Transcendent Kingdom

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Pastor John Character Analysis

Pastor John is the head pastor of the Pentecostal First Assemblies of God Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Pastor John and his wife briefly take Gifty in while her mother is in the psychiatric hospital. He is the link that keeps Gifty connected to and informed about her mother, first when she is sent to Ghana as a child and later when her mother falls into her second depression while Gifty is in grad school in California. Like many of the other representatives of religion in the book, Pastor John’s espouses a literalistic interpretation of the Bible and shuns science as an attack on his faith. Yet, his beliefs aren’t unshakable and they do change in response to circumstances, such as when he becomes more forgiving and less harsh about extramarital sex after his own teenage daughter becomes pregnant. Because he remains faithful to Gifty and her mother and offers them more support than anyone else after Nana’s death, Gifty retains a certain affection for him.
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Pastor John Character Timeline in Transcendent Kingdom

The timeline below shows where the character Pastor John appears in Transcendent Kingdom. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Science and Religion Theme Icon
...understand, with a truly crazy person. Her aunt’s words reminded Gifty of her mother, with Pastor John ’s hand on her head while prayers buzzed quietly in the room. (full context)
Chapter 2 
Addiction, Depression, and Control Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...experimental mice have been fighting. She separates them as she speaks on the phone to Pastor John , who is worried because her mother isn’t coming to church or answering the phone.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...surprise. Still, when Gifty went to church that visit, she felt like her mother asked Pastor John to make her a focus of his prayer. (full context)
Chapter 16
Addiction, Depression, and Control Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
Gifty doesn’t know what to do. In desperation, she had Pastor John pray for her mother over the phone. She can’t commit her. But Gifty can’t bring... (full context)
Chapter 25
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Pastor John ’s sermons against the “ways of the world” were about drugs and sex but also... (full context)
Chapter 27
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...remember much about “big church” except the altar call. At the end of every service, Pastor John would invite anyone who was ready to come to the altar to be saved. After... (full context)
Chapter 29
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
...Gifty went alone to church. The sermon was short and dull, but this time when Pastor John made the altar call, she heard an undeniably “loud knocking on [her] heart’s door.” She... (full context)
Chapter 36
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...relapse, nothing could protect Nana from people’s hate. When he was helping the team win, Pastor John and the church were quick to give the glory to God, but when he became... (full context)
Chapter 38
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...not their church, not the Ghanaian community, not the Chin Chin Man. After three weeks, Pastor John visited. Gifty was so hungry for touch that she loved him when he laid a... (full context)
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...the other Ghanaians paced, wept, and sang, questioning God while the Americans watched on, perplexed. Pastor John ’s prayers assured everyone that Nana’s death was God’s plan. Gifty was keenly aware of... (full context)
Chapter 40
Science and Religion Theme Icon
...willed her mother, in the words of the Biblical text, to “come forth.” Gifty called Pastor John , who called an ambulance. As Gifty’s mother was lifted onto a stretcher, she apologized... (full context)
Chapter 41
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
With her mother in the hospital, Gifty went to live in Pastor John ’s bright yellow house, three blocks from the church. Their sons were in college, and... (full context)
Chapter 44
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
...to have helped her other symptoms and she started going back to church. Gifty begs Pastor John for updates over the phone, but he only has superficial information, like what her mother... (full context)