flanders (The Simpsons) – Homer Simpson’s generally genial neighbor, while the butt of many jokes and the victim of many injustices, still tries his best to be a good person to everyone. It’s very admirable.
- Seeley Booth (Bones) – As the hyper-rational Temperance Brennan’s partner in all respects, this FBI agent tends to be more “absolutist” when it comes to questions of good or bad. But instead of making him unbearably righteous, it makes him sympathetic as he tries to be a good person in the face of his job. The complexity is compelling.
- Michael and Charity Carpenter (The Dresden Files) – Michael is a Knight of the Cross; he fights demons using a sword with a nail from Christ’s crucifixion. His wife Charity makes ALL his armor, and helps him practice fighting. They do this with SEVEN children and a house in the suburbs. Why do I love them? Lemme give you a Michael quote:
It’s one of the things that makes us different than they are, Harry. The blood on their hands does not make it right to bloody my own. My choices are measured against my own soul. Not against the stains on theirs.
Holy shit, right? No pun intended.
So I guess my point is that sometimes it takes fiction to help you see the best things about having faith, the best manifestations of faith – like recognizing one’s mistakes and attempting to make up for it, like living by your principles, like using your gifts to help others.
Call me a cynic, but having a hierarchical “community” may not be the best way to go about this. Maybe we need to tell more Catholic/Christian stories that are less “preachy”. But that’s just me.
Do you have favorite religious characters? Why do you like them?