THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GODLY: THE EVOLUTION OF THE PASTOR IN AMERICAN LITERATURE
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe pastor remains a prevalent figure within American life and literature, revealing a dynamic avenue toward understanding the cultural conscience of the United States throughout its history. Most research regarding pastors focuses primarily upon the health and opinions of current pastors, favoring empirical data to trace trends as American culture continues to shift. Many of these studies demonstrate an increasing level of pastoral burnout and a decreasing level of public trust toward the clergy, yet little energy is given to exploring the qualitative nature behind these phenomena. This study involves a survey of major American literature over three centuries to investigate how the figure of the pastor has evolved throughout United States history. The portrayal of the literary pastor informs and represents our country’s perception of Christian clergy. The surveyed literature presents a cohesive understanding of the pastor, illuminating a consistent perspective of his separation from congregants, hypocrisy of a double life, approaching ministry as a means of attaining significance, and the necessity of being fully known. The literary narrative grows pessimistic as America becomes increasingly secular. The pastor simultaneously evolves with his culture and retains essential aspects of his identity, lending both novelty and cohesion to the study.