Clearing up some Grimm misconceptions

This card came up at the beginning of the episode (a regluar feature)

A friend from church lent me the first four seasons of Grimm. For those who don’t know, Grimm is about a cop who’s also a Grimm – somebody who can see the animal people all around him. When I was watching the show, I somehow got to season 2 episode 5: The Good Shepherd, which is about a small, local church where one of the parishioners stole the church’s funds (or DID HE?!?) and then got murdered (I guess he didn’t).

The writers apparently didn’t do a lot of research about small, local churches, and you guys know how much I hate lack of research! (At least, I hate when things *I* know well are shown inaccurately.) The episode ended up showcasing some common misconceptions about Christianity, so I thought it might be interesting to use this episode to clear a few of those misconceptions up.

(This article contains a major spoiler for people who haven’t seen any TV ever.)

The episode title (The Good Shepherd, but I’ve said that already) is an allusion to a parable Jesus told. The opening quote (seen above) comes from one of Aesop’s fables, but does double duty as an allusion to Matthew 7:15 (this is Jesus talking): “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Of course, ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ has become a common saying in English.

Because of the opening quote, it took me about half a second to figure out who the main villain was this episode. If they hadn’t used it, it might have taken as many as two whole seconds. (Who it is is the major spoiler I mentioned; I’ll be talking about it a bit.)

On with the misconceptions:

We don’t believe in God.

This isn’t so much a misconception as a misunderstanding. Most people do know we believe in God (though I once had an online conversation (see the convo between MistressMerr and me, from about comment #11, and her explanation of why she thinks Cyclops is a Christian) that leads me to believe that even that isn’t always true), but they don’t really know what it means.

The following exchange (between two parishioners) demonstrates:

“we’d never earn enough to replace what we lost.” ~ “We need to trust Reverend Calvin. He helped us raise the money in the first place; without his guidance, we never would’ve raised anything.”

Most Christians would really say: “We need to trust in God.”

The sheeple here are putting all their faith in their pastor – not in God, not in Jesus, but in the pastor.

Those who know Grimm know I am, of course, using the word ‘sheeple’ literally.

This is one of the things that makes this particular church more of a cult than a church, though the episode never spells out that difference. (It might be one of those distinctions that means the world to insiders, but nothing at all to outsiders). My pastors encourage us to think for ourselves, often saying things like “Don’t just blindly follow Paul: judge for yourselves.” (Uh, one of my pastors is named ‘Paul’. I don’t mean the Apostle here. Or the Beatle. Though even the Bible says not to follow the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 3).)

In one scene, the pastor lends one of our heroes a bedroom (which is inside the church itself…?); there’s a picture of said pastor hanging on the wall of the room. This is one of those things that would happen in a televangelist’s mega-church or a cult, not a small local church.

Old-Fashioned Clothing:

The sheeple in this episode dress really old-fashioned (see the image above) : cardigans (sweater vests? Is that what you call them in America?), pale colours, wholemeal and plain. The most up-to-date is Reverend Calvin, who wears a suit.

Wouldn't it have been cool if his alt.form was a tiger?
Look at those casual street clothes!

I wore shorts and a t-shirt to church today; and I was in front of everybody, doing a Bible reading. Seeing a pastor in jeans and short sleeves is normal (though it’ll usually be a button-down shirt; they tend to be a little more formal when they’re preaching).

Old-Fashioned or Super-Religious Speech Patterns:

The Pastor’s language is often clunky or old-fashioned (not throughout, but often enough that it becomes a memorable trait. He sprinkles words into his everyday speech like Apocalypse, Beatific (The line is: “This could be the beginning of a Beatific relationship.” Most pastors I know, if they wanted to say that, would just quote Casablanca), ‘a sacred and peace-loving space’. At one point, he used ‘transcended’ and ‘enlightenment’, very close together (these words are more associated with Buddhism than Christianity; the line felt false, and like they’d researched neither belief).

He also calls somebody “my son” at one point. We’re not told what sort of church this is supposed to be, we can only infer from what we see of it, but it doesn’t appear to be Catholic – so he probably wouldn’t say ‘my son’.

We wouldn’t use that clunky jargon in sermons, and most especially not outside them. In fact, this comes from a Christian satire site: My church’s assistant pastor had immunised himself before I even saw the article. (I seem to remember the head pastor doing so since.)

Well, I admit I talk weird and archaic sometimes, but I doth be weird that way.

The practical upshot of all this is: we talk and dress like normal people. There’s a little less swearing in our language (though not none), and we don’t always talk about the same things (though we often do), but we talk normally.


It’s hard to tell, but I think there are about 50 sheeple at the church. The plot is somebody stole $357,000US from them (and $400,000US from Pastor Calvin’s last church, but we have no way to estimate its size). The idea that a church of about 50, with its own building (an old stone building, no less), would have $357,000 is… interesting to say the least. Unless some of the sheeple in this congregation have some really high-paying jobs, there is no way that church’s bank account is a positive number. A mega-church probably has that kind of money; a small local one doesn’t. This is one reason the difference between a charismatic single leader church and a small local church model is important; the misuse actually takes away his motive in the episode.

The friend who lent me the Blurays pointed out that, if each member of the church gave $150 a week, $357,000 would be nearly the entire annual budget. There could be other assets (a bequeathment, perhaps?), but that’s still an incredible amount for a church that size to have.

Reverend Calvin has a personal assistant. My church has an office manager, but I’ve never known a pastor to have an assistant; let alone in this tiny church. (My church has roughly four times the people than the one shown, and doesn’t have its own building to run; we have an office, and rent space at a school for services. Basically, we couldn’t afford it.) This comes across as another sign of the writers not looking into the difference between a small, local church and a mega-church run by an egotist who shows no sign of Christ in his life.


There’s a line that’s effectively repeated: “What did you expect from a Blütbad? They’re all sinners at heart.” and later, it’s put as: “You’re a Blütbad! You’re all sinners at heart.” (different characters say it both times).

It’s like they think we’re waiting to form a mob with pitchforks to hunt down ‘sinners’ – or are frightened out of our lives of them, like they’re Frankenstein’s monsters. Truth is, we believe everyone’s a sinner.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

Everyone's a sinner, babe, that's no lie!
See? The Simpsons get it!

You have to confess to being a sinner before becoming a Christian. It’s one of our entry requirements. We do not believe the world is divided into ‘us’ (or ‘saints’) and ‘sinners’.

Pastors / priests are all murderers:

This is a fairly common trope. I’m sure that most people don’t think this pastor’s behaviour is the norm (after all, stories like this don’t deal with the norm – only cases where a law has been broken), however, it is very, very common to see a whodunnit where the pastordunnit. More common than the butler. A Marvel editor once told me that it was because that was the shocking twist; the pastor was the murderer! (Because they are held to higher standards than most other people by society at large. Which shows there’s still some respect out there.)

Frankly, if the pastor didn’t commit the murder, it’s as shocking as if the guy in the wheelchair doesn’t stand and walk, or the mute / foreigner really can’t speak English, or the person introduced wearing all-covering leather and helmet and doing a bunch of really kewl stunts turns out to be male.

I’d also like to say that the way the pastor slept with several of his congregants is completely impossible… but I can’t. I’ve can think of at least two pastors of churches I’m (indirectly) connected to, and the head of a Christian organisation (someone I knew personally) who’ve admitted to adultery. What I can say is, this isn’t the norm. It happens, but it’s not usual. The three I’m thinking of all lost their congregations over it.


This is kind of a weird one to debunk. As far as I can tell, the first person to call Christians ‘sheep’ was… well, Jesus. BUT:

It's not as obvious as you think.Another of those distinctions that means the world to us, but nothing to you, but I want to talk about it anyway. It’s also one of the differences between a cult and a denomination. When the Bible talks about the Christian flock as sheep, it means ‘people in need of a shepherd’; and Jesus talks about being a good shepherd (title drop!) who will lay down his life for his flock. We are encouraged to trust in Jesus, but we aren’t encouraged to blindly follow our leaders, which is what people mean now when they call people ‘sheep’ (or sheeple). It’s about protection, not about mindless following.

There are many misconceptions about Christianity floating around out there; I hope this teaches you the truth about a few of them.


There’s a scene where the main character’s girlfriend, Juliet, comes home, walks in, and leaves the door wide open. (This has nothing to do with Christianity, or misconceptions, but would a cop’s girlfriend in Portland, Oregon, in 2012 do that? I don’t think so!)


  1. “At least, I hate when things *I* know well are shown inaccurately.”
    Me too.
    I remember a sword-and-sorcery novel from the 1970s (the days of fantasy=bad Conan knockoff) in which the protagonist goes up against the Hindu Thuggee cult … except the description of what they do and believe is the stereotype of the Islamic hashasheen. A really neat trick as the book was set about 200 years before Mohammed.
    I think we need a mystery where the detective has to decide whether the real killer is the man of the cloth or the paraplegic in the wheelchair. OMG, the suspense!

  2. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    My only issue with your argument is that it seems to presume that yours represents a certain uniform “Christian” experience.

    Christianity’s strength and weakness is its absurd diversity. Even among the Anglican Communion, the Episcopalian Church was censured a couple years ago for unilaterally deciding to recognize gay marriage…and that’s within a single denomination!

    After a friend of mine passed last year, his wake was officiated by a Haitian Catholic minister, and his funeral service by a Unitarian Universalist pastor.

    It’s hard to express how different those experiences were.

    1. Le Messor

      You’re right of course, Carlos the Dwarf, and I was aware of that as I wrote.

      I decided that I’ve been to many different churches in my lifetime, and I’ve noticed very few of the things I wrote about happening within them – so even if they’re not ‘never’, they’re probably rare – and certainly not universal. Some of them involve the writers mixing those experiences in ways that aren’t likely. (A bunch of apparently Protestant beliefs mixing with Catholic ones.)
      The clothing and speech patterns are probably the most likely to occur irl.

      I’m also aware that some of this might simply be that I live in Australia, and haven’t been to *many* churches in America – but I haven’t encountered them there, either.

      1. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

        The thing is…Aussie Christianity consists pretty purely of mainline Protestants (Anglicans, Presbos, Congos and Methodists) and Irish Catholics.

        American Protestantism really, truly, is not the same thing.

  3. I’ve never watched GRIMM, as I assumed it was, like ONCE UPON A TIME, a case of a network starting off adapting FABLES before realizing that all the characters were public domain and they didn’t need to pay for any rights to anything.

    But this post reminded me of one I wrote about 15 years ago for another blog, in which I dissected the portrayal of a cult in Gail Simone’s BIRDS OF PREY comics, and touched on some general noes about portrayals of religion in media. You might find it interesting.

    1. Le Messor

      While I enjoy Once Upon A Time more, Grimm is less of a blatant Fables pastiche. In some ways, it’s more like a vampire show (‘monsters’ or not live among us, and our Slayer must hunt them down – but not always to kill them). Mostly in that they echo the stories, but don’t use the characters – where Fables and Once Upon A Time are more the other way around.

      I did find that interesting; a thorough dissection.
      I also don’t think I’ve ever heard you call yourself Christian before.

  4. I wasn’t a fan of Grimm–too much of the first season could have taken out the monster aspect and been a straight cop show. Though I did like the way the Wessen are utterly terrified of him (“You’re what moms tell their kids will get them if they don’t eat their spinach.”) even when he’s just standing there. It’s the way I thought vampires should have reacted to Buffy but they never did.
    Re, religious errors, I’m frequently annoyed by writers who assume the Rapture is some kind of universal Christian doctrine rather than a belief of some Protestant sects. Catholics don’t believe in the Rapture but both “The End Times of Bram and Ben” and that bizarre Pope Nightcrawler X-Men plotline assume otherwise (I enjoyed End Times of Bram and Ben, even so).

    1. Le Messor

      too much of the first season could have taken out the monster aspect and been a straight cop show.
      Hmm… maybe that’s it. ‘It’ being why I think of it as something I’ll watch when it’s on (or it’s lent to me), but not something I’d seek out.
      Though Sergeant Wu is a fun character.

      I’ve never heard of The End Times Of Bram and Ben (Stoker, I presume?), so I can’t comment. And the less said about Austen’s run the better.

      1. Well, part of the set up of Buffy was that none of the vampires were particularly afraid of her because she looked like the typical cheerleader type, but, thinking about it, since all the Slayers were women, it shouldn’t have been that weird for vampires to encounter her.

        End Times of Bram and Ben was an excellent miniseries from several years back from Image…and now I forget the set up. But I really liked the book and the reveal about who was behind things was pretty amusing.

  5. I actually toyed with a fanfic some years back that opens with vampires telling Slayer urban legends (“When he stopped the car, he found her wooden hook hanging on the handle of the door …”).
    The premise of Bram and Ben is that the two slackers are caught up in the End Times and try to figure how to exploit it before the End Times end. Not at all orthodox (if that matters) but it was fun.

Leave a Reply