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Preacher Man

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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, 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, funerals or general preachifyin' can take place once a month. (In some places this fellow is referred to as a "traveling fire escape".)

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, if rebellious, a devil.

Most often spotted at weddings, funerals and town meetings. May be called on by the mayor to deliver a Suspiciously Specific Sermon.

A preacher working the gritty small-town Wild West circuit may have a less-than-spotless resume, including struggles with the "demon in a bottle" and brushes with the law. Their battles with earthly temptation in their Dark and Troubled Past may be what helped to guide them into their priestly vocation. To be fair, real life experience outside the seminary also makes them more understanding of the everyday issues faced by their flock.

Watch out though, as many characters introduced as the Preacher Man are in fact a Sinister Minister or conman 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, 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.


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

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Rev. Gates in The Blot is rather poor himself, but still manages to distribute alms to hungry people in his congregation.
  • Rev. Peabody in Breakheart Pass is a preacher being sent to minister to the men of Fort Humboldt. (Or is he?)
  • Reverend Mitchell is a missionary in Dakota Harris.
  • 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.
  • In The Gunfight at Dodge City, Reverend Howard is Pauline's father and, although he disapproves of Bat Masterson as a gambler and gunfighter, supports his run at sheriff and he realises Bat is the only man to stand a chance of defeating Jim Regan.
  • Left for Dead: Mobius Lockhardt was a preacher trying to bring the word of God to the mining town of Amnesty. However, he fell for the charms of the prostitute Mary Black and started an illicit relationship with her. When he broke off the affair to return to his wife, Mary became a Woman Scorned and led her fellow whores on a killing spree that resulted in the deaths of everyone in Amnesty.
  • John Harland in The Man from Kangaroo. After being forced to back down on delivering his first service in Kalmaroo when Braggan and his gang threaten to harm his congregants, he suffers a crisis of faith and abandons the cloth to become a station hand.
  • Father O'Hea fills this role in Ned Kelly.
  • In Never Grow Old, Preacher Pike runs the Christian Temperance League and is the de facto ruler of Garlow.
  • 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.
  • The Preacher With No Name, played by Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. Armed with Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III: Leader of a ghost army who would stop at nothing to get to Carol Anne.
  • In Prairie Fever, the preacher of Clearwater arranged for 17 Mail Order Brides for the farmers. Now he wants to ship the three crazy ones back east to avoid embarrassment.
  • The Quick and the Dead features a preacher who is a Retired Gunfighter, having undergone a Heel–Faith Turn.
  • In Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Bother Abraham is the preacher for the local Brethren assembly. He comes to Devlin's aid and plays a vital role in rescuing Maitland and Clegg from the gallows.
  • In Six Reasons Why, the ultimate authority in the Utopian settlement to the west is the town's preacher.
  • Rev. Eli Sunday, the corrupt teenage preacher from There Will Be Blood.

  • 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.
  • In A Town Like Alice, set in the Australian outback, a wedding has to wait until a visit of the "flying brother" (circuit-flying minister).
  • Father Dmitri in Victoria is never anything less than supportive in the protagonist's efforts to help rehouse Christian refugees, fight tyranny and injustice, and eradicate Islam from the face of the globe.
  • Hakham Dawid is the spiritual leader for his small, five-person yeshiva in A Wolf in the Soul.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Shepherd Book of Firefly has left the abbey and would like to bring the word to them as need it told. It turns out he is remarkably accurate with firearms. River even calls him "preacher-man" while 'fixing' his Bible.
    • When asked if the Bible doesn't have some "pretty specific" things to say about killing, Book replies "Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps."
  • Reverend Samuels of Kings plays Preacher Man to an entire kingdom.
  • 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 sexually harassed Caroline Ingalls).
  • Father Mulcahy of M*A*S*H. In addition to being a priest, he was also an accomplished boxer, a go-between with the black market, and not opposed to raising orphanage money by gambling.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl stole a church organ from a preacher many years ago...only to find that that preacher is on his list several times. Each instance makes the preacher angrier and angrier, but he does his best to forgive Earl. The last straw is during his sermon on forgiveness, when his wife admits that she cheated on him...and it turns out that she cheated on him with Earl. This causes the preacher to revert back to who he was before he had a Heel–Faith Turn and became a preacher: a Scary Black Man gangster nicknamed "Hash Brown." (Because he had a reputation for chopping people up like hash browns.) He eventually finds out that (thanks to yet another item on Earl's List of Transgressions) Earl had indirectly saved his life. He always attributed that to divine intervention, and it was the reason he left his gangster life and became a minister in the first place. He decides that he's not going back to "Hash Brown," and his congregation forgives him.


    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.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • D-Von Dudley briefly became Reverend D-Von, a wrestling minister. Reverend D-Von was a heel character, although strangely he didn't fit any of the other types of evil preachers, e.g. Sinister Minster. He was just an all-purpose jerk who happened to be a preacher. He's most notable for introducing Batista to the mainstream wrestling world - Batista's first role was as Deacon Bautista, D-Von's musclebound goon.
  • Claude "Thunderbolt" Patterson wasn't actually a preacher. However, he spoke in the style of southern gospel preachers rather than in a standard pro wrestling meter. Even his name Thunderbolt was a reference to the heavenly thunder. He was one of the biggest draws in the Southeast US, particularly with black fans, in the 60s and 70s.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Revered Putty from Moral Orel serves as the pastor for the town of Moralton. At first, he's shown to be a self-righteous Bible-thumper like every other resident, but his daughter coming out as lesbian prompts him to reevaluate his views.
  • Reverend Lovejoy of The Simpsons embodies the archetype of the monotone preacher whose sermons drone on and on. Complete with the stereotypical Southern preacher's Verbal Tic of adding an "-uh" at the end-uh of every important word-uh.