Friday, July 3, 2020

Kanopy Month: The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim

Before I write about this film, especially before I write about the church in this film, I have to talk about a very disturbing scene in 1923’s The Pilgrim, written, directed, and, of course, starring Charlie Chaplin.

The scene takes place in a train station. Charlie plays an escaped convict trying to work up the courage to buy a train ticket as a police officer enters the station. This scene is particularly disturbing now -- not because of the police officer and the criminal and the current controversies about law enforcement. No, the very disturbing thing in this scene is a water cooler. 

To avoid looking face to face at the officer, Charlie turns to the water cooler for a drink of water. He uses a cup that's chained to the water cooler. Everyone in that train station who wanted a drink of water used the same cup.

There is no apparent protocol for cleaning this cup. So some fellow with T.B. might be taking a big swig of H2O, followed by someone with polio, followed by someone with the common cold. What makes this all the more disconcerting is that this film came out only a few years after the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It’s not like they had no idea of how diseases spread. Where I live, in Seattle, they did shelter-in-place back in the day, yet people were all still sharing this same cup in the train station. It makes someone in 2020 shudder.

Anyway, on to what this blog is about, a movie with a church.

Charlie Chaplin plays Lefty Lombard alias Slippery Elm, a convict who escaped from prison by climbing a drainpipe in the dining room and swimming through the sewer (perhaps giving Andy Dufresne the idea decades in advance). He steals clothes from a man at a swimming hole, and that man apparently is a clergyman. (This is a rare silent film where Chaplin doesn’t wear his Little Tramp outfit, but only prison stripes and the clerical collar.)

Charlie doesn’t seem to notice that he's dressed as a clergyman until an eloping couple at the train station chases him, hoping he'll perform their marriage ceremony. Charlie escapes on a train, leaving it at random in a small Texas town. 

Meanwhile, in a small church in the Texas town (a Church Without a Name and of no discernable denomination), Deacon Jones posts an index card on the bulletin board reading, “Special Notice - The Reverend Philip Pim our new minister will arrive on Sunday.” 

A small group of congregants reads the notice excitedly. A young woman says to her mother, “I wonder if he’s young.” 

The interior of the church is fairly nondescript, but there are a couple of stained glass windows with a couple of androgynous figures that I certainly couldn’t place from Scripture or church history. Also in the congregation is a strange figure -- what looks like a teenage boy wearing a skull cap and a fake beard strapped to his head with a rubber band (he looks like a Hasidic Jew from a vaudeville review).

When Charlie gets off the train in Devil’s Gulch, Texas he is greeted by a man with a badge. Charlie puts his hands together in front of himself, ready to be cuffed. Instead the man shakes his hand and says, “The Rev. Mr. Pim, I believe? I’m Sheriff Bryan. The church members are waiting for you.”

The same congregants we saw earlier greet the man they believe is their new pastor. Charlie is told that he’s there in time for the service and they’re heading for the church.

But before they leave the station, someone brings a telegram to Deacon Jones. The Deacon says he doesn’t have his glasses, so he asks the “Reverend” to read the telegram. It reads, “Deacon Jones - Devils’s Gulch TX - Cannot arrive as expected, will be delayed for a week - Reverend Pym.” 

Charlie doesn’t read it to Deacon Jones, but makes up something about a sick relative. The Deacon tears up the telegram and throws it to the ground.

Also at the train station, Charlie notices a liquor bottle in the Deacon's back pocket. Charlie steals the bottle and puts it in his own back pocket. As they walk toward the church, both men slip on a banana peel, the bottle breaks, and both men ignore the liquid spilled on the sidewalk.

Charlie, seated at the front of the church, looks to the side, where the choir looks to him like a jury. In fact, the whole sanctuary looks like a courtroom to him, and he gets rather nervous. He pulls out a cigarette, but dirty looks force him to return the cigarette to his pocket.

The collection is taken, and Charlie tries to take the money for himself, but Deacon Jones takes the money away, seeming to view Charlie’s action as absentmindedness.

But then Charlie is called upon to give the sermon. (“The Sermon! The Sermon!” the title card reads.)

He stands at a pulpit with a very large Bible and says, “My sermon will be David and Goliath. Now Goliath was a big man and David was a little man.” He goes on to act out that whole story and doesn’t scrimp on depicting the rock hitting the giant’s head or David chopping off that same head. This delights a young boy in the church who seemed bored previously.

As the film goes on, Charlie encounters a former cellmate, Picking Pete, who threatens to uncover Charlie's true identity. Charlie finds himself on the side of good as he tries to protect the kind people in the church from the wiles of Pete.

The church overall comes off well in this film, but it did make me wonder about their pastoral search process. If they didn’t even know the age of the incoming minister, what else didn’t they know? Did they know anything about his Biblical and theological convictions? Did they know anything about his views on church polity or organization? Did they even know if he was a former felon? (The Narrator says, “They did not.”)

If this unnamed church could shape up its search process, they could perhaps raise their current Movie Churches rating of Three Steeples to Four.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Kanopy: Free Lunch Streaming

Kanopy Month

Throughout the past several months of lockdowns, a popular social media topic has been streaming services. Which service has more content at the best price? Some say Netflix, some say Hulu, some say Amazon Prime, some say Disney +, some say Apple TV… (Just kidding, no one says Apple TV).

Many people cut the cord from cable to save money but found that the cost of signing up for various streaming services piled up quickly. Movie Churches is here to help! 

There are some free options out there. For instance, good old reliable YouTube has free films (public domain material). Crackle was one of the first services to provide old TV shows and movies. Vudu has some free TV and films if you’re willing to sit through commercials. This month, we’ll be looking at films from a free service with even classier fare than old episodes of The Greatest American Hero and 21 Jump Street.

Kanopy works in conjunction with public libraries. If you have a library card, you can probably access the material on Kanopy. And that's how I'll be watching this month's feature films, but I’d like to kick things off with something different you can find through the Kanopy service. 

Sermons and Sacred Pictures
is basically a collection of the home movies recorded by a Black Baptist pastor, the Rev. L. O. Taylor, who recorded the happenings in his church in Memphis in the 1930s and 1940s, keeping alive the joys and struggles of that time in place. The film opens with a river baptism and includes a National Baptist Conference with civil rights on the agenda. It’s just a half-hour long, but it captures a great variety of church life in that time.

Search for “church” at Kanopy, and you’ll many interesting works of history, art, music, and sociology. But for the rest of this month of Movie Churches, we’ll ignore all that and watch some feature films with (usually) fictional pastors and congregants. You won’t have to spend a dime to read about these films...or watch them.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Joan of Arc Month: Childhood

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

In a quick, not necessarily reliable, search of which historical characters have been depicted most often in films, I found Napoleon Bonaparte was the winner with 194 films, Jesus second with 152 followed by Abraham Lincoln with 137. Joan of Arc is almost certainly a contender in the category of woman most frequently featured in a film, with 44 films (11 of those being television features). So, even though this is the last week of Joan of Arc Month for June of 2020, it wouldn’t be difficult to do Joan Month Part Deux. For instance, we bypassed Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epic Joan the Woman (available on YouTube.) Roberto Rossellini made Joan of Arc at the Stake starring his wife Ingrid Bergman (almost a decade after Ingrid first played Joan -- and she was too old the first time.) Otto Preminger made Saint Joan based on the classic George Bernard Shaw play. We could even go with Irwin Allen’s The Story of Mankind in which Joan is played by Hedy Lamarr.

But if we should do another month of Joan of Arc, I very much doubt we will ever find a film quite as strange as Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. It is almost certainly the oddest films we've ever viewed at Movie Churches.

The Amazon Prime description calls the film a “heavy metal musical about a young shepherdess, Jeannette, the future Joan of Arc.” This sounds odd by itself, but that doesn’t even mention the amateurish acting, Elaine Benes level choreography, and random absurdist elements. The script was based on a 1910 play by a Catholic writer, Charles Peguy, featuring young children having conversations about the problem of evil, questions of theodicy. So, sure, it’s… different.

Initially, I thought we finally might have a JoA film that cast an actress of appropriate age for the character, but the film does odd things with chronology. Often in films, the teen Joan is played by an actress in her twenties or thirties. But this film starts out with a title card saying that the film opens in 1425 and claims to present Jeannette as an 8-year-old, but the actress playing her seems a couple of years older than that. Now the real Joan/Jeannette was born in 1412, so in 1425 she was actually 13. This was all too much math for me. 

Whatever age the young actress was or was meant to be, the acting, singing, and especially the dance challenges presented to her seemed far too daunting. (As for the dance, it seemed someone off stage was telling her, “Hop! Now spin! Now make windmill motions!”)

As a shepherdess, Jeannette seems to spend a great deal of time away from her sheep, wandering by the creek, singing tuneless songs. She encounters a couple of small boys and she gives them her bread (and then tells others of her noble deed, “I gave them all my bread, my mid-day meal and afternoon snack. I thought of all the starving people in the world.”)

She talks with her friend Hauviette, another little girl, about how Jeannette is perceived by others in the village. Her friend says, “The parishioners believe you are happy because you care for the sick, but I know you are unhappy.” She says she understands Jeannette is unhappy because of injustice in the world. They talk about the oppression of the French by the English. 

Jeannette ponders in song, “What can our charity do? When war is stronger than suffering.” Her friend suggests that a nun from the convent, Madame Gervaise, can help because she will know why God allows suffering in the world.

Unlike other presentations of Joan viewed this month, we never see Joan in a church. There are no priests in this film, but there is this one (maybe two) nun(s), it’s not really clear. Because when Madame Gervaise the nun comes, she comes in the form of two women, played by sisters (Aline and Elise Charles.)

Jeanette is asking of God in song, “What have you done with your Christian people? Could Jesus have died in vain?"

The nun(s) reply, “He is here, He is among us! Eternally, every day, His body, the same body that hung on the cross. The same sacrifice sheds the same blood. He perishes eternally for every parish.” (I don’t know what it was in the original French, but I appreciated that perish/parish pun in the English subtitle.)

But that's pretty much the only appearance of clergy in the film and this blog is here to present how clergy and churches are presented in film.

We see her meet with her “Voices,” Saint Marguerite and Saint Catherine (played by the Charles sisters who played the nun), and Saint Michael (played by a woman). They tell her she must save France.

The film ends where most stories of Joan begin, with slightly older Jeanne, now a teenager, going off with her uncle (a very young uncle in this version) to see the Dauphin about leading the French army. A good deal of time is spent discussing how to deceive her father so she will be able to leave.

The Jeannette/Joan of this film spends a great deal more time questioning God than Joans in other versions of the story, and more than I would think the real-life Joan questioned God. I blame the lack of church in this film, and that very odd nun(s) -- which is why I’m only giving the unseen church and seen nun(s) a rating of Two Steeples.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Joan of Arc Month: Where We Don't Write About Bill & Ted

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
It really is too bad that during Joan of Arc Month I can’t discuss what is very likely the most popular film featuring the Maid of Orleans. But sadly, though that supreme cinematic masterpiece, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has Joan, it doesn’t have any church or clergy. In that film, two good-hearted but rather dim high school students are loaned a time machine that they use for help with their history report. They abduct several historical figures: Napoleon, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig von Beethoven, Genghis Khan, Abraham Lincoln, and Joan of Arc. I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking… Why are women so greatly underrepresented while the French are so over-represented? Instead of talking to saints in the film, Joan leads an aerobics class. So we aren’t even going to bother discussing that film.

We're moving on to The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc directed by Luc Besson.

In this version, 23-year-old Milla Jovovich (a decade younger than Ingrid Bergman in last week's film), plays the teen warrior, but the story beats are much the same. Such set-pieces as Joan calling out an impersonator of Charles VII and discovering the true Dauphin (John Malkovich) are in both films, but this version also has much more elaborate battle sequences and, more importantly for this blog, more scenes in churches.

In the earlier film, Joan visits the ruins of a church with no priest in sight. In this film, we see Joan as a little girl talking to a priest in her hometown church. The priest says to her, “I’m always happy to see you, but you’ve been coming to church two, three times a day.”

“I need to confess,” Joan tells the priest, “I saw a poor monk without cheese. I gave him some.”

The priest is baffled why Joan considered this a sin, but she explains, “The cheese wasn’t mine, it was my father’s. He forgave me. I want Jesus to (forgive me).”

The exasperated priest exclaims, “If we bring every little thing to confession, we’ll spend our whole lives in church!”

“And what’s wrong with that?” Joan asks.

“Are you happy at home?” the priest asks.

“Yes, very,” Joan answers, “But I feel safe here. It’s where I can talk to him.”

“Who is this, he?” the priest asks.

“He never says his name. He’s beautiful.”

“What does he say?” is the next question from the priest.

“I must be good and help everyone and take care of myself,” she answers.

“Wherever he’s coming from,” the priest tells her, “you should listen to him because it sounds like he gives very good advice.”

Joan loves the church; she would be happy to spend her life there, but instead, that voice calls her to the battlefield.

Shortly after that is another scene that has no counterpart in the 1948 film. Joan is at home with her older sister when English soldiers break into their house. Joan hides in a closet which allows her to peer out and see the rape and murder of her sister (a truly disturbing scene). A priest performs the sister’s graveside service, and a greatly disturbed Joan finds her only comfort and hope in the church and its clergy.

She asks a priest why her sister died, instead of herself. An old priest tells her, “Only God can answer that. I realize your anguish, but you must learn to forgive. One thing I’m sure, God always has a reason. He has a reason to use you.”

It is soon after that Joan's Voices reveal the reason God has preserved her. “I was going to Mass, as I do every day, but everything was made clear, God gave me a message I was to deliver. He said I must save France from her enemies and deliver her into God’s hands.”

When Joan offers her help to Charles, and he seeks the help of the church to verify her credentials. The Archbishop is charged with affirming her orthodoxy and the nuns are charged with affirming her claim of virginity. She passes both tests.

History dictates other appearances of the church in the film. Charles VII’s coronation takes place in a cathedral where he is charged with the defense of “your Holy Mother Church.” And of course, clergy preside over her trial for heresy.

There is one priest at the trial who tries to help her, taking her side when she asks to bring her case to the Pope. That priest is arrested by the English. As history tells us, the clergy convict her of heresy, and she's handed over to the civil authorities to be burned at the stake -- and that is not a good look. It keeps the church and clergy in this film from earning our highest steeple rating, but the good clergy early in the film earn a Three Steeples. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Joan of Arc Month: Joan Goes Hollywood

Joan of Arc
The CW Network (and its deceased parent networks, the WB and UPN) receives much rightful grief for having actors in their twenties play teen characters. (Conversely, their parents are played by actors in their thirties.) This week’s Joan of Arc Month movie beat TV to this trend by decades by having 33-year-old Ingrid Bergman play the teen Joan. And, as on those youth trending networks, our heroine has to be hot. (The Dauphin, played by Jose Ferrer, remarks that people follow Joan because she is so attractive. Quite the Hollywood perspective of politics.)

As a whole, this 1948 telling of the Joan of Arc story tries to be much prettier than the 1928 version we looked at last week or, more importantly, the historical record. It makes sense; this is the Hollywood telling of the story as opposed to the French telling of the story. The French tend toward a more cynical view of the Church -- to put it lightly (see the murder of priests and nuns during their Revolution in the late 1700s). Hollywood in the Golden Age usually deemed it best to treat the Church with kid gloves. It isn't surprising that Victor Fleming, director of Gone With the Windmanages to make the Hundred Years War nearly as picturesque as the American Civil War.

So let’s look at how churches and clergy are presented in the film (since that's the point of this blog). The film begins with an abstract presentation of the inside of a basilica with heavenly light shining upon it and a narrator pronouncing the canonization of Joan. Bells chime and candles flicker, and we are assured from the beginning that eventually the Church will get things right as to the significance of the Maid of Orleans.

The next church we see looks like it got bombed in the Blitz. We see a young Joan praying in a small church in ruins. We learn that it is the village church of Domremy, Joan’s home town. But it is in ruins, perhaps because of the Hundred Years War? The altar is fine, as are the pews, but the stone walls have very large gaps. Joan (or Jeanette, as she is generally called in her hometown -- before her name changes for reasons the film does not explain) is beseeching her “Voices” to speak to her and give her direction.

Her father enters the church to order his daughter to make breakfast, reprimanding her for “thinking of nothing else but this church.” He lectures her about neglecting her friends and family for her “daydreaming” about saints. At that breakfast, the family has a visitor: Joan’s uncle who has been off at the battles.

Her uncle tells about the horrors of the war and is much harsher in his denunciation of the Burgundians (French who fought against their countrymen) than the English. (This make sense for the filmmakers of the time and filmgoers who had just fought WWII with the English as allies while the French were divided between the Vichy who allied with the Third Reich and the Resistance who opposed it.) Without her parents’ permission, Joan joins her uncle as he returns to the battle.

She explains to her uncle, “It’s more than four years since I first heard the voice of saints in my father’s garden. I am only a poor girl of the farms, I am not fit to talk to great people.” But she feels she must approach “great people.” Eventually, she is able to see the Dauphin, Charles VII, the uncrowned king of France. Joan tells him that he will be crowned.

She tells the Dauphin that God has called her to join the army against the English. (Those who disagree sarcastically sneer that Joan can join the army as a “camp follower,” a prostitute.) Some worry her “Voices” might not be heavenly. Before she can join the troops, she is asked if she has studied witchcraft (she responds with an emphatic “No.”) A priest is brought in to examine her.

The priest asks Joan if she is from God, and if she is, to come near. Joan approaches the priest and asks for his blessing. The priest assures all around that “she’s no sorceress, the devil has no part in this woman.” The priest treats her kindly, calling her “my child.”

When Joan joins the army, she insists that the men change their behavior. First of all, she orders, “There will be no swearing in camp.” A soldier (Ward Bond) responds, “You want the army to be mute?” She tells the generals and troops, “From now on there won’t be much time for games. Pick up your dice. They tell me there is no changing of armies. We must be on God’s side. There must be no gambling, no swearing, or taking God’s name in vain; and camp women must be sent away. And you must go to confession. There is no strength in our hands, our strength is in our faith. We can win only if we become God’s army. It is not easy to ask this. It is not easy to do.”

Joan leads the French army to victory but is wounded by an arrow to the shoulder. A soldier asks her if she wants to “Hold my amulet; it will hold away the pain.” 

Joan responds, “I would rather die than use sorcery.”

When Joan sees the devastation of the English army, she cries, “I have no hatred for the English.” but she is encouraged when she is told that she has given faith to the people of France.

Joan attends the coronation of Charles VII in a church, and it is indeed a worship service. Charles bows before the altar and the Bishop. It is a worship service, and, of course, is in Latin.

Alleluias are sung as Charles is crowned King. Joan says, “This is the day we have fought for and it is here.” 

All shout, “Long live the King!”

But of course, not all are pleased with the victory. The Burgundian Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais (Francis L. Sullivan), says, “This is no subject for jesting. She is victorious and has made no mistakes so far. The church has had to deal with many heretics, but none as dangerous as this one. She would have been declared a heretic if I had been there.” Pierre gets his chance later, as he judges Joan's heresy trial.

Joan’s victory is short-lived. Her beloved King, Charles, betrays her by signing a truce with the English. Joan is turned over to the Burgundian clergy for trial. (Joan asks for French clergy to try her rather than English clergy. She is granted this request to some degree, but they are French clergy sympathetic to the English.)

Joan’s trial is not proper; there are many laws of the church broken. Joan should have been guarded by women in a women’s prison, but she is sent to a men’s prison with soldiers as guards. She appeals to Rome and asks to be tried by the Pope (who is “subject to no king”), but this lawful appeal is denied. And she is denied the Sacrament of the Eucharist unless she signs a confession.

Throughout the trial, Joan is supported by Father Jean Massieu (Shepperd Strudwick), her counselor.  He voices his concern and support for Joan throughout the trial, but his opinion is overruled. (Several priests  who support Joan are arrested.) Eventually, Joan is convinced she should deny that she's been hearing voices from God.

As history tells us, Joan renounces her confession and sent to the stake to be burned. As she's led to the place of execution, she's forced to wear a hat that calls her, “Relapsed heretic, sorceress, blasphemer, idolatress, apostate,” and that hat becomes the sign on her stake.

The Bishop reads the charges against Joan before the crowd, and he turns her over to the civil authorities to be executed. Joan dies, yet cries out to Jesus. Triumphant music and a shot of the heavens assure us that really, all is well.

The Church is presented positively at times in this film, but it is still responsible for the torture and murder of an innocent woman, so a Two Steeple rating is the best we can do.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Joan of Arc Month: Silent

The Passion of Joan of Arc
That feeling when you’re watching a film that’s nearly a hundred years old about events that took place nearly six hundred years ago and it seems to be ripped from today’s headlines. Sure, it doesn’t happen too often, but it did when I was watching Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 classic, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Joan, of course, lived a brief but fascinating life, and the film’s life has been rather fascinating as well. French nationalists were quite skeptical about a Danish director telling the story of their national heroine. Dreyer spent a year studying the transcripts of the trial of Joan and took all of the dialogue (I should say title cards) from those transcripts. The final version was deemed blasphemous by the Archbishop of Paris, and so the film was severely edited by French government censors. The original version of the film was considered lost. But in 1981, the final version of the film was found in a mental institution in Olso, Norway.

When I was planning out Joan of Arc Month at the end of 2019, I figured I'd borrow a DVD of the film from the library. I didn’t anticipate the difficulty of doing something so seemingly simple in the pandemic world to come. Then I discovered the whole film was on Youtube -- which was great because we found the title cards were translated in subtitles...into Portuguese. Since neither Mindy or I know either language, we weren't positive what the title cards said, but we enjoyed making guesses (“‘Hommes’ means ‘men,’ right? I think they’re asking why she’s wearing men’s clothing.”) And fortunately, though the title cards are limited, the story is fairly easy to follow (especially if you know a bit of Joan’s story.)

So what it Joan’s story? She was born in a peasant family in Domremy 1412 toward the end of the Hundred Years' War when her native France was still dominated by England. As she grew up, she claimed to have visions from Christian Saints who told her she would lead French armies against the English and bring victory for Charles VII of France. Amazingly, she did indeed lead French armies to victories. But in 1430 she was captured by French nobles allied with the English. She was handed over to the English and put on trial for heresy by French clergymen loyal to the English. The film is the story of that trial.

Maria Falcontti (a stage actress in one of her few film roles) played Joan with a performance that is still heralded as one of the greatest on the screen. Dreyer used mainly close-ups to capture the performances. He insisted his actors not wear make-up and filmed under harsh lights making Joan pathetic and her persecutors grotesque.

As the trial begins, Joan is forced to swear on the Bible, a locked Bible bound in chains. She is asked about her visions of St. Michael. As mentioned before, she is asked why she is wearing men's clothes and declares that she will wear them until her mission from God is complete.

One of the priests believes her to be a saint and he bows to her, along with some of the monks. Those men are thrown out of the proceedings.

Joan is subjected to physical torture but won’t recant her visions or her loyalty to France and her King. But the clergy comes upon a more insidious form of torture. They threaten to kill her without allowing her to take communion, jeopardizing her state of grace in death. This leads her to recant and sign a confession. She receives the Sacrament.

But she then recants her recant. She is tied to the stake with a sign naming her a heretic. She is burned alive. Joan cries out to Jesus in her death.

It is then that something a little too familiar takes place. The French people, outraged by the execution of an innocent by authorities riot. They throw rocks through the church windows. The clergy bring in soldiers, hand out maces, beat the protesting men and women. It all seems too much like this week's newsfeed.

Add caption
But we aren’t here to evaluate the film, let alone history or current events. We are here to examine the clergy in films. And I’m afraid we rather frown upon clergy who proclaim young women satanic, let alone torturing them and executing them. So the church and clergy in this film earn a measly one Steeple. Of course, Joan would later be declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church -- which I would roughly equate with our highest Clergy rating of Four Steeples.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Some Film Recommendations

It goes without saying that people have been doing a lot of screen watching in days. A friend on Facebook recently asked for suggestions of things to watch, so I did some digging around for some options.

Since we don't review the movies here at Movie Churches (instead, we review clergy and churches in movies -- as you know), many, many of the films here aren't good. Some are almost painful to watch, but I do it for the good of you, dear readers. These, on the other hand, are films I enjoyed. Some of them I love dearly. They're divided into categories, and if you'd like to know more, click the title to go to the original post. Most are available on Amazon Prime.

Robert Duvall Trilogy
Duvall has made (IMHO) made three of the best films about the Christian faith. (And a couple of pretty awful ones as well, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)
Get Low
Tender Mercies
The Apostle (language and violence)

Two of these films won the Oscar for Best Picture, and the other should have. (And all of the clergy did pretty well in their steeple ratings too.)
On the Waterfront (Adult themes)
A Man for All Seasons
The Quiet Man

Frankly, there have been funnier films reviewed here, but the original request stressed that the films should be family-friendly. Still, these films did make me laugh.
Heaven’s Above
Millions (language)
O Brother Where Art Thou (language and sensuality)

I know, I know, reading is hard. Subtitles. But worth it.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants
Joyeux Noel (violence)
We Are Brothers (strong language)

The theology is rarely great in musicals, and these films aren’t exceptions. But they’re fun.
Cabin in the Sky
Guys and Dolls
The Sound of Music

Science Fiction/Horror
For some reason, people often think these genres are not Christian. But horror acknowledges the supernatural and science fiction often stresses that some things are beyond human understanding.
The Hunchback of Norte Dame
Signs (language, violence)
War of the Worlds (1953)

Worthy Christian Films
Christian films are, as a group, pretty bad. Too often they're nothing more than sappy propaganda. I’ve watched some really bad Christian films for this blog, but I enjoyed these.
The Case for Christ
Soul Surfer
Grace Unplugged

What about you? Looking for any movie recommendations? Let me know.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Comedy Month -- The Pastor and the Pro

The Pastor and the Pro (2018)

This film boldly resurrects one of the worst trends in motion picture history, the sex farces of the late 1950s and early 1960s (from the Doris Day/Rock Hudson flicks to the Bob Hope/Elke Summers atrocities). The trend started with Pillow Talk and continued on with things like Where the Boys Are and The Honeymoon Machine through things like Sex and the Single Girl and I’ll Take Sweden.

What made these films awful are some of the same things that made them popular at the time. They were blatantly about sex -- but they couldn’t REALLY be about sex. The films were usually about people who ALMOST have sex. These films (made in the USA; Europe was up to other things) could not use certain words or show certain body parts  -- especially certain body parts interacting with other body parts.

These films were oh so coy, implying and insinuating sexuality but never explicitly portraying it. But men and women were somehow able to comfortably watch these films together in a movie theater and even laugh together. This all changed when the Hays Code, which censored films, began to fall apart in the Sixties. The naughty words started to be said. Body parts, previously hidden at theaters where families attended together, began to be seen on screen and those body parts began to interact.

So the genre of sex farces with no sex became sex comedies like Animal House and Porky’s that actually include sex. Sex farces migrated to television on shows like Three’s Company until television started to swear and show naughty bits on cable and streaming.

In 2014, writer/director Matthew Wilson brought back the sex farce with The Virgins. It is about sexuality: a bride and groom who face one obstacle after another in consummating their marriage after waiting in purity. Though the film is about sex, there are some of the same limits on language and content that Hollywood filmmakers dealt with under the Hayes Code, because the film was made by Christians for a Christian audience.

Matthew Wilson returns to the long moribund genre with 2018’s The Pastor and the Pro. Amazon summarized the film like this: “A young, single pastor needs a quick date for a big, church dinner so he hires an escort.” Like the sex farces of old, that tag line sounds like an unlikely, nay, impossible situation. It is actually impressive that Wilson manages to make that highly unlikely plot a bit believable.

Jacob (Travis Lincoln Cox) is the junior pastor on a multi-church staff. Jacob was a missionary in Uganda and came home for this unclear position in a church of an unknown denomination (the senior pastor is Scottish, so we can’t rule out some variety of Presbyterian, though the ordination process seems to be different from any I'm aware of) We learn Jacob isn’t allowed yet to preach in “big church.” His sole assignment, as far as we see, is to teach the “new members” class which consists of three people that already are members of the church. (This led me to puzzle about the church finances. Is there any church in the world, even among the megachurches, that can afford to keep a full-time staff member who does virtually nothing? Especially if he isn’t a televangelist's son-in-law or something?)

A woman named Leah (Monika Holm) is one of the attendees in this sparsely attended membership class, and she just attends because she's infatuated with the teacher. (Leah is the niece of the senior pastor, and it's possible the only reason Jacob was hired was to be Leah’s suitor.) Leah breaks into Jacob’s office and waits for him. She greets him with these words, “You rocked my world, as usual.” (Sad to say, no one has ever said that after one of my Bible studies.)

Jacob tells Leah they shouldn’t be in his office alone, because “a pastor can’t be in any situation where there might be temptation.” She argues it’s fine for a single pastor to be alone for a woman “pushing thirty,” especially if they’re interested in one another. Jacob is quite obviously not interested in Leah.

Jacob seems more interested in his neighbor, Rachel (Kelly Cunningham). Rachel is a prostitute, and Jacob likes to talk with her when he comes home from work. She leaves her door open, even when she's out, and Jacob often goes into her apartment to wait for her to return. (Leaving the door open is a rather peculiar quirk for a prostitute. One wouldn’t think that would be a profession that would lead one to be a trusting person.)

In Jacob’s chats with Rachel, he complains about his job; she makes sly double entendres about her job. She flirts with him, but he makes it clear that he won’t compromise principles. In fact, Jacob is always going on about his principles, especially his integrity. He seems particularly proud of his integrity.

Rachel really is the most attractive character in the film. She seems to be the most honest person (sorry, Jacob) and the only person someone would like to have a drink with. (Well, sort of. In a scene set in a bar, Rachel orders a boilermaker and seems quite awkward drinking it. She also seems pretty awkward with the sex talk.)

Jacob's dinner invitation to a pastoral staff dinner is the big plot mechanism. Dr. Callahan, the world-famous author of best-selling books about marriage is to be the guest of honor at Pastor Campbell's home. (A little baffled by Biblically focused marriage books hitting the Best Sellers List, but...) Jacob adores Doc Cal, did his thesis on his work, and desperately wants to go to the dinner. But Campbell tells Jacob that no one comes to the dinner stag. He has to have a date. (This is just flat-out bizarre, a pastor setting a couples-only rule for a staff dinner with a theologian. Why did the church ever hire a pastor with such a handicap as being single?)

Pastor Campbell seems to assume that Jacob will take Leah to dinner, but instead, Jacob hires Rachel to be his date. And the zaniness begins.

Oh, I should mention what Rachel charges Jacob, besides just money. She asks him to sleep with her. Not have sex (because that couldn’t happen in a Christian film, any more than it could happen in a Doris Day film in the ’50s), just sleep. Of course, as in the sex farces of old, there are more deceptions and misunderstandings but at the end (spoiler!), unlike the sex farces of old, there’s no wedding at the end of the movie.

But as you know, we are never here to talk about the film. We're here to talk about the clergy and the church in the film. And the church and clergy of the film are really weird. 

Dr. Callahan believes the staff of the church are prideful and deceitful (with the possible exception of Jacob), but Jacob discovers he's just been deceiving himself about his own integrity. And I could never figure out what ministry the church does.

So I’m giving the church and clergy of The Pastor and the Pro a Two Steeple rating out of four.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Comedy Month: Death(s) at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral (2010)
This remake of 2007’s Death at a Funeral is a little baffling. It's common for hit European or Asian films to be remade into American films (The Birdcage was originally the French comedy La Cage aux Folles, The Departed was a remake of Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs, Scent of a Woman was Italy’s Profumo di Donna, etc.) But usually, these are foreign-language films remade into English because many American audiences don’t care for dubbing or subtitles. The first Death at a Funeral is an English language film, made in England. I guess it was remade for those who find English accents too challenging.

As one might guess from the title, both films are black comedies. (Some might be tempted to go for the crude joke that the American version is even blacker with the African American cast, but we at Movie Churches are above such things.) Both tell the story of a family coming together for the funeral of a beloved patriarch. Both films’ screenplays are by the same writer, Dean Craig, with little change in the plot, some in the dialogue. Each has a different director (Frank Oz for the British version, Neil LaBute for the American.)

In this version, Chris Rock plays the elder son, Aaron, who is responsible for arranging the funeral and giving the eulogy (this was Matthew Macfadyen’s role in the original). Aaron's wife, Michelle (Regina Hall) seems more concerned about procreation than death. In addition to this distraction, everyone's attention is focused on Aaron’s younger brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), a best-selling novelist who's flying (first-class) into town for the service.

A host of problems evolve on the day of the funeral. The mortician (Kevin Hart) initially brings the wrong body in the correct coffin (Aaron complains, “This isn’t Burger King! You can’t mess up my order!”). A guest accidentally takes a hallucinogen and knocks over the casket during the service and strips naked. The worst complication is an uninvited, unknown guest who blackmails the sons to pay him a large sum, or he will reveal he is their father's gay lover (Peter Dinklage, in the same role he played in the earlier film).

But, of course, none of these things are of our concern here at Movie Churches. We just want to know about the pastor who conducts the service, the Reverend Davis (played by Keith Davis. You might know Davis from his role in one of the greatest, longest fistfights ever, in the film They Live.)

The Rev. Davis seems to meet Aaron on the day of the funeral. He doesn’t seem very familiar with Aaron’s father. He doesn’t seem very interested in learning about Aaron’s father. I’ve done a number of memorial services, and learning as much as I can about the person being remembered is a very early priority for me. My motivation in leading a memorial service is first to bring to hurting people the comfort God can bring, and second is to honor a human life that is no more.

But the Reverend has a very different primary motivation. He wants to meet Aaron’s famed brother, Ryan, “The writer! I squeezed this job in today because I really wanted to meet you. Listen, I just finished reading Momma’s Secret. That will be our little secret, because I’m not supposed to be reading this kind of stuff.” He fit this service in between two christenings and another funeral. Which makes me wonder how much care he is giving to each family.

And what’s the deal about him talking about reading things he isn’t “supposed” to be reading? Is it smut? Or is it literature with adult elements? He has an uncomfortable “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” attitude about the whole thing.

When it's time for the service, he begins by saying, “We are here to mourn the passing of a fine man,” though, again, he seems to know nothing about the man he calls “fine.” He goes on to read from Ecclesiastes and then tells the story of David and Jonathan ( “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him and gave it to David and his garments, even to his sword, and his bow and his girdle.”) This seems to be a rather obscure Scripture to cite, especially, again, since he knows next to nothing about the deceased. I really think he would be better off going with the traditional route of Psalm 23 or John 11.

Reverend Davis invites Aaron to deliver the eulogy. During the eulogy, Aaron's cousin's fiance' has a hallucinogenic episode and knocks over the casket. The body falls out, and (naturally) chaos ensues. In the midst of the furor, the pastor stands to one side, forcing Aaron to restore order. Surely, this should have been the Reverend Davis’ job. A decision is made to have a “break” in the service, and everyone is expected to hang around until the service starts again. (This is a lot to expect of people.)
During the funeral intermission, the father’s former lover goes about blackmailing the sons and through some wacky escapades, appears to be dead. To help conceal the apparent death, another cousin, Norman (Tracy Morgan), must distract Reverend Davis.

Norman asks the Reverend, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, at what age did you decide to get your church on?” 

Reverend Davis responds, “I need to make a phone call.” (This is an emergency phone call -- there's a naked man on the roof -- but wouldn’t someone have a cell phone back then? I believe they were rather common a decade ago and I would expect a busy clergyman to have one.)

So Norman tries again with, “But I need to make a confession!”

“I’m not a priest,” the Reverend answers.

“That’s okay,” Norman says, “Because I’m not a Catholic. It’s just that, I know I’ve been touched in some religious fashion… I’m addicted to strip clubs. The smell, the pole, the stretch marks, the C-section scars. I didn’t know nothing about whip cream. Nothing, ‘cause I’m diabetic, so if I eat whip cream in the wrong place, I’m gonna break out.”

Throughout this confession (in which Morgan seems to be channeling his 30 Rock character, Tracy Morgan), the Reverend very visibly appears revolted. Granted, Catholic priests generally have the advantage of a divider in a confessional booth. They might not have to monitor their facial expressions. But someone in the clergy really should get used to people sharing intimate aspects of their lives and -- pro tip! It's best to master the habit of not looking disgusted when they do so.

Eventually, after Norman goes on about angels appearing him in a vision as strippers, the Reverend agrees to pray with him, then goes outside to observe the naked man on the roof with the rest of the funeral crowd. He doesn’t offer his counseling expertise in this situation.

Once the man is safely brought back inside, the Reverend wants to get the service going again, saying, “We’ve got to get this damn thing started. Look, we’ve got to zip through this thing now, son. I mean, I’ve already missed another funeral and two christenings.”

He again starts the service saying, “I would like to apologize on the behalf of the family for all the distractions.” But the distractions continue and the Reverend proves completely inept in controlling the service.

So the Reverend Davis receives a mournful Movie Churches rating of Two Steeples out of Four.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Comedy Month: The Wedding Chapel

The Wedding Chapel (2013)

We really don’t need to spend time on the central plot of The Wedding Chapel. If you’ve seen any Hallmark Movie, you know the plot beats. A beautiful single career woman from the big city, Sarah Robertson (Emmanuelle Vaugier), must (because of reasons) go to a small town, where she meets (cute!) a handsome bachelor, Roger Waters (played by Mark Deklin, not the frontman for Pink Floyd).

Sarah has a wacky, widowed mother, Jeannie (Shelley Long) who has flashbacks about her first love who went to Vietnam. Jeannie thought he was dead, but actually, he was a prisoner of war. Jeannie got married but found out her first love was alive -- but it was too late. You will be shocked to learn there are two romances in the film.

And we at Movie Churches -- we don’t care about these things in the least. (Though if Ted Danson had been cast as the ex-boyfriend and used Cheers clips for Jeannie's memories, I might have been interested). So we just don’t care about the romances. We care about the title character, the Wedding Chapel.

Sarah returns to the small town because she hears that her dead grandmother’s house is going to be torn down by contractors who are going to build a new mall. Since Sarah moved a lot during her childhood, her grandmother’s house was her one stable place. When she and her mother visit, they find that the house is still fully furnished with family photos on the wall. Nothing has been done to clean it out even though the demolition crews are just weeks away.

As the women walk through the neighborhood, they see a church. “Oh, look at that chapel,” Sarah says. 

Jeannie says, “They’ll probably bulldoze that too. I hope they find a way to save it. The whole neighborhood grew up in there.”

Sarah begins to think she can save her grandmother’s house by saving the chapel. With her mother, she go to see Mark, the city planner who also is a lawyer.

They ask him about the destruction of the church to build a shopping mall. He tells them the process is too far along and can’t be stopped. When Jeannie asks if Pastor Reed did anything to stop the sale, Mark tells them, “He did, but the congregation wanted a better, more modern facility elsewhere.”

Jeannie is outraged, “This is criminal. The chapel has been here for centuries. It’s unbelievable. The wood was cut right from the local trees. The foundation was built by the same Scottish mason who built the first church in Savannah.” 

“How do you know all this?” Sarah asks. 

“Osmosis,” Jeannie answers.

Jeannie tells how it used to be. “So on Sundays, just about everyone gathered here. And it didn’t matter if you went to the service. Anything that was anything, started here.” We get a flashback of a picnic in front of the church with people barbequing burgers, kids blowing bubbles, teens hula hooping, and young Jeannie falling in love. Which is all swell, but I do wonder, what happened in those Sunday services? We never learn throughout the film.

We soon meet the church’s current pastor. Sarah is sketching the church when a man comes along. He calls out, “Sarah, don’t you recognize me?” He reminds her that she sketched him long ago. 

Sarah says, “Pastor Reed’s son?” 

She’s right. He says, “Or as the congregation refers to me, Pastor Reed, the sequel in 3-D.” 

“Following in your father’s footsteps?” she asks. 

“Yes, and the Lord’s,” he answers.

He looks at her sketches and says, “You’re a great talent.”

“I wish the critics thought so,” she pouts.

“Well, we must listen to our hearts,” he tells her. Not very theologically sound, but probably the deepest thing the Reverend says in the entire film.

Sarah asks Pastor Reed whether he tried to save the chapel. “Nobody loves the chapel more than I do,” he responds, “Except Dad and maybe (the Reverend points upward). Everyone else grew up around the chapel, but I grew up in it.”

“So you were the only one who stood up to them?”
“The building's in bad shape and the Board thought it made more sense to take the money and build another facility elsewhere. Everyone got what they wanted.”

Pastor Reed agrees to take Sarah to the church. The front door is bound in chains, which the Pastor unlocks. “Nobody’s been here for a couple of months. Excuse the mess,” he says. Because the church isn’t messy at all inside. 

Sarah exclaims, “I forgot how beautiful this is.” 

The pastor says, “I especially loved the afternoon weddings.”

Now this all greatly confused me. Why, if the church was going to shortly be demolished, hadn’t anyone cleared out the inside? And where has the congregation been meeting for the last two months with the chapel locked up? Why wouldn’t they be meeting there while it was still there and they didn’t have a new building?

Anyway, Sarah asks to see the chapel archives. When the pastor asks why, she responds, “History!” Sarah thinks if she can find significant history in the church archive, the church might be saved. (Again, why were these records left in the church that is shortly scheduled to be destroyed?) She does find records that indicate the church is the site of an Indian burial ground, but that isn’t enough.

Eventually, the people who love the place are called to a meeting in the church where they're asked to help dig through the archives. Pastor Reed and Sarah stand in the front of the crowd in the pews. The pastor turns the meeting over to Sarah. 

Why isn’t Pastor Reed conducting the meeting to save the church? Why does he let a stranger lead the meeting?

Maybe because the pastor knows that his congregation doesn't want to stay in this old building. The church board wanted to sell, and the pastor is going against the wishes of the church leadership. That is why he is trying to palm the responsibility of sabotaging the sale off on someone else.

Anyway, Sarah tells the people, “I came to this town to save my grandmother’s house. But I started to realize the center of town for my mother and all in this town is the chapel. We are a community. Like a tree with the chapel as our roots. I wasn’t just trying to save the tree, but the roots. The memories in those photos, that’s what we’d really be losing… Some things are worth fighting for.” It does seem like they are fighting for the memories of the church -- it isn’t’ doing anything much in the present.

She gets through to them, though, and many people get to work looking through the archives for something of historical relevance. As people dig through cardboard boxes, Pastor Reed shouts, “We are offering a free wedding ceremony to anyone who finds something useful. Of course, every ceremony here is free.”
Sarah is (naturally) the one who finds something important (so did she really need the help?) She finds a copy of the treaty ending the French and Indian War -- signed on the site of the chapel. (No historian had ever figured this out.)

So the chapel building is saved. And the congregation must take on the ongoing financial burden of keeping up a dilapidated old building, against the wishes of the church leadership. And untold numbers of construction workers won’t get to work on the new construction project, plus all the people who will lose out on the jobs the new mall would have offered.

We do get to see a wedding in the chapel. Jeannie and Larry get married there. Long ago at the chapel, they had recited vows together when they were all alone. So as the pastor begins the traditional service with “Dearly beloved,” they just start kissing. So the pastor says, “You may kiss the bride.” And everyone laughs. It's probably fine, because I doubt Pastor Reed really had anything worth hearing anyway.

That’s why we are giving the Reverend Reed and his wedding chapel a meager 2 out of 4 Steeples.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Comedy Month: We are Brothers

We Are Brothers (2014)

Countless times in this blog (okay, I probably could count it with the search functions but I prefer not to) I’ve written (in fact, you can see it above), “We’re not reviewing movies, not reviewing churches, but reviewing the churches and clergy in movies.” But it’s my blog, and I can break these rules whenever I want.

So I’m going to recommend this film, We Are Brothers, talk about it some, but leave out a lot of things about the featured clergy in the film because I want people to enjoy the film’s twists and turns. Usually, we put clerical criticism before the enjoyment of a film’s plot, but not this week. But I will give you the basics of the beginning of the story.

Two young Korean boys lived with their parents in a small fishing town. After their father dies, the responsibility of raising the boys by herself is too much for their mother, so she abandons them in an orphanage. At the orphanage, one of the brothers, Park Sang-yeon (Cho Jin-woong), is adopted by an American family. Officials at the orphanage tell Sang his brother will be coming to America as well.

It's a lie. His brother, Park Ha-yeon (Kim Sung-kyun), remains in Korea. Decades later, Ha finds his mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, and cares for her. That's when the producer of a Korean reality TV show comes up with the idea of bringing the brothers together -- the brothers who haven’t been in contact since that fateful day at the orphanage when they parted.

When they meet, they discover they’ve taken divergent paths in life. Ha became a Shaman. Sang became a pastor. Both are rather disgusted by their sibling’s lifestyle choices. They seem anxious to part until their mother disappears, and they must search for her together.

That’s enough. Dear readers, you would make me very happy if you find this film on Amazon Prime and watch it. Sure, it’s in Korean, so most of you will need to use the English language subtitles, but it is very funny and very touching. If this post gets even a couple of you to seek out this film, breaking the blog rules is totally worthwhile.

I’m still going to give brother Pastor Sang our highest Movie Churches rating of Four Steeples for how he treats criminals and orphans. (I questioned his abilities and ministry for a time, but it all made sense at the end.) So check it out.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Comedy Month: The Twelve Chairs

The Twelve Chairs (1970)

The Twelve Chairs was Mel Brooks’s second film (The Producers was his first) and his last film to be based somewhat in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I love his next film, Blazing Saddles, but it's a very meta film about Western films, just as Young Frankenstein is a film about horror films. Both depart far from reality. Though a farce, The Twelve Chairs is set in a real time and a real place: the Soviet Union in 1927. And the film, based on the novel by the writing duo of Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, captures some of the pain and challenges of that moment in history.

The film opens with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov (Russian names make me thankful for control C-V) at the death bed of his mother-in-law. Sensing the end is near, Ippolit (Ron Moody) calls for a priest to administer the last rites. The Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Fyodor (Dom DeLuise with a very long beard), arrives in time to provide the rites but also hears a family secret.

“It’s in the hands of God now, all we can do is pray,” says the priest. Before dying, the old woman tells of the family jewels that were hidden by the Bolsheviks, sewn into a single chair from a set of twelve that the socialist government took away. Not surprisingly, Ippolit goes in search of the treasure in the chair. Father Fyodor decides to join the hunt as well, leaving the ministry. 

In the past, we’ve looked at films where priests abused the sanctity of the confessional to use the information they heard (as well as films where the priest kept quiet at a personal cost). A priest using information gained at a deathbed manages to be lower still.

Fyodor scours the country looking for the chairs, even dressing as a woman in his efforts to find the treasure. He often encounters Ippolit along the way, who is less than pleased with the (former) priest, “You disgusting creature, you used the sacred sacrament of confession to take advantage of an old woman,” he cries at one point. So, that doesn’t seem like much of an endorsement for Father Fyodor.

Along the way, Ippolit joins forces with a con man, Ostap Bender (Frank Langella), who disguises himself as a Socialist Official: the chair of the Department of Chairs. He tricks Father Fyodor into following a false trail for the chairs, and Fyodor heads to Siberia. He finds a duplicate set of chairs, and he pretends to be an aristocrat. While trying to bribe a local official to obtain the chairs, he grovels before the owner of the wrong chairs, who tells him, “This is a Soviet house, there is no groveling.” 

Fyodor grovels none the less, “I need those chairs!” The priest becomes violent and is thrown out. Finding himself alone in the wilderness, he calls to God, “I must count my blessings… I don’t want to live.”

But he soon encounters Ippolit and Ostap and steals a potential chair from them. They chase him up the side of a mountain. “God sees,” says the priest, “God sees all, there must be some reason He gave me the strength to climb this rock wall.”

Fyodor tears open the chair’s upholstery only to find it did doesn’t contain the jewels. And he finds he can’t get down from the sheer rock wall. He asks his rival for aid, “Get me down. We come from the same village. For 25 years I’ve been your priest.” Ippolit and Ostap are not convinced and leave Fyodor to his fate.

Fyodor looks heavenward and complains, “Oh Lord, You are so strict.” Ippolit and Ostap continue on, but that is the last we see of Fyodor. And really, the clergy are the people we're concerned about here at Movie Churches, right? Sadly, though we don’t often get to see Eastern Orthodox clergy, we must give Fyodor our lowest rating of One Steeple.