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Preacher Man

A spiritual leader for the believers in a small community. In Westerns, the preacher is usually dressed semi-formally in a black broadcloth suit, and may sport a clerical collar, depending on denomination. (Many preachers will have "no denomination given" for the broadest appeal.)

When played straight (or idealistically if you happen to be a cynic), the preacher is a Good Shepherd, a force for reason and peace in the community. He usually understands that violence is an option the law has to take sometimes, but weighs heavily against it for civilians or for less-than-emergency situations. Don't think this makes the Preacher Man an easy target, though—when push comes to shove, they'll fight for what's right with all their might. Even those who are opposed to violence in all its forms can still end a fight by putting themselves in the line of fire, as few villains are either impious enough to shoot a messenger of God or stupid enough to shoot the one person in the town everyone would be willing to defend / avenge.

Towns too small to have their own church may share a "circuit rider" with other communities in the same fix. Like the Circuit Judge, the circuit preacher moves from place to place on a schedule so that any necessary weddings, baptisms or general preachifyin' can take place once a month.

May come with a "preacher's wife", who is usually long-suffering. (Preachers weren't paid much in the Wild West, and had to work any time of day or night they were needed.) The son of a Preacher Man will most likely be either a saint or a devil.

Most often spotted at weddings, funerals and town meetings.

Watch out though, as many characters introduced as the Preacher Man are in fact a Sinister Minister or indulging in Bad Habits to exploit the respect generally given a man of the cloth.

In terms of rank, the authority tropes arguably equal are Badass Preacher, Corrupt Corporate Executive, Irish Priest, Landlord, Pedophile Priest, Schoolteachers, Sexy Priest, Sinister Minister and The Vicar. For the next step down, see Student Council President. For the next step up, see Dean Bitterman.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Nicholas D. Wolfwood in Trigun, although he owes more to the Preacher With No Name than to any particular church.
  • Baskerville in Et Cetera.

Comic Books

Film
  • The Quick and the Dead featured a preacher that was a Retired Gunfighter.
  • "Fuck off, Grasshopper!"
  • Parodied (of course) by Reverend Johnson in Blazing Saddles. Among other things, he attempts to save Sheriff Bart from execution but desists when someone shoots a hole through his Bible.
  • The Preacher With No Name, played by Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. Armed with Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • Reverend Kane from the second and third Poltergeist films. Leader of a ghost army who would stop at nothing to get to Carol Anne.
  • Rev. Eli Sunday, the corrupt teenage preacher from There Will Be Blood.
  • In Dead in Tombstone, the preacher of Edendale has turned to drink since the town has become the Wretched Hive that is Tombstone. But he still does his best to tend to the spiritual needs of his flock, and apparently has a vision regarding the coming of Guerrero to cleanse the town.
  • Rev. Spence in One Foot in Heaven is a completely straight example of this trope. He ministers to his flock, giving sermons, performing weddings and baptisms, and setting an example to the community, and he never complains when they don't pay him enough or don't maintain the upkeep on his parsonage.

Literature
  • The little frontier town in Caddie Woodlawn had a circuit rider.
  • David Grantland in Christy (the book and corresponding short-lived TV series) was a recent seminary graduate who tried to preach to an entire area poverty-stricken, uneducated residents of the Appalachians in 1912. His efforts were met with mixed reactions.
  • Hakham Dawid is the spiritual leader for his small, five-person yeshiva in A Wolf In The Soul.

Live-Action TV
  • Little House on the Prairie: The Rev. Robert Alden, who was not only a voice of reason, reassurance and understanding but an active part in the lives of everyone in Walnut Grove. Usually a pacifist, you did not want to make him angry — as the Gallander brothers found out when they finally pressed their luck with him (and he learns that two of them had gang-raped Caroline Ingalls).
  • Shepherd Book of Firefly. Who was also remarkably accurate with firearms. Are you seeing a trend here?
    • River even calls him "preacher-man" while 'fixing' his Bible.
  • Reverend Samuels of Kings plays Preacher Man to an entire kingdom.
  • Father Mulcahy of Mash. Who was also an accomplished boxer, a go-between with the black market, and not opposed to raising orphanage money by gambling.

Music

Newspaper Comics
  • A storyline in Latigo starting here concerns an ex-gunman who goes straight after four years in prison, and becomes the preacher in the town of Rimfire. It originally ran in 1981.

Roleplay
  • Dino Attack RPG, Dr. Noomi Shaw is the closest person on the team to this sort of character. While not actually a priest, she does wear a cross and tries to use her faith as a means of comfort both for herself and those around her.

Real Life
  • The Whitmans

Tabletop Games

Video Games


Western Union ManWestern CharactersThe Missionary
Prayer PoseReligion TropesPre-Approved Sermon

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