The Apostle

(Reaction from Baptist pastor)

As a Baptist pastor from Australia, I found your article very meaningful. I am part neither of the down south Pentecostalism depicted by Duvall's film, nor of Catholicism, but I believe that part of Duvall's genius in the film, The Apostle, is to transcend the categories we are accustomed to: in fact, for me, the "strangeness" of the religious culture enhanced the message of, as you say, sin, repentance, conversion, redemption, worship...

Niall is right in his comments on Hollywood's presentation of Christians, although there have been a few notable exceptions, such as some parts of Places in the Heart.

Something I also appreciated in The Apostle is Sonny's spiritual growth: initially his faith, though very real, is very self-centred. His religion is very much about getting excited by the crowds, by the spectacle and so on, about being a creator of that kind of excitement for others. Yet, through his failure and his being stripped of all the successes he has survived by, he truly comes to a point of identification with Christ which governs his future ministry, even with the chain gang on the roadside. Too few Christians make the transition from rejoicing in Christ's substitution for us to sharing in identification with him. I hope I'll do it really soon now!

I can't imagine the Sonny of the tent mission preaching the sermon he preached as the armed policeman waits for him, yet, not only does he preach it with a sense of personal experience which made it, I found, a very touching message of God's sacrificial love, but, in giving away his remaining goods as he is taken away, he shows that that kind of love is now also part of his own experience and outlook.

When we come to that place, I don't think questions of "Catholic" or "Evangelical" and so on really matter so much, do they?

My own ministry had been refreshed by the movie. I hope Duvall hears from many who can say the same!

Peter R Green
Silver Street Mission, Marrickville
(Outreach function of Marrickville Baptist Church)