Quick review: pastors in the classics

  • Sumo

Pastors in the Classics is a book about books. Specifically it concerns fiction works that include a pastor or minister as a major character. The authors are interested in what kinds of pastors, and what kinds of pastoral experience, are presented.

There are two major sections. Each of these two are, essentially, a list of books with some comment. Part 1 lists only a dozen books, with extended summaries and reflection, and a series of questions for discussion. Part 2 lists a further 58 novels, with quick precis and reflection.

Reading Pastors in the Classics gives a good sense of how Christianity and Christian ministers are perceived and portrayed. There are cultural stereotypes of pastors and preachers: devoted to service; unworldly; hypocritical; weak yet manipulative; drunkards; sex-obsessed; unmotivated; etc. The novels represented here are likely to be the reason these stereotypes persist (not forgetting, of course, that even clichés have basis in truth!).

Don’t read this book if you dislike plot spoilers. The authors state their assumption that we will have read the relevant novel first (I didn’t, and have only read two of the 12 featured works).

The list of works could provide a great basis for a Christian reading group. Even better, for a reading group of people doing ministry (paid or not) in order to reflect on life and ministry today. You could use the discussion questions from Part 1. Or, if you don’t want to read a book about reading books, you could just work through the list at your own pace.

If you are interested in this latter idea, here are the 12 ‘Masterworks of Clerical Literature’: The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer); The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne); The Warden (Anthony Trollope); Elmer Gantry (Sinclair Lewis); Witch Wood (John Buchan); Murder in the Cathedral (T.S. Eliot); The Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernanos); The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene); The Hammer of God (Bo Giertz); Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton); Silence (Shusako Endo); Gilead (Marilynne Robinson).

I read the Kindle edition of Pastors in the Classics.