The Innocence of Father Brown and An Evangelical Cynic

My professor called me a cynic yesterday. We were talking about Christian books and movies and how disappointing I and my classmates often find them. They mean well but often feel trite.

I’m often cynical about secular media too. To wonder which of these beloved characters’ sudden but inevitable betrayal I’ll be cursing. To predict how many episodes it will take before it’s just too dirty.

Even when you’re looking for beauty, it can be hard to find. Christian media is too easy. Secular media is too dark. If you don’t expect anything from media, it can’t disappoint you.

father brown
Alec Guinness in The Detective (1954)

Good thing Father Brown is as uncynical as they come.

He’s a Catholic priest/Sherlock Holmes who finds mysteries everywhere he goes. The Innocence of Father Brown is a short story about him, but Father Brown isn’t innocent. Not really.

“I assure you, my ‘innocent’ ears encounter every day stories of a horror that would make your sophisticated hair stand on end. Although I wear funny clothes, and have taken certain vows, I live far more in the world than you do.”

But he isn’t jaded. He hasn’t written humanity off.

His experience makes him an ace detective, but he’s more worried about the souls of the criminals than what they steal. His “innocence” is really a heart attentive to good. It makes me a little less jaded.

Father Brown began in a short story collection by G.K. Chesterton. Now it’s several movies, a miniseries, and a BBC TV show. The earnest, sleuthing priest that keeps people coming back.

For me, it’s the reminder that faith and skill don’t have to be separated. Cynicism might protect me from disappointment, but it makes me less kind and less sensitive to beauty and truth.

I want to be more like Father Brown, who sees goodness even the worst of life.

-Josie K.

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