Cowboy and Preacher
A Film Review of Will Fraser’s Cowboy and Preacher, by Green Christian member, Sandie Stratford
The film opens with a homely English family, and a concern held by many: how will I explain the current climate emergency to my children, and how will I show future generations that yes, I tried to take action?
English film-maker Will Fraser travels to Idaho and speaks to a man who – at first impression – represents a group of people uniquely disliked on the world stage, namely gun-toting, ranch owning, Bible bashing self-identified evangelical Christians. But if you can get over your prejudices and hear his story, it is one of hope and change.
Tri and Nancy tell the story of their “pioneer” family roots, their staunch Bible-based faith and ethical code, their growing sense of connection with the land. They showcase their careful land management and humane almost idyllic animal rearing. In the course of the film, Tri talks us through seven Bible texts which have influenced his thinking. As respected church leaders of a large church in a poor suburb of Boise (whose expectations of the preacher on their payroll one might have thought predictable) they introduce their radical approach, and get a standing ovation. This humbling experience suggests the congregation must have been following Tri’s lead for some time; indeed were they attracted to this church because of his alternative teaching? We are not told how far the congregation travels to attend.
This film presents a challenge for some British viewers, who might find the guns and meat-eating offend our sensibilities. Tri fails to adequately acknowledge the settlers’ role in the genocide of indigenous Americans, who were already careful protectors of the land, and lived entirely in harmony with nature.
The intended audience would be one who is in sympathy theologically with the family portrayed, for whom there would be many resonances, and I hope that others might overcome their anti-American-right prejudices to give a sympathetic hearing to this beautifully filmed encounter. A Bible Study pack is available for use with the film.
I would highly recommend this film for such an audience.
Sandie Stratford is a climate activist and retired lecturer