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Cinema as Sermons – Pale Rider

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Known as the Pale Rider White Horse Scene, this video from dBache sets the tone for the movie

Romans 12: 19-21 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the LORD. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I grew up watching the Western genre, mostly on TV in the 1960’s with Bonanza, High Chaparral to name a few. John Wayne movies at the Drive In was a big deal. Most Westerns were not well crafted movies, but some were, and Pale Rider is certainly one with high production values. Violence is not gratuitous but there, nevertheless.

Pale Rider is a 1985 American Western film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the lead role. The title refers to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as the rider of a pale horse is Death. Clint Eastwood said that his character Preacher "is an out-and-out ghost.

Eastwood’s character is known as “The Preacher”

The Preacher is a fearless gunslinger yet mysterious with a physical prowess and a spiritual power devoted to the triumph of good over evil. A man who seems capable of miracles. A man who has died, but still lives. A man—yet… something more than a man.

Is he God or Death?

The movie's title is from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, verse 8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." A reading of the biblical passage describing this character is arranged to correspond with the sudden appearance of the “Preacher”, who seemed to arrive because of a prayer from Megan, in which she quoted Psalm 23.

Throughout the movie dialogue often supports his title as for example the Preacher's comment after beating one of the villains is, "Well, the Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways." Lahood, the movies villain tries to tempt the Preacher into moving his ministry to town, the Preacher responds, "You can't serve God and Mammon, Mammon being money."

We also find the parable of the good Samaritan woven into the plot. A man beaten, robbed, and left by the roadside was ignored by those of his own kind. But a Samaritan--a foreigner--stopped to help. ''Which now of these,'' asked Jesus, ''was a neighbor unto him?'' Eastwood`s stranger rescues a miner from the Lahood’s`s thugs, while his ''neighbors'' stand by, and then joins with the miners in their struggle.

The Preacher`s efficiency at bloodshed, death, and destruction, though in self-defense, is hard to reconcile with our image of Christ. Eastwood has portrayed for us a different Jesus: A Savior who brought not peace but a sword, the one of Revelation who raises the righteous into heaven and casts the wicked into the depths of Hell.

The obvious Christian elements that give the film a distinction that resonates with the audience.

When his work is done, the Preacher rides out of town toward the mountains, seemly ascending into the sky. Megan calls after him, but he is gone; yet on her face is a new hope, a recognition that though he has left his friends behind, he is with them always, even unto the end of the world.

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