“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
As a Christian, God is very real to me. So is the Devil. Stephanie M. Wytovich recently wrote a post on the Devil (specifically with the Lucifer comic and TV series), and she brought up some great points on why the Devil is such a fascinating character for genre fans. In the same way, God is just as compelling. When it comes to God and genre stories, He is often missing. He’s an invisible entity. He’s often seen as scary and strict; a God who punishes the wicked. But this version of God is seen from the viewpoint of human characters who are going through a crisis of faith. Usually, they’re broken, lost, wandering, looking for a purpose. What they most likely will realize is that God was never missing; it was their lack of faith that caused the distance.
Beware of spoilers for the following: Preacher and From Dusk Till Dawn movie and series.
In Preacher (the AMC television series adapted from Garth Ennis’ comic of the same name), Jesse Custer is a small town preacher who struggles with whether or not he should leave the church after losing his faith. Season one just wrapped, and Jesse spends the majority of the time searching for God. In one memorable scene, his ex and former crime partner Tulip says, “I know you, Jesse Custer. I know that deep down, you’re a bad, bad man.” It’s that duality (the preacher and the bad, bad man) that makes Jesse such an interesting character. He thinks that by saving his townspeople, he can save himself. It’s a redemption story, but the series doesn’t shy away from the dark. Jesse isn’t the only character on Preacher wrestling with faith. We have Emily Woodrow, the single mother who blindly follows Jesse. We have Odin Quincannon, the show’s antagonist who wants to tear down Jesse’s church, but we are shown in flashbacks how he lost his entire family and therefore loses his faith. There’s Eugene Root, who struggles with his own redemption arc after shooting himself in the face (and in the series, we learn he also shot another person). They’re all searching for something to believe in, so it’s fitting that season one ends with Jesse, Tulip, and vampire Cassidy on a mission to find God.
While Jesse is searching for God, Kate Fuller on El Rey’s From Dusk Till Dawn, has completely given up on Him. Adapted from the 1996 movie, Kate is the daughter of a preacher. Her father is going through his own loss of faith after the death of her mother and decides to take Kate and her brother to Mexico. Along the way, they get kidnapped by the Gecko brothers who are on the run after robbing a bank and killing people. If you know the movie or watch the show, you know they end up at a club infested with vampires. Throughout everything, it’s Kate who is the light, the one who still has hope and faith. Much like Jesse who is always seen in his preacher attire, Kate wears a cross necklace throughout season one and two as a symbol of her faith. No matter how much loss and darkness she experiences (her brother turns into a vampire and she is forced to kill her own father after he gets bitten), it’s her faith that helps her persevere. As she tells her vampire brother, “True love is loving the unloveable.” But after spending two seasons trying to save her brother, Kate is killed and is resurrected with the blood of a demon queen. We’re currently in season three, and as a Kate fan, it’s difficult to watch a character who used to have to so much faith lose it all.
As you can see in these works, God isn’t a “being.” Often, He’s found in people — good and bad people. While the Devil (or if you want to call him Lucifer) represents the darkness and evil found in the world, it’s God that represents the light and good. In both Preacher and From Dusk Till Dawn, they’re exploring the scenario of what happens if that light is taken away and darkness surrounds. Watching characters like Jesse and Kate lose their faith has also challenged me in my beliefs. How do I feel when I see an alcoholic preacher beat another man? Or when I see the preacher’s daughter possessed by a demon plead for someone to shoot her just so her suffering can end? I understand Jesse and Kate are fictional characters, but their stories remind me that humans are flawed, that there is a dark and light side in all of us, and both God and Devil are known to test humans. Jesse and Kate are being tested right now. Will Jesse find God? Will Kate believe in Him again? I love seeing characters wrestle with faith, but what I really love is seeing characters become stronger once they find it. To me, it’s more interesting to follow characters who, despite all the evil, can still find good in the world — that’s a more difficult task.