Friday, February 19, 2010

A Book of Tongues Cast of Characters (II)

Today, we'll talk about two men of faith. Let's start with...

“Reverend” Asher Elijah Rook

There’s just something about a bad man who knows his Bible. Much like with Chess and Ben Foster, it all began with Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma—but Ben’s a happy hypocrite in many ways, an atheist autodidact who uses the Good Book as just another way to work his will on idiots. I wanted Reverend Rook to have the sort of faith which can sour, but never entirely evaporate; to be a man literally in love with his own method of damnation, capable of dreadful things, but also capable of teaching a wild boy who’s never cared for anything to at least care for himself. I also wanted him to be big and deep-voiced, ‘cause I (and Chess) like that.

Enter, therefore—as my primary physical template for the Rev—one Clancy Brown.

Now, I realize that to most people these days, Brown’s an official old dude…chiefly recognizable as either the Kurgan in Highlander (which you may or may not find an attractive image—I do, but then, there’s a lot that’s wrong with me), Drill Sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers or Brother Justin Crowe from HBO's Carnivale. When I first began thinking nasty thoughts about Brown, however, both he and I were considerably younger. Here’s a pretty good shot of him from the days when he was also Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and might even occasionally be found cavorting naked onscreen with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis (in Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel, in case you’re wondering); do feel free to ignore the attached screencap of Lobo, though:

Plus, a good selection of recent Clancy Brown pics can be found here (including one next to Nick Stahl, for body-size reference):

So: What we mainly know about the Rev is that he’s from Missouri, the Mother of Outlaws herself, and only ended up on the Confederate side of the War because he headed south when he first took off running. He’s also a damn man-mountain with an impressive command of Scripture and a not-so-secret liking for “the Other”. This impulse is what spurred him to flee his original posting as town preacher, after his flock burnt a goat-eyed boy alive for the sin of simply having been born a witch-child, and Rook didn’t feel quite morally-uncompromised enough to stop them. It’s also what he thought at first pushed him towards Chess, though the gravitational pull of another magician-to-be actually had far more to do with it, as he eventually learned.

There’s a line I heard once in a terrible movie—it might have been The Wraith, starring Charlie Sheen—that’s always stuck with me: “When you feel nothing, you can do anything.” In Rook’s case, as with all hexes, I think that goes the other way, as well; when you literally can do anything, it’s hard to feel much at all, especially for the day-to-day. What keeps Rook bound to Chess, however, is that he can’t stop feeling for him—it’s impossible for either of them not to get a rise out of the other, whether that be sexually or what-have-you. They were married long before the Mayan goddess Ixchel ever chose Rook as her quote-quote “little” husband.

Like Chess, Rook’s family originally hails from England, though they’ve been in America since before the Revolution. His last name means either “crow” (sometimes used as a euphemism for preacher, due to their propensity to dress in black) or “a swindler—someone who betrays”.

Sheriff Mesach Love

Like Rook, Mesach Love knows his Bible inside-out. He’s a decorated former Blue-belly, a Nazarene preacher of fierce devotion, lawman for and founder of Bewelcome township in New Mexico, and runs his tiny slice of post-War paradise like a combination of former soldier rescue and redemption-through-hard-work boot-camp. People let him get away with it, though, because he’s got great charisma and they’re more than slightly afraid of him. You see, he has God on his side.

When I first sketched out Sheriff Love, he owed a great deal to the music of the band 16 Horsepower, as well as the physicality of their lead singer, David Eugene Edwards. They specialized in "incendiary gospel, hallowed folk and mordant tones infused with a high, dark theatricality worthy of Nick Cave," as AllMusic critic Eric Hage puts it. Here’s the video that really got me thinking they were the cloggin’ shit, “Black Soul Choir”:

Then, after watching the video for their song “Haw”, it suddenly occurred to me: Hey! That guy looks somewhat like a rawboned-up Jared Padalecki (the young Texan actor probably best known as Sam Winchester on Supernatural)! See for yourself:

So now, whenever I think about Sheriff Love declaiming on how GOD hath given him the power to SMITE whomsoever GOD doth choose that he do so unto, part of me is always seeing Jared making that black-eyed nosebleed squinch-face at a demon, before sucking its unholy smoke-soul out and gulping it down like a dry drunk. Or him and Clancy Brown wrestling, which’d be fun as hell, since they’re both Sasquatch-sized.

The variety of Protestant Christianity both Rook and Sheriff Love subscribe to is an offshoot of Calvinism known as Wesleyan Arminianism, which traces his roots back to the teachings of Arminius and John Wesley. Although its primary legacy remains within the various Methodist denominations (the Wesleyan Methodist, the Free Methodist, the African Methodist Episcopal, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion, the Christian Methodist Episcopal, and the United Methodist), the Wesleyan tradition has also been reinterpreted as catalyst for other movements and denominations as well—Charles Finney and the Holiness movement; Charles Parham and the Pentecostal movement; Phineas Bresee and the Church of the Nazarene.

Like a lot of “power in the blood” faiths, Wesleyan Arminianism’s a fascinating mixture of free will and predestination which states outright that although God can save anyone, it won’t work unless that person wills himself to be saved; you are put in charge of your own redemption, knowing full well that Man’s essentially sinful nature will make the road to Heaven an unending up-hill slog. The Scriptures are the primary engine through which a sinner can refine himself, so both study and the expostion of Scriptural ideas through everyday actions are equally important. But the absolute pinnacle, the moment in which we know for sure that salvation is real, is when the Holy Spirit speaks to/through us directly. As Wikipedia puts it:

“Although we are justified by faith alone, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that makes us holy.

To fulfill all righteousness describes the process of sanctification. Wesley insisted that imputed righteousness must become imparted righteousness. God grants his Spirit to those who repent and believe that through faith they might overcome sin. Wesleyans want deliverance from sin, not just from hell. Wesley speaks clearly of a process that culminates in a second definite work of grace identified as entire sanctification. Entire sanctification is defined in terms of "pure or disinterested love." Wesley believed that one could progress in love until love became devoid of self-interest at the moment of entire sanctification.

Apart from Scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity. ‘What the Scriptures promise, I enjoy’. Again, Wesley insists that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally.”

And herein lies the main difference between the Rev and Sheriff Love. Rook has never heard the “still, small voice” of the God he purported to serve directly, though he’s trucked with all sorts of supernatural forces and literally gotten into bed with dead gods from other cultures. Sheriff Love, on the other hand, either has, or is convinced he has—and he certainly does have something looking out for him, though what that really is has yet to be determined.

But both of them yearn after salvation, and for both of them, true salvation can come only through sacrifice on another’s behalf. For Love, it’s his wife, his son, his town, America. For Rook, it’s Chess…most days.


  1. I know you have your person for Sheriff Love, but I have to say, I have my own visualization. ;) I won't tell you, because I don't want to alter your own vision of your guy, especially as you're in the process of writing the sequel.

    But he's lean, and I had a fun time picturing that last scene.