After watching "Two Boats and a Helicopter," the third episode of The Leftovers—HBO's TV show about a small town in the wake of the Rapture—I wrote that the character at the center of the episode, the Reverend Matt Jamison, was "one of the more complex portrayals of a true believer who's losing his grip that I've seen in a while." Others I read and talked with agreed.
Two days later, I was seeing an advance screening of Calvary, which releases August 1, and has one of the best portrayals of a "good priest" that I've ever seen. (More on that to come.)
What makes both of these characters good, and real, is that they aren't just "good" ministers: they are also real people, with doubts and struggles and screw-ups. Yet they're not portrayed in a bad light, or as hypocrites. They are people who want to follow their calling, and who encounter difficulties. They have histories. They have weak spots. They even do things that are destructive.
But, importantly, they dwell among the messed-up people in their towns, living with them, talking to them, listening to their confessions. They are reviled and trusted, often by the same people. They have what the priest in Calvary calls "integrity," in the way that Christ did: not because they are blameless (they can't be—they're human), but because they falteringly give us a sense of what this means:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ...1