Nearly every Christian on TV and in movies is portrayed to be an extreme bigot, a closet prodigal, or a gun-toting uptight neo-con Republican. A good screenwriter can manage to squeeze all three in one.
Christians do deserve some of the criticism. In the 1980s, we over-reached our grasp by trying to politicize “Christian morality” in every platform, and we now live in the backlash of trying too hard to force the church into the state. In the 1990s, there was a “Christianese” version of everything, from Testa-Mints to Bibleman to Xtreme Youth Group Pizza Night to the Holy Land Experience theme park. Either we’re getting good stuff like Lecrae and Switchfoot, or we’re getting awful stuff like a tame Nic Cage in Left Behind and yet another Westboro picketing.
For every time that Christians call foul on how they’re portrayed in the media, I always have to say that we’re not helping our case either. It’s true that the media sensationalizes the worst of us: but we’re giving them great material.
So it always surprises me to see a multi-dimensional Christian in the entertainment media, who’s not a dichotomous banner-waver but a modest down-to-earth father, who happens to be a Christian. Hershel from The Walking Dead has some of the familiar tropes we’ve come to expect — a sage-like advice dispenser, has too-perfect Bible verses for the situation, owns an actual farm — but there’s a deep world-weariness and bemusement in his mannerisms that brings a depth we never see in screen-written Christians.
On a show that’s been panned for uneven writing, false motivations, and some bad dialogue (Things-And-Stuff Rick), Hershel’s character arc is one of the best on the show, and one of the best in any show period.
Here are five reasons why Hershel Greene is my favorite Christian on TV.
[Some spoilers follow, especially for #5.]