MOVIES: The Apostle

This movie starred Robert Duvall in the late 1990s. I just watched this movie. It seemed to get great reviews. I have a problem with this movie. This movie seems to make the main character into some sort of hero. The main character is a preacher. He cheats on his wife and is violent. Then, his wife cheats on him and he gets mad and beats his wife’s lover with a baseball bat in front of his children. Then he flees town (abandons wife and children) and starts a new life/church a few states away. He is a popular preacher and “saves” some people. He tries to have an affair with another married woman. Then the police find him and takes him away to jail, where he is evangelizing again.

In the midst of his constant talking, I don’t hear him say he is sorry once! I think he is a coward for fleeing town and abandoning his wife and children. He apparently is conscience of the fact he will be found out one day, but that doesn’t stop him from doing the will of Jesus and starting another church and another affair and beating up another person until he is finally caught for his first crime.

I realize we are all sinners, but I just can’t believe it would be God’s will to skip town after his bad behavior instead of repenting. I am sure God wouldn’t want him to leave his wife, who he is still married to.

The main character seems to think he is suffering for Jesus when he gets caught and that is just the way things happen in life.

Does anyone out there share my opinion or have another?

I have not seen the movie, but he sounds like no hero.
Is he supposed to be a hero?
Sometimes a story will follow the life of somebody regardless of their virtue.

In my opinion, the movie’s purpose is to show that good can come out of a sinner. The movie isn’t a tragedy, I think it is supposed to be inspirational. The theme of being “saved forever” runs through this movie.

Raymond Arroyo just interviewed Duvall on his EWTN show this past week. Arroyo is a big fan of Duvall’s body of work and this particular picture was brought up. Duvall played the character as a man who sins constantly and yet, has a great faith. He makes no excuses for his behavior and if he is sorry for his foibles, we don’t see it. He is not to be admired but prayed for. He is the type of person of whom only God knows his motivations.
I saw this picture and thought Duvall brought a realism to the character; a man for whom there is no excuse but whose heart we do not and cannot know.

This is actually one of my favorite movies, and coming from a small town that is heavily populated with Holiness type churches (and being a former Protestant-Methodist, actually) myself, there is so much truth and realism in this movie. Apparently no one wanted to make it a “big release” movie and Duvall had trouble getting it started due to its religious nature, but thankfully he did. Many of the actors in it, including most of the congregation at the little church he builds in it, are NOT Hollywood people. They are actual charismatic Protestants that Duvall used in the movie. The black minister at the beginning you see sort of “jogging” around is actually cooling off from really preaching. I forget what the actual name of it is, but many charismatic ministers do it. The movie does present a good message and you can’t just look at it by its cover; you have to search for it. He is a sinner, and no, he doesn’t say he is sorry to any human, but if you listen to the way he prays, you can tell he has asked for God’s forgiveness, which is what you do in the Protestant churches. It is VERY true to life on what could happen and very true to the sincerity of many Protestants, especially of the Holiness & charismatic faiths. I used to very much dislike any of the charismatic stuff, and I still don’t really approve of it in such ways in the Catholic Church such as charismatic masses, but there is nothing wrong with charismatic prayer. Many people truly do feel the Holy Sprit move within them, both Catholic and Protestant, and I believe this along with the ultimate forgiveness of God through the suffering is the message of the movie. If you watch the credits, you see him working a chain gang in prison and preaching. It is all in all quite inspiring in that God will give you a second chance.

I wrote to Mr. Arroyo and he wrote back to me. This is what he said " I thought the film accurately portrayed the divided lives so many of these self proclaimed preachers lead. They feel a personal “call” and launch into a ministry with little oversight. The results are disastrous. Nonetheless he did some good along the way, paid for his sins in the end, and fell back on the only faith he knew. Was he a shyster? Maybe. That sort of contradictions in characters (on the screen at least) have always fascinated me. Duvall spent years chronicling the ways of these Baptist preachers and I thought he accurately captured their world. As Thomas Aquinas said: in truth there is beauty. And there was much truth-- no matter how uncomfortable in that film.

Being Catholic all my life, I was not familiar with this type of preaching when I watched this movie. I am no longer disturbed by it. I now understand this movie to be of the “documentary” type. When I first saw the movie, I mistakening thought the point was to inspire people to behave badly.

Thank you for all the comments and clarifications!

One more clarification, and I guess I may be correcting Mr. Arroyo if I read your comment right, but many Holiness pastors (which is what Duvall portrays in the movie) are not necessarily Baptist. Although some Primitive Baptist ministers have a Holiness background, not all Baptist sects are Holiness. For example the Southern Baptist Convention is very mainstream, non-charismatic, and in fact, they are trying to get other so called “Baptist” sects to not use the Baptist name. Sorry, I just don’t like to see all of any religion referred to improperly whether it is in a good light or not. No offense to anyone, I just wanted to clarify! :thumbsup::slight_smile:

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