Movie. Pale Rider, 1985.

Posted by T on November 11, 2006
By Title, Movies

A mob of horsemen destroys a mining camp, but doesn’t kill anyone. Turns out to be the LaHood gang, trying to make the miners “leave voluntarily.” In addition to the raids, when miners come into town, they get beaten up. But the LaHoods refrain from
killing, so as not to attract the law, which presumably has its hands too full to bother with mere assault and battery.

The Preacher (Clint Eastwood) arrives, and to everyone’s surprise, is able to manhandle the bad guys, as well as drive a little bit of backbone into the miners.

The bad guys resort to hiring a posse that pretends to be the law but leases its services to the highest bidder. The final gunfight shows that the Preacher has some history with the bad-guy enforcers; is he not indeed back from the dead? No one knows for sure.

The story can be taken as an allegory of how “God works in mysterious ways.” Courage, doing the right thing should be chosen and “damn the torpedos.”

It is engaging and entertaining, which is what a movie should be first of all. The sounds — the hoofbeats, the clinking sledge-hammers against rock — are memorable.

The Savior’s name is taken three times. That’s a shame. That makes what could be a classic into something iffy whether it should be watched at all.



4 Comments to Movie. Pale Rider, 1985.

  • T:
    1) It is interesting that the portrayal of profanity is a reason not to watch a film, but the portayal of the violence of evil thugs is not.
    2) It is interesting that the Bible itself portrays the Lord’s name being taken in vain:
    1Sa 14:39 For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.
    3) Although perhaps there is an important distinction between portrayal of sin for historical purposes, and portrayal of sin for entertainment purposes.
    4) And perhaps the analogy to violence is weak, since profane use of the Lord’s name by the actors is (arguably) an actual sin, whereas their pretended violence is not (even arguably) a sin. In other words, perhaps the analogy would be that it would be wrong for Clint Eastwood to actually kill people in order to entain crowds.


  • Fellow Turretinfan: You have begun to answer your own question with some good points. More could be added however:

    1. The type of usage in your point #2 is more like informal oath-taking. It would be more analogous to someone today saying “as God is my witness.” This can be said in a hypocritical and thus profane way, but the usage is not per se. It may be that casual profanity has the act of oath-taking at its primal base; nonetheless, there still is that distinction.

    2. Further distinctions can be made. “God” as an eructation seems less offensive (though still evil) than JC. If you agree, perhaps you can help do the phenomenology. My preliminary sense is that since “God” is both genus and instance, there is indirection that can be imputed to it; whereas that is not so with the name of our Savior (that the name has an intended meaning in Hebrew is something else).

    3. There are contexts in which the depiction of profanity seems legitimate. Think of the movie Patton for example. Other usages seem gratuitous and demoralizing; those are the ones we should highlight and decry.

    4. I might take the other horn in your dilemma in point 1 than you think. Certainly, slasher films should be condemned. Dr. Johnson wrote a play in which a murder took place on stage and the audience shouted it down– “murder, murder.” It may be that our sensibilities have become jaded in this area. But I know they have become jaded in the area of the third commandment.

    5. There is a sense in which violence is common to all men and thus in a sense “neutral.” Whereas, dragging our Savior’s name through the mud is a deliberate assault by Hollywood against Christianity; our passivity in this shows that we (as a subculture) don’t really take things very seriously.

  • 6. Ordinarily in a commendable story the violent bad guys get their just deserts. The analogy would be a blasphemer, say, being hung just because of his blasphemy, and this not being shown as a cheap shot at “witch hunting.” In other words, as we try to hold the two offenses in parallel and follow it through, we see how far it has come about that we regard the second table of the law higher than the first. Our culture is far more concerned for man’s honor than God’s.

  • T:
    Example of 6 being approximated in the story of Herod’s demise.
    Act 12:21 And upon a set day Herod arrayed himself in royal apparel, and sat on the throne, and made an oration unto them.
    Act 12:22 And the people shouted, saying, The voice of a god, and not of a man.
    Act 12:23 And immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
    Act 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

    I think we are generally in agreement.
    A further slice I might add is to distinguish between the use of “God” as an exclaimation in distress, in a quasi-oath-taking way (to emphasize severity), to express disgust, and coupled with a vulgarity.

    I have organized them in relation to what I perceive as their heinousness.

    I do tend to think that most misuses of Jesus’ personal name will fall into the more heinous area of the spectrum.

    So also are the misuses of God’s major attributes: particularly goodness and holiness.

    Thanks for providing food for thought!

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