Fictional Religious Hypocrites Seem All Too Real These Days

Religious hypocrisy is on my mind at a time when many Christian evangelicals support Donald Trump despite America’s so-called president being an immoral person who has no compassion, cheated on his wives, sexually assaulted women, is racist to the core, is endlessly greedy, is a blatant liar, is pathologically narcissistic, and more. Anything to get their right-wing agenda enacted, I suppose.

Literature includes many hypocrites resembling those evangelicals and the many “religious” Republican politicians who espouse “values” (ha ha). I’ll discuss some of those fictional characters today.

For instance, Benjamin Blake’s Ireland-set A Death in Summer, which I read recently, includes a priest character who runs an institution for troubled boys. Despite his pious exterior, he is well aware that the institution’s rich benefactor is a vile pedophile taking advantage of those boys.

(I followed Blake’s absorbing murder mystery with Alexander Pushkin’s 1836 adventure-romance The Captain’s Daughter, which depicted little religious hypocrisy but is a great novella containing fluid prose and dialogue that seems more 20th century than 19th century.)

The priest in A Death in Summer reminded me a bit of the faux-religious Mr. Brocklehurst, wealthy “benefactor” of the Lowood institution in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The girls at Lowood get crummy/inadequate food, little heat in the winter, and are treated in other awful ways — with some dying as a result. St. John Rivers is a more ethical religious figure in Bronte’s book, yet is a rather coldhearted man who displays a colonialist mentality in his desire to become a third-world missionary.

Nathan Price of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is a missionary in Africa — and that American is as hateful, racist, and sexist as many right-wing evangelicals and Republican politicians are today.

Then there’s the unnamed priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory who’s on the run from Mexican authorities. Not a totally bad guy, but he’s an alcoholic who fathered a child he barely sees. Hardly a religious role model.

The cast of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain includes Gabriel Grimes, a mean-spirited minister who also fathered a child out of wedlock and left the mother to fend for herself.

Sinclair Lewis might be best known these days for his It Can’t Happen Here novel about a fascist elected U.S. president (sound familiar?). But another of his novels relevant to our times is Elmer Gantry, whose charismatic preacher title character is a hard-drinking, ambitious womanizer.

Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood stories is a jovial figure who loves his food and wine. Maybe not hypocritical, but certainly not as ascetic as one might expect from someone in a religious position.

In the drama realm, we have the supposedly religious title character in Moliere’s play Tartuffe. He’s actually a two-faced guy who tries to seduce a married woman.

Who are some fictional religious hypocrites you’ve found memorable?

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92 thoughts on “Fictional Religious Hypocrites Seem All Too Real These Days

  1. Lol, what is interesting here is I am struggling to think of many nice religious preachers in literature. Maybe Francis Chisholm fro the Keys of the Kingdom. Two not very nice I would add to the list Dimmesdale from the Scarlet Letter. He’s not an out and out baddie but he has a child and can’t shut it about laying all this obvi one of the 7 deadlies, on his congregation. Then there’s Francis Davey from Jamaica Inn, an absolute monster, sitting at the head of a wrecking gang, murder, kidnap, everything but preaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From my first paragraph: “America’s so-called president [is] an immoral person who has no compassion, cheated on his wives, sexually assaulted women, is racist to the core, is endlessly greedy, is a blatant liar, is pathologically narcissistic, and more.”

      Yeah, maybe I WAS too generous… 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, topdog41!


  2. Dave, I was going to say this comment is off-topic, but it’s really not, especially in view of your first paragraph that speaks to Christian evangelicals who don’t seem to practice what their religion preaches.

    I just returned home from my first meeting with the recently started “Indivisible” group here in my new hometown, and it was by turns energizing and extremely moving. We need to find another venue, because so many people had to stand or sit on small children’s chairs or the floor. As you know, I live in a town where we have a large number of Hispanic immigrants that work in the mushroom farms that are so prevalent here. Some of the group’s guiding principles are that we don’t speak for the Hispanic community but we’re here to offer support to them in any way we can and much of today’s meeting had to do with just how do we do that and integrate our work with our Hispanic neighbors. There is an extreme element of fear in that community now, understandably so. One woman showed up and spoke to one of the few leading Hispanic members, who brought her back into the room and translated the story that her husband had been taken out of their home yesterday — he was there in person so was released, but now they need legal aid. Another member told the story of how a young boy got on his teacher’s lap and cried that he was afraid his mother wouldn’t be there when he got home.

    Another thing we’re going to be working on is gerrymandering in our state, and our deadline is fast approaching to get it resolved by the 2020 census. Our US Representative’s (Republican) office is located 50 miles away from us and has refused holding a town hall, though he has agreed to meet with six of us from this area, with all the questions and credentials provided in advance. My sister is trying to be one of those six, which is great, because she’s very articulate and has taught and lived in this community for over 30 years. I’m not sure yet what role I want to play in this, but I do want to do something!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the heartfelt update, Kat Lib. I think it’s definitely relevant to religious hypocrisy, because many far-right Republicans claim to be religious but never show any of the compassion that’s supposed to go with that.

      Sounds like a great Indivisible meeting, and your group certainly has a plenty of serious things to fight and help people with. Under Trump, America IS a scarier place for Hispanics, Muslims, and others who are not Christian white males. And, yes, Republicans are now worried about holding truly public town halls — and many don’t have the guts to host them despite the fact that people who aren’t far-right Republicans also pay the salaries of those bozos.

      Without vile gerrymandering (and voter suppression), I don’t think the GOP would have a majority in the House.

      I hope your sister is picked as one of the six!


      • The salaries you mention are the smallest part of what they receive in return for their self-service. A person gets elected to Congress, moves to DC with his family, gets re-elected a couple of times, and before you know it Mom has a powerful job in a lobbying group, Junior is interning at an investment bank and Sis just got into a top law school, in no small part because she had a strong letter of recommendation from a donating alumnus.

        Naturally, the petty concerns of constituents who have no helpful connections or spare cash for donations can find no purchase in the rapacious l’il hearts of such political animals.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So depressingly true, jhNY, and well said. Plus the “Cadillac” government medical insurance congresspeople get even as they try to kick average citizens off insurance with their efforts to trash “Obamacare.” Truly a bunch of disgusting politicians.


        • So true, jhNY, but as brought out in our meeting today is that, as a group, we do have some power in making our government accountable. The woman I mentioned that was translating for the other’s husband being taken away yesterday, is going to run for school board for our district, which would be a first. The man leading the discussion about gerrymandering is a member of our borough’s council. This is where the power ultimately lies, which other groups have discovered before we did, e.g., the Tea Party.

          Liked by 1 person

          • And the opposition to Trump and his policies is genuinely grassroots, while the Tea Party was at least partly an “astroturf” group funded by far-right billionaires of the Koch Brothers kind.


            • The consequences of No New Taxes over the long years are many. The most pernicious effect may be that zillionaires have had too much money– so much they can put many millions toward any social or political mischief they happen to fancy– and now the rest of us wander around in the wreckage they have selfishly made of our democracy.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Perfectly stated, jhNY. It’s infuriating that certain far-right gazillionaires are perfectly willing to spend money on mischief, but not spend money on things that will help people.


  3. Once again, the week’s topic of religious hypocrisy allows me to bring up one of my fixations of late: Stendhal, for whom the subject formed a core of his fictional concerns, as evidenced by its importance in both of his best-loved novels, The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. I will confine myself to the former.

    Although unmentioned, perhaps Napoleon’s Marshal Ney, ‘the bravest of the brave’, was the model Julien Sorel had in mind when, as a boy daydreaming in his father’s lumber mill he imagined his own future rise, by means of daring and tactical prowess, in the ranks of the French military. But such a career, as Sorel approached manhood,was no longer available to a young man of facility and talent but without a noble name. Peace had ascended, after the serial uproars of the Napoleonic Empire, and with it the power and convenient mores of the grasping bourgeois.

    Julien concludes:
    “When Bonaparte made people talk about him, France was in danger of invasion; military talent was necessary and fashionable. Today one sees forty-year-old priests with stipends of a hundred thousand francs, that is to say, three times more than Napoleon’s famous generals.(…) It is necessary to be a priest.”

    But this choice, though it directed his temporal ambitions to a practical, if not spiritual course, had its limitations, chiefly, the necessity of hypocrisy to success, according to the Abbe Chelan, who had in him too little, and so would soon be pushed aside.:

    ” I let you know this detail so that you will not entertain illusions about what is in store for you in the priestly state. If you dream of paying court to those in power, your everlasting ruin is assured. You could make your fortune, but you must grind down the poor, flatter the Sub-prefect, the Mayor, the man of reputation,and cater to his passions: such conduct, which society at large calls knowledge of the world, might, for a layman, not be absolutely incompatible with salvation; but in our calling,, it is necessary to choose; one must make one’s fortune in this world or the other, there is no middle way.”

    Julien chooses the former.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eloquently expressed, jhNY! Becoming “a person of the cloth” for reasons such as power, prestige, and money — rather than for altruistic reasons — doesn’t seem like a good idea, then or now. But many do it, in fiction and in real life, and, as you note, consequently join the club of religious hypocrites. Great example from “The Red and the Black”!


      • Then there is primogeniture, whereby, in landed families from nobles to peasants, the first-born son inherits all, leaving the younger ones to cast about for a living, if not a wealthy wife. Failing that, and/or being inclined at least a little toward the spiritual, many chose a life in the Church. As did unmarried daughters, for that matter. The choice was not always, or even mostly made by themselves, and in many cases, can hardly be called a choice, given lack of alternatives..

        By Sorel’s time, civil and commercial society offered many alternate routes to 3 squares and a cot, but the long centuries before, in which so many of little faith took to the cloth over starvation, cast a long shadow of hypocrisy over sacred institutions and those who lived within them– but they were other shadows.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. According to wikipedia, The Good Soldier Svejk (or Schweik) by Jaroslav Hasek is the most translated book out of all Czech literature. Hasek published the first volume in 1921, first of a planned six, but he completed only 3 and had begun the fourth when he died of heart failure in 1923.

    Josef Schweik, through cunning incomprehension and strategic or merely apparent idiocy, manages his hapless way to and through military service in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War One. He endures (and attracts) truculence, petulance, fraud, waste and institutional failure at its most institutional– not to mention the enemy– with a blithe yet sluggish impassivity that infuriates nearly all his superiors, among them two military chaplains, who are described in the wikipedia article as:

    “Military Chaplain Otto Katz
    with a fondness for drinking, especially good communion wine, and gambling. Švejk seems fond of Katz, but the latter loses the services of Švejk to Lieutenant Lukáš in a game of cards.
    Chaplain Martinec
    A chaplain plagued by drink-induced spiritual doubts, whose attempt to provide spiritual consolation to Švejk ends in disaster.”

    Written before All Quiet On the Western Front, the anti-war The Good Soldier Svejk is a darkly comic screed against the empire and nearly all of its exemplars in uniform and civil service, written by an anarchist Czech who had, therefore, neither sympathy nor taste for military service or the empire.

    Joseph Heller ,again according to wikipedia article on the novel, has remarked that had Hasek not written The Good Soldier Schweik, he might never have written Catch-22.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those two military chaplains certainly have some issues, jhNY! And it sounds like “The Good Soldier Svejk” was VERY influential.

      Thanks for the descriptive, informative, interesting comment!


  5. The week’s topic is timely; the week’s topic is timeless.

    Geoffrey Chaucer, around 1400, created his Canterbury Tales (on the model of Boccaccio’s The Decameron), and in it, there are (at least) two exemplars of religious hypocrisy: The monk who eats too well and sports a pin of gold, and the pardoner, who is greedy for the money paid by the greedy for pardons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jhNY, very nice addition: religious hypocrisy depicted 600-plus years ago! And a TERRIFIC first line to your comment.

      “The Canterbury Tales” are great — which I especially realized when I finally read them in modern English a few years ago. (Had previously read Chaucer in his original English in high school or college — forget which — and it was not an easy experience.)


      • Thanks for the kind words!

        A modern reference to the Tales– well, 50 years ago:

        And so it was that later
        As the miller told his tale
        That her face, at first just ghostly,
        Turned a whiter shade of pale– Keith Reid (lyricist for Procol Harum)

        although Reid also claims to have never read The Miller’s Tale…to which I’d reply– yes, but somehow you heard something at school.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I believe Catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger is one of few novels that does not describe religious people as hypocrites. It is interesting since protagonist and narrator of this book, Holden Coalfield usually see in critical perspective and use words like phony to describe other characters, especially adults. He meets two nuns when he was having breakfast in a sandwich bar. After he had conversation with them, he says they were so kind and he enjoyed conversation with them. He mentions Louis Shaney and conversation about tennis with him that he asked Holden whether he was catholic in the conversation, saying it was glad that those two nuns never asked whether he was catholic or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the comment, Anonymous, and for that interesting “Catcher in the Rye” mention! Nicely put!

      I guess I have to respectfully disagree that only a few novels don’t describe religious people as hypocrites. While I didn’t mention them in this particular post, there are a number of novels in which religious people are depicted as non-hypocritical and good. Off the top of my head, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (Jim Casy), George Eliot’s “Adam Bede” (Dinah Morris), Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” (John Ames), and Mark Twain’s “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc,” among others.

      But you’re right that many novels DO depict religious people as hypocrites — partly because there are many examples of those type of people in real life, partly because that makes for compelling, dramatic reading, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for replying my short comment. I wrote my short paragraph about catcher in the rye since my tutor suggested your website since you reply to comment. I was not sure whether you would read mine, but you read mine and left such an reply. I am so thankful for your reply.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Holden Caulfield from “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger was positive to those nuns since he did not have much religious experience. Holden said that his father used to be Catholic but his father quit it later; he did not have religion all throughout his childhood. He was very negative to the world, especially people around him, except for few. He had negative thoughts about the world since partly he was originally very emotional, as he broke all the window in the garage when his brother died, partly ,in my opinion, he did not have much help when he failed school several times.

            Liked by 1 person

            • He was positive to those nuns since he considered people around him hypocritical. When he later talks about those nuns and the basket they had, which is usually for charity, he mentions Sally Hayes’ mother and says she would not do it if there is no praise from other people. Therefore, his positive thoughts about nuns were because of hypocritical sides of people around him and inexperience of religion

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks, Anonymous, for those two follow-up comments! Excellent analysis of Holden Caulfield’s motivations — makes sense to me (though it’s been so long since I’ve read “The Catcher in the Rye” that I don’t remember any of the details you’re describing 🙂 ). Holden was definitely an interesting character.


                • Thank you for your reply again. I believe you remember very well the general plot of “catcher in the rye” by J.D.Salinger. It is kind of surprising for me that two nuns are some of very few people that Holden did not considers as phony or hypocritical.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Thanks! Yes, it is a bit surprising that the cynical Holden is admiring of the nuns, but certainly a nice touch on Salinger’s part.

                    And, heck, nuns are often easier to admire than religious men. Given that nuns have less power and are more “behind the scenes” in the church, many of them take their vows for more selfless reasons than many of the men do.


  7. Hi Dave, I’ll as usual fall back on my go-to author, Jane Austen. It’s been a long time since I read anything biographical about her, but I have a feeling she must have some bad experiences with hypocritical Christians, especially local rectors. There is the truly revolting sycophant, Mr. Collins of “Pride & Prejudice,” though he is treated as more of a comic character than as inherently evil. So too is Mr. Elton of “Emma,” who is a social climber, and thinks himself above the lowly Harriet Smith, yet tries to woo Emma. When she rejects him, he goes off and returns with a very pretentious wife, both of whom can’t forgive Emma and try to interfere in everyone’s life in the village. Then there is the odious Aunt Norris, the widow of a clergyman, in “Mansfield Park,” who is a truly evil woman. She treats her niece Fanny as more of a servant than a relative, and even refuses to have wood put in the fireplace in her attic room.

    Of course, there are admirable clergymen as well in Austen’s novels, such as Edmund Bertram in “Mansfield Park” and Edward Ferrars in “Sense & Sensibility,” both of whom are young men with a sense of duty and ethical principles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very nice summary of the good and bad Christians in Jane Austen’s work, Kat Lib! Austen does seems to have had some (understandable) skepticism about religion and “religious” people who don’t practice what they preach. At least Mr. Collins of “Pride and Prejudice” is good for some laughs!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I own two long versions of “Pride & Prejudice” on DVD, one by the BBC and one on A&E. Both of the actors who portrayed Mr. Collins in these productions were very good and quite funny in a satiric fashion. I’ve seen two 2+-hour movies of that novel and don’t remember either one. I just happen to think that Jane Austen deserves better than just a short movie that doesn’t capture her biting wit or captivating dialogues.

        BTW, the first character to come to mind when reading the headline to this column was Nathan Price of “The Poisonwood Bible,” one of my favorite novels I’ve read in the last six or so years.

        Off-topic, but I’m curious. I’ve read several times on other sites that it is a no-no to put two spaces between sentences. As someone who has done touch-typing since the late 1960s, we were always taught to put two spaces between sentences, especially in academic essays or business letters. Does anyone know why this somehow changed, if true? My fingers automatically add two spaces and going back to change it is a pain.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I agree, Kat Lib — Jane Austen’s work needs and deserves the longer treatment for screen versions.

          Nathan Price is definitely the epitome of a hypocritical religious person! Barbara Kingsolver masterfully showed just how awful he was.

          I always put one space between sentences — I didn’t realize there was a trend one way or another. 🙂 Just the way I was taught, and, who knows, I may have been taught incorrectly!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Kat Lib, I’m not sure if I’ve previously asked if you ever saw “Lost in Austen”. It’s not a straight up adaptation of “P&P”, but it’s something that I love, and would love to know if you love it too!

          I was also taught to put a double space at the end of a sentence, and have also heard that that’s now outdated. I guess our word processers (and smart products) are designed to put a larger space so that we don’t have to do it twice. But I kept doing it anyway. I’ve always done it, and didn’t plan to change. Until I read an article claiming that some people will be able to tell your age (or at least narrow it down) based on whether you double space. After that, I think it took a day or two to re-train myself!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hi Sue, Yes, I did buy and see “Lost in Austen,” although I’ve only watched it once and did enjoy it, but I think I’ve mentioned that I need to watch or read something at least twice before I can remember it very well. I’ll make a point of re-watching it one of these days.

            Thanks for your input on the double space question. As I’ve been typing this, I find myself still doing it as such a natural act. I wonder if the change has something to do with texting and Twitter in which every character counts?

            Liked by 2 people

            • It’s funny how some things stick with us straight away, and some things take a couple of goes. I’m always impressed by your recall when it comes to literature. Unless I read it yesterday, I’ve pretty much forgotten, even if I’ve read it three times.

              You might be on to something with the single space coming about because of limited character space, though it’s only really Twitter that does that anymore. The need for text-speak was so short lived as we quickly developed phones that could handle real English so I’m not sure why gr8 is still a word.

              Liked by 1 person

          • While typing and editing my wife’s novel (Grail Nights, by Amanda Moores) a bit more than a year ago, I scrupulously inserted just such a double space after every sentence– as I had always done– only to be advised strongly that I was making an old-fashioned error by the gentleman who helped with the design and production of the thing. So I scrupulously went back through the manuscript for several dozen pages, sentence by sentence, removing the spaces, till I was advised strongly, again by that aforementioned gentleman, that I was making an old-fashioned error in my attempt to remove the spaces: within the Word program, it turns out there is a sort of universal command that allows users to remove double spaces, by way of a simple couple of keystrokes.

            What did I learn? Something forgettable, as I have demonstrated throughout this very comment, and forgotten. Every sentence I type still gets the two spaces after its period. Period.

            There is more than a mere double space between an old dog and a new trick.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Thanks to you too, jhNY. I was talking with my friend Bill as we were out doing errands today — not the most scintillating topic for conversation, but at some point it’s nice to discuss anything but Trump. He agreed that I shouldn’t change how I’ve always done something because it’s considered old-fashioned, as he kindly pointed out that I am getting on in years! So I too will stick to two spaces between sentences. I also didn’t know that there was an option in Word to change it globally. I find that after just recently getting the latest iteration of Microsoft office products, even though I know it’s supposed to make everything easier, it just makes things harder for me, especially since it’s not something I use every day such as when I was working.

              Liked by 2 people

              • That Word option, was actually performed by the aforementioned gentleman who handled the production and design. I was assured it was effortless, nearly, and hope it was, for his sake.

                Sorta reminds me of that old saying, possibly out of the Bible, that begins ‘give a man a fish’:

                I have always been grateful for those who would give me a fish, as I never wanted to spend all day hoping down at the water behind a pole.

                As for getting old, while I thought I was getting there, I had arrived. I can only hope my departure sneaks up on me similarly.

                Liked by 1 person

  8. On the lighter side, the Brother Cadfael mystery series by Ellis Peters is set in a medieval Benedictine abbey. Of course Brother Cadfael is upstanding, but there are a few characters who fit under the general umbrella of “religious hypocrites.” Brother Jerome, as played by the English actor Julian Firth in the television adaptations, is a study in smarmy. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, sheila1233! Sounds like a very interesting series! From your brief description, it reminds me a bit of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose,” which includes a person of religion who’s also a sleuth. And I GREATLY enjoyed your phrase “a study in smarmy.”!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dave, I tried to read “The Name of the Rose” but gave it up not too far into the novel. Perhaps one day I’ll pick it up again as I sometimes do. Sheila’s comment reminded me of a favorite sleuth written back in the early 20th century, Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton. I read most of the stories way back when, but not too long ago I picked up a more recent omnibus of those stories, which I came across while reorganizing my library of books. As I think I mentioned before, I pulled out all of the books purchased throughout the past probably 10 to 20 years ago but never got around to reading and have most of them in the bookshelf (2 shelves) in my bedroom, as well as another shelf of books down in the finished basement where most of my books, CDs and DVDs are located. I’m going to make a concerted effort to either read them finally or give them to Goodwill or the Senior Center.

        BTW, I wanted to mention that after rhapsodizing over Alexander McCall Smith’s books last week (I think) I started to read the latest in the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. I couldn’t really get into it, so to speak; perhaps I’m getting a little tired of the characters, as I often do, and I’ll put it aside for another time. I remind myself that I didn’t love every Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, or Bobbsey Twins, or other series equally. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks, Kat Lib!

          Umberto Eco can be a bit dense and over-wordy and over-intellectual, but I liked “The Name of the Rose” overall. His “Foucault’s Pendulum”? Some good moments, but often tedious.

          I’ve heard of the Father Brown books by G.K. Chesterton, but never read them.

          Re Alexander McCall Smith’s series and other series, it’s very true that some installments are better than others. Many excellent authors have some clunkers or mediocre novels in them. 🙂

          Good luck with your book reorganization!

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I know Dostoyevsky gets mentioned quite a bit in your columns, especially “Crime and Punishment”. But I’ve always felt that “The Brothers Karamazov” was his greatest novel. There is a lot packed into this story, but religion plays a large role – especially as we follow the story of the saintly brother Alexei, certainly no hypocrite. One of the most powerful sections of the book is that part about “The Grand Inquisitor” which lays out the hypocrisies of organized religion. This section of the novel was kind of a powerful aside – not really pertinent to the story. Even so, it was brilliantly written – where the head of the church condemns a returning Jesus Christ as a heretic. It is a very profound statement of how those in power can use religion to manipulate the masses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Eloquently stated, drb — and “The Brothers Karamazov” is a great addition to this discussion. That novel’s scene with the devil is also brilliant.

      Ah, the age-old question of whether “Crime and Punishment” or “The Brothers Karamazov” is better. I think the high points of “TBK” are better than the high points of “C&P,” and “TBK” grapples with even more of the “big questions” than the amazing “C&P” does, but I found “C&P” to be more consistently excellent and readable overall. Like comparing an A+ to an A++… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect that the only reason that I personally don’t rave about “The Brothers Karamazov” is because I haven’t read it yet. But I look forward to being able to weigh in on the “C&P” vs “TBK” debate and then raving about both!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Although not literature, “The Apostle” was a film written and directed by Robert Duvall. Its an excellent film about a Pentecostal preacher from Texas with a torrid past who claims to be someone else then redeems himself. Fire and brimstone. Highly recommend this film.

    I am spiritual rather than religious but find optimism watching Joel Osteen. We need more positive thinking, such negativity with The Chump and some of his conspirators who play the role of hypocrites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Michele! Well said.

      I’ve never seen “The Apostle,” but I can definitely get behind people redeeming themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t see any redemption in the future of Trump and the rest of today’s far right.

      I can also get behind positive thinking, and one thing that’s currently comforting is the huge amount of opposition that has arisen to try to counter Trump, GOP Congress members, and others who are awful and hypocritical and a few other adjectives one can’t use in polite company…


  11. I can’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for fictional hypocrisy when there’s so much of the real thing about right now, but I am glad people are still reading Pushkin! I suppose “Eugene Onegin” does have a lot of hypocrisy, or at least poseur-hood, in it.

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    • You have a point there, elenapedigo! Real-life hypocrites — especially those with lots of power — also bother me much more than fictional hypocrites. But I write a literature blog, so… 🙂

      Will definitely read more of Pushkin’s impressive work, and I think “Eugene Onegin” will be next. Thanks for mentioning it. And I love the term “poseur-hood”!

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      • “Will definitely read more of Pushkin’s impressive work, and I think “Eugene Onegin” will be next.”

        I have two translations, one by Nabokov– I have only glanced for a few long minutes at either, but right away, I was struck by what is likely to be always the case: that something untranslatable, and probably wonderful, will likely remain in the original Russian, despite translators. I am going to go with the Nabokov, as a literary genius, albeit a prickly sort, has the best chance of producing literature. But I will refer to my other translation as I go.

        There was a spat, and a big public one, twixt Nabokov and Edmund Wilson re Nabokov’s Eugene Onegin, which ended their friendship forever. A description:

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        • Thanks, jhNY! Interesting comment and interesting NYT piece!

          Nabokov, as someone with a Russian background who wrote his first several novels in Russian, seems like a potentially ideal translator of Russian works into English. But he (as I think we discussed before) was indeed a prickly sort who was also too much in love with the sound of his own (writing) voice. Overdid the fancy words and the fancy wordplay — though, admittedly, the guy was brilliant. Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” was one of the cleverest novels I’ve ever read.


          • Back at school, Pale Fire was too ostentatiously beloved, I thought, among some of my writerly classmates, who themselves seemed habitually to prize the brilliant over the deep– but that’s not exactly Nabokov’s fault, and now, decades later, it is my intention, one day, to read the thing– but I’ll probably get to Eugene Onegin first, should I feel up to a book of one verse.

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            • Yes, “Pale Fire” is more brilliant than deep, and almost devoid of warmth. But highly impressive in its shallow, cold way. 🙂 I can see how some “literary hipsters” might like it, and be egotistically proud of themselves for doing so.


    • Thank you, Bill! I didn’t know that, though I knew that various parts of the Midwest were the inspiration and settings for a number of Sinclair Lewis’ novels. I liked your droll last line. 🙂

      Of course, there are also many religious people — in fiction and in real life — who “practice what they preach.”

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for commenting, Lee! I imagine there are a number of models for “Elmer Gantry II” not only in the Kansas City area but in many other places. 🙂 😦

          If my memory is correct, I think Sinclair Lewis got a lot of flak from some religious types back in the 1920s for his accurate depiction of Gantry’s “interesting” brand of Christianity.

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    • Also, form Kahn’s Corner, a literary blog:

      “The controversy over Elmer Gantry was widespread. Preachers routinely and vehemently denounced the book. The then-famous evangelist Billy Sunday shouted that he “could have socked Mr. Lewis so hard there would have been nothing left for the devil to leap on.” Sunday may have had good reason to be angry, because the similarities between the then famous preacher and Gantry were many.

      Sunday was one of two people who were in particular lampooned in Elmer Gantry. The other was Aimee Semple McPherson who appears in the novel as the revivalist Sharon Falconer. Like Falconer, McPherson led a series of tent-revivals across the nation, incorporating myriad forms of entertainment into her meetings. Like Falconer, she also claimed to be a faith-healer. Falconer, like McPherson, built her own large church. Whereas Falconer’s burnt down, McPherson’s still stands and is the headquarters of an eight million member international Christian denomination.”

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      • Thanks, jhNY, for your comment and the interesting information in it! Somehow I didn’t get an email notification for the comment, and just spotted it.

        It does sound like the two main characters in Sinclair Lewis’ novel were “semi-biographical.” And it’s always interesting that many supposedly “religious” types find it hard to “turn the other cheek.” 🙂

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        • I’ve seen Billy Sunday on film, in his latter years, by which time he had perfected his delivery to the point of self-parody several times over. He’s up, he’s down, he slams his fist into his palm, he waves his arms. Let’s just say nobody in whatever hall he was performing could claim he hadn’t reached the backmost seats, and all in between.

          It may be apocryphal, it may not be, but as I prefer to believe it, I will pass this along: Adolf Hitler was said to have studied the Sunday style with the keen interest of a fellow professional.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Quite a performer, that Billy Sunday! I guess people like him are almost more entertainers than preachers.

            Fascinating and creepy that Hitler might have studied Sunday’s style. I guess no style of a “leader” is totally original — they take note of what others do, mimic it, and then adapt it into something perhaps semi-original when they add in their own style.

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  12. This excellent column immediately brought to mind Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and the ultimate hypocritical “man of God,” Arthur Dimmesdale, who not only fathered Hester Prynne’s child but stood before the town and took part in the punishment she had to endure for her adultery because she refused to name him as father of her child. Hester may have forgiven Arthur, but I could not. How could he have done what he did and continued to minister to his flock? Hawthorne never convinced me there was much good in Dimmesdale. He always seemed cowardly to me. Hester was a wonderful character and a strong woman who loved not wisely, but too well.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Susan! Well said!

      Coincidentally, I had mentioned “The Scarlet Letter” in a reply below before seeing your comment. 🙂

      Dimmesdale was indeed a hypocrite, but at least he felt some guilt — unlike Trump and many other Republican leaders. So I guess I had a bit of sympathy for him despite his cowardice and two-faced-ness.

      And I agree that Hester Prynne was a strong, VERY admirable character.

      Glad you liked the post!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, PrayThroughHistory!

      I definitely agree that many humans (and perhaps most or all humans) are hypocritical at times. But it varies just how blatant the hypocrisy is, and whether the person being hypocritical has the power to do some serious damage with that trait. Trump and Republican congressional leaders certainly have that power, and those (mostly) Christian leaders are certainly not acting like Jesus Christ when they show no concern for the poor, want to enrich themselves, commit adultery, etc. Many of them might attend church, but their actions don’t match.

      I have a lot of respect for religious people who act religiously in the best sense of the word (compassionate, etc.). You seem to be one of them!


  13. For some reason I am reminded of Malvolio in “Twelfth Night,” who if I remember correctly was sort of a stonefaced Puritan but ended up getting tricked into wearing women’s clothes so he could get laid. Also coming to mind is the quote from Christopher Hitchens on the death of Jerry Falwell: that if you had given the reverend an enema you could have buried him in a matchbox.

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    • There is definitely some humor to be had when discussing hypocrisy, Josh! Thanks for the comment!

      When you mentioned Puritans, I also thought of the narrow-minded religious men in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” who made life so difficult for Hester Prynne. I guess the religious idea of forgiveness was not their thing.

      And the late Jerry Falwell was quite a hypocrite, as is his Trump-supporting son.

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  14. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot, though his character is more fleshed out as an alcoholic who has lost his faith in the Dark Tower series. I think the reason these characters are so compelling is because the real world is fraught with hypocrites and so it isn’t much of a stretch to identify with or against them. I don’t personally see hypocrisy as a terrible trait as long as someone knows and acknowledges its presence. Unfortunately, both political parties in the U.S. refuse to see their similarities in rhetoric and how their words and actions seldom match. Really interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your excellent comment, The Past Due Book Review! I read “‘Salem’s Lot” a LONG time ago, so I’m not remembering it much, but Stephen King in his work certainly (and thankfully) has little tolerance for hypocrisy — religious or otherwise.

      Great point that hypocrisy can be very recognizable to readers given that many people in real life have that trait. And, yes, hypocrisy is not always damaging, but it can of course potentially be VERY worrisome when people in power are two-faced.

      Finally, you’re right that there are plenty of hypocrites on the Democratic side. But I chose to focus on Republicans in this post because they’re the ones controlling the U.S. government at the moment.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Pere Callahan was one of the first characters that I thought of. But I’m scared that if I rave much more about “The Dark Tower” Dave will have no choice but to kick me off his blog!

      Liked by 1 person

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