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Hatfields & McCoys: Family Values

I’ll leave it to others to judge the historical accuracy of Hatfield & McCoys, the History Channel’s three-part miniseries portrayal of the infamous feud.  It includes many of the known facts.  Also, its scenery and costuming along with rough language and graphic violence are realistic.  As drama, it is well worth watching because it depicts the evils of family idolatry–something by which we conservative Christians can be tempted.

Both Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy, played by Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton respectively, put family above everything.  They use the law and the government to serve their family interests.  With regard to the law, they eagerly pursue “justice” for guilty members of the opposing family.  On the other hand, they are unwilling to have their own family members to be punished legally for crimes, including murder, even though they know that they are guilty.

As the feud’s violence escalates, they begin to take advantage of political contacts to gain the upper hand.  At its height the feud drew in the governors of West Virginia and Kentucky and led to the threat of  state militia being used to invade the other state.

More troubling is Randall McCoy’s Christian justification of his actions.  He is not a hypocrite.  That role is left to  “Bad” Frank Phillips who quickly testifies to his conversion in order to get Randall McCoy to hire him as the head of a posse to arrest the Hatfields charged with illegally executing three of Randall’s sons for murder.

No, what is troubling, even terrifying, about Randall McCoy is not religious hypocrisy but his sincerity.  He actually believes in prayer and the biblical passages he quotes against the Hatfields, but he never allows the Scriptures to question his actions.  They are only used to justify them.  Christianity is subservient to family loyalty and that makes Randall McCoy an idolater.

We can make use of this and other good films by allowing them to question our hearts.  Is Christ really the Lord of our life?  Do we allow him and his word to question our family loyalty?  Isn’t it shockingly sinful that one of the chief sources of opposition to young people becoming missionaries is Christian parents who don’t want their children and grandchildren to live far away?  Are our political views, patriotism, spending and even our charitable giving really biblical?  We so easily think that we’re in the right.  We are talented self-justifiers.  Let us pray that God’s Spirit would search us and see if there be any wicked way in us.

At the end of the second episode Sally McCoy asks her husband Randall whether he ever gets tired of praying.  When he answers in the negative, she responds that she asked because his prayers never seem to work.  As we look at our individual prayer life and the corporate prayer life of the American church, Sally’s question is a good one for us too.

8 thoughts on “Hatfields & McCoys: Family Values

  1. I am wondering if Randall McCoy and family were really members of the Church of Christ. The reason I ask this is in the c of Christ, we do not call the ministers “Reverend” or “father” or “pastor” we simply call them by their first name, or Mr. or a long time ago we caleed each other “brother” or “sister”
    I noticed (in the movie) they referred to their pulpit minister as “reverend”
    Is this a simple movie mistake?
    Could you give me some insight.

    1. That’s a good question, Ron. I didn’t pick it up. I suspect that it is a simple movie mistake. Let me know who you are. Thanks for reading the post.

    2. It should be noted that the early Capbellites (“Church of Christians”), like many low-church Protestants of the time, had no problem referring to their ministers as “Reverend” or even “Father.” The notion that such titles are “unBiblical” is a relatively modern hang-up.

    1. I certainly don’t want to deny that Hollywood has a bias. My point was that Randall’s Christianity, as portrayed in the series, can warn us Christians not to use our faith as a cover for our own selfish interests. Did you read the post “How Christian Is the Hatfieds & McCoys?” Click on There I mention how Devil Anse was baptized, an historical fact. I admit being surprised that Hollywood mentioned it.

      I don’t think that I know you. Would you identify yourself? I like to know my readers more. Thanks for the comment. I always appreciate intelligent interaction.

  2. I have recently read more information information on these families handed down from the families themselves. That alone could mean there is a lot of slanting of the facts. However, there is one book that actually backs it up with archived info. A second book is by a great grandson. I would like to read both.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Cynthia. Where were you getting this extra information and what are the books that you mentioned? I’m no expert in these sad events or even an amateur, but it would be interesting to learn more.

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