On Screen & In the Pulpit

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The Blues Brothers Central
The Blues Brothers Central

We’ve talked about mega-church pastors across the country, the high rollers in the pulpit. We’re still waiting to see if the Obamas will claim a church home in Washington. And it's been a year since Jeremiah Wright’s name was rolling off our tongues in political conversation. It’s high time we paid respect to the great black preachers on TV and the big screen. From David Alan Grier as sleazy Rev. Leon Lonnie Love to James Brown as sweatin’-out-his-process Rev. Cleophus James, a look at our favorite pop culture preachers.

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David Alan Grier as Rev. Leon Lonnie Love in Martin (1992-1997)

What’s funnier—err, creepier—than a preacher who pushes up on young single women? David Alan Grier plays Pam’s cousin in a couple of episodes of Martin, as a sleazy, scheming minister, always yearning for and rebuking the flesh. In this scene, his latest conquest is Gina, who has recently broken up with Martin.

NEXT UP: Sherman Hemsley in Amen

This is one of the most memorable theme songs in TV history. Sherman Hemsley shows off his double-dutch skills and then struts into church like he’s on a mission.

NEXT UP: Arsenio Hall in Coming to America

Of the many characters of Arsenio Hall, this has got to be an all-time classic scene. No need for an explanation. Just watch.

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NEXT UP: James Brown in The Blues Brothers

Who knew church praise could come with choreographed dancers? The late James Brown as Rev. Cleophus James sweats out his perm by the end of his sermon. And peep Chaka Khan in the choir.

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NEXT UP: Larry Riley in Polly

Polly is one of the most obscure Disney movies. It hasn’t been officially released on DVD, and it lives clip by clip on YouTube. Directed by Debbie Allen, it’s the black version of Pollyanna, a made-for-TV movie centered on an orphaned black girl (Keisha Knight Pulliam) who brings gladness to a small Southern town. (Excuse the video quality, it’s probably from a home recording … on VHS.)

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I feel a sermon coming on!

Erin Evans is a writer and copy editor for The Root.

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