Preachers and Misfits, Prophets and Thieves: The Minister in Southern Fiction

In Martin Clark’s novel Plain Heathen Mischief, the Reverend Joel King has a problem that is endemic not only to southern preachers but to pastors in general: “The trick, Joel came to realize, was how to differentiate between heaven-sent persuasion and his own wish list, how to separate holy marching orders from the vanities and narcissistic wants that cluttered his brain.”

Southern writers have zeroed in on the sins and shenanigans of ministers. In the tradition of Mark Twain, they have exposed the chicanery of miscreant clergy who have been caught enjoying forbidden fruit. The high-profile escapades of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Ted Haggard remind us of the stories of Twain, William Faulkner, James Baldwin and a host of others—except for the fact that they really happened.


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