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Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I'm found

Was blind, but now I see

Faith can do amazing things to a person. Even the worst Villain can redeem themselves after gaining a little bit of faith in God. A Heel Faith Turn is a situation where a villain turns good because of a deep religious experience, possibly preceded by a My God, What Have I Done? moment or a Heel Realization. As a result, the former villain often becomes a Good Shepherd and/or Badass Preacher and an Atoner.

The title is a pun on Heel Face Turn, directly inspired by Faith Heel Turn, which is this trope's opposite.

Has nothing to do with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character.

Examples of Heel Faith Turn include:


Anime & Manga

  • Garai from Osamu Tezuka's MW started out as a violent gangster who molested a nine-year old boy, but he became a priest to try to atone for his evil ways.
  • In another Tezuka work, Phoenix: Karma, widely considered to be his greatest masterpiece, Gao, a murderous bandit, is inspired to become a pacisfistic, nature-loving artist by the teachings of the Buddha. What makes this example interesting is the contrast provided by the other main character, Akanemaru, a carver of Buddha statues, who starts out as a decent enough guy, but gets involved with the politicians who are trying to use Buddhism as a state religion to control the masses & turns into a vain Jerkass who thinks nothing of sacrificing the lives of countless workers to build his giant bronze penis extension Buddha.


Comic Books

  • The French-Belgian comic book series Odilon Verjus is about a former pimp who has become a Catholic missionary, though in his case, while the embrace of the faith was sincere, there was no particular desire for atonement.
  • Shows up in most of, if not all Chick Tracts. Usually ineptly handled.


Fan Works

  • Allronix loves this one. In Through a Diamond Sky, the Dragon has second thoughts when she realizes her boss plans to kill the Creator. In her Tin Man fanfic "Tin," Wyatt Cain slowly renounces revenge and re-dedicates himself to the oath of his office and the Unnamed God through the events of the miniseries.


Film

  • In the movie Dragonheart, the main character spends most of the film as a rogue outsider tricking townspeople into giving him rewards ... until he stumbles across a talking statue of King Arthur and gets reminded of his oath of knighthood. Although this isn't strictly religious, it has the same Renewal Of Lost Faith aspect.
    • According to the sequel, he apparently founds an order of monks or something.
  • The Butterfly Effect: In the alternate timeline where Evan stops the mother and baby from approaching the dynamite-filled mailbox and losses his arms in the process, Kayleigh's psychopathic brother Tommy ends up as a polite and well-kept Christian young-man.


Literature

  • In Bernard Cornwell's Nate Starbuck series, set in the American Civil War, Colonel Swynyard goes through one of these when an extremely near miss from a cannonball results in him waking up lying in the battlefield mud next to a religious pamphlet. Interestingly, this is played completely straight (and works extremely well) by an author who had, in other series, tended to treat Christianity as a Corrupt Church, verging on Religion of Evil.
    • It wasn't Christianity in general he was bashing in those other works, but the Catholic Church of the period not long before the Protestant Reformation, which even the modern Catholic Church admits was incredibly corrupt. Outside of that, it was individual corrupt priests that he was very hard on.
      • Cornwell's major works were set in the early 19th century, the later 9th century and the mediaeval period. The Catholic Church of those era was pretty corrupt and unpleasant. It is also worth noting the benevolent treatment that individual priests get, like Father Curtis/ El Mirador, Father Beocca (who actually performs a feat of badassery that impresses a band of Badass vikings) and Father Pyrlig, get.
  • Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. starts off as a thief, hardend and not so nice, even going as far to steal from the only man who gave him shelter. this man, however, happens to be a bishop,and gives Valjean more money, telling him that 'he has bought his soul for God' Valjean repents and becomes #1 dogooder. Javert doesn't care...
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, the main characters are on the run from the entire nation. At the end of the first book, they are cornered by the Guard, headed by a huge Austrian officer named Arnold (guess). Then Marcus creates a small miracle, causing Arnold to immediately switch his allegiance, believing the kid to be the new Messiah.
  • Arguably happens in the Tom Clancy novel Red Rabbit, where a KGB message clerk decides he wishes to defect to the US after sending some messages that indicate that his superiors are planning to assassinate the Pope.
  • One epigraph from Elminster's Daughter invokes this in a typical Realmslore fashion. It's a quote from a book named "Tyrant's Throne to the Arms of a Goddess: My Road To Mystra".
  • In another Forgotten Realms novel, War in Tethyr by Victor Milan, orog paladin of Torm implied to be the case. Details of how an underground orc ended up in the service of the god of duty are unknown, but he avoids talking about his past and even abandoned his given name.
  • Sam Slater in Strawberry Girl is arguably a Complete Monster, or close to it, before Brother Jackson, a traveling minister, tells him "the harm of drinkin' liquor, and of swearin' and backbitin', gossip and anger" and prays "extry hard" for him. Also, Slater's family had nearly died of unspecified illness while he was away, and he became sick when he got home.
  • Zed Arthen in the Heirs of Ash books used to be a Paladin of the Flame, but abandoned his church and fled after seeing terrible massacres committed in the name of righteousness. His apathetic cynicism when we first meet him starts fading when he starts to recover his faith.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters General Samar used to be a brutal member of former president Marcos's Secret Police. Then he became a Muslim and changed for the better.


Live Action TV

  • Eko on Lost.
  • Shepherd Book in Firefly seems like he went through this. But as revealed in his origin, he's more of an example of The Atoner. After spending decades as The Mole in the Alliance for the Browncoats, he had performed numerous atrocities, some to keep his cover, others to advance the Browncoat's cause. After a strategic loss, he's ousted and homeless, finding God under the supervision of a soup kitchen preacher.
  • In Deadwood, Tolliver's associate Andy Cramed leaves the life of crime after he develops a near-fatal case of smallpox and gets dumped in the forest to die. He returns to Deadwood later as a reverend and reformed man. Tolliver can't stand Cramed's shift in allegiance and provokes him to the breaking point, getting a shiv in the gut for his trouble. Old habits die hard.
  • Used in the Swedish soap Rederiet, where long time villain Carl Ericsson, who were sent to prison in a earlier season finale, showed up for the final episode to make amends to his mother (one of the main characters). Then, when the end credits rolled, when we are shown still photograps and a voice over telling us what happend to the main characters. we learn that Carl "served his time in prison and joined the Salvation Army. After his release, he now spends his time singing songs and collecting money for those in need." - including a picture of him in full uniform and collecting basket in hand.
  • Used along with Faith Heel Turn in My Name Is Earl. A Scary Black Man gangster who went by "Hash Brown" and eventually became a priest ends up being on Earl's list at least five times, with each new list item revealed making him angrier and angrier until he snaps and decides to return to his gangster life. Then Earl recognizes his car and reveals that he broke the taillight on it (another list item). The broken taillight caused Hash Brown to get pulled over and be late for a deal which ended up turning into a brutal shootout, meaning that Earl had indirectly saved his life. Since this event was what had caused him to take up religion in the first place (he originally attributed it to divine intervention), he thanks Earl and goes back to being a priest.
    • Another person on Earl's list was Donny, a former violent criminal lunatic who found religion while serving two years in prison for a crime Earl committed. Donny forgave Earl almost immediately, reasoning that if he hadn't gone to jail he wouldn't have cleaned up his act.
  • MIKE/Phillip Michael Gerard from Twin Peaks used to be a serial killer who raped and murdered women with his accomplice BOB. However, at some point, he "saw the face of God". He cut off his left arm to rid himself of his "Fire Walk With Me" tattoo (which symbolized being "touched by the evil one"), and even helps the main characters solve the mystery of Laura Palmer's murder.


Video Games

  • Reverend Ray in Call of Juarez turned to religion after killing his own brother, who dreamed of becoming a priest but ended up Taking the Bullet for their other brother Thomas to show Ray the true faith.
  • Willy Thorndop, the Marksmanship master in Arcanum, was pretty much your stereotypical "Evil Gunslinger" in his younger days. One day, he was at a bar, drunk off his ass and shooting his mouth off about his skills, and was challenged to a gunfight by a teenaged boy. Without missing a beat, Willy pulled out his gun, pressed it against the boy's head, and pulled the trigger. When he sobered up, he was so horrified by what he did and what he had become, he just ran, eventually seeking refuge in the priesthood of Halcyon. As penance, they made him cut off his thumbs and index fingers so that he could never use a gun again.
  • Dragon Age has Leliana, a former spy-for-hire (and sometimes assassin) who got religion after being betrayed by her mentor/lover.
  • If you complete Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, Kolyat Krios, his estranged son, will have quit the life of crime and turned to religion by the time you meet him again in Mass Effect 3.
  • Joshua Graham from Fallout: New Vegas. He was originally a missionary of the New Canaanites, before helping to create Caesar's Legion. After being dishonored, set on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon by Caesar, he found his way back to New Canaan and the Mormons. It mellowed him out. A bit.


Theatre

  • Used as a hasty Deus Ex Machina in William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Duke Frederick, the usurping villain who sets the plot in motion by driving the heroes into exile, is on his way to make war with the heroes, when he comes across a religious hermit who convinces him to give up his evil ways and lead a monastic life. We're told all this after the fact via messenger. Loose end officially tied up!
  • Memphis has an interesting take on this trope. Huey's mother is a prejudice, racist "Christian." Then attends a black church and becomes accepting.
  • A Double Subversion in the musical The Book of Mormon. In act 2, Kevin Price marches up to the genocidal warlord-dictator, singing "I Believe," over-the-top in his idealism and his conviction. The general is unimpressed, and shoves the book up Price's ass. However, at the end of the show, with a confrontation from both the missionaries and the Ugandans, the general converts and ends up ringing doorbells at the show's conclusion.


Webcomics


Web Original

  • Done in There Will Be Brawl. Mario is quick to blame Bowser for Peach's disapearance, but is reminded by Luigi that Bowser gave up such things when he became a Buddhist. Later in the series, we get to see Bowser. He is dressed in a Chinese-style robe while meditating in his garden, and begins dispencing philosophy when questioned. Until his Taking You with Me Heroic Sacrifice against an army of Game & Watches.

Western Animation

 Commissioner Gordon: Have you any last words?

The Joker: I know that Jesus has forgiven me.

Guard: Is that a joke?

The Joker: *Starts crying* No...


Real Life

  • Malcolm X is perhaps best known as a leader in the Black Power movement, to the point where he is the Trope Namer for the "black liberal strawman" character type. What's less well-known is that, after he made the hajj and met Muslims of all races, he renounced Black Power, feeling that it was antithetical to the basic tenets of his Muslim faith, and given to the belief that religion could unite everybody. This wound up becoming a Real Life case of Redemption Equals Death, as his conversion led to his assassination by members of the Black Muslims, who felt that he had betrayed the movement.
  • Many, many more examples, of which we will list only a few here.
    • Saint Ignatius Loyola was a soldier and fighter who fought in many battles. After suffering an injury on the battlefield and heading home to heal, he started reading philosophy and theology to relieve his boredom- and then became the kind of man who gets Saint added to his name.
    • Saint Augustine had a pretty R-rated lifestyle (promiscuity, partying, etc.) before his conversion.
    • Saul was a Pharisee in training, a Jewish leader who enforced and taught the law.
    • Saint Matthew was a tax collector, which typically had a reputation for dishonesty.
    • Saint Christopher was a fighter and a brawler who converted and gave up his ways.
      • In some versions, he was a dog-headed 15-foot giant who was looking for the strongest leader in the world. This eventually led to him running around as a bandit in Satan's gang, until he saw Satan scared of a cross and went looking for Jesus.
    • Shimon ben Lakish was a bandit before he was convinced to 'give his strength to the Torah'. When his mentor held his past against him later, the shame pretty much killed him.
    • St. Vladimir was a bloody tyrant who had murdered his own brother and practiced Human Sacrifice, before turning to Jesus.
    • Constantine deliberately abused this trope to sin without consequence - he believed in Christianity, but knew that it allowed only "one baptism for the forgiveness of sin," so he delayed his official conversion (and baptism) until he was on his death bed to guarantee he would die with a clean soul.
      • Actually, death bed baptisms were fairly common, and not a case of Constantine abusing it.
  • Alabama Governor George Wallace repented his former outspoken pro-segregation views upon becoming a born-again Christian. And, you know, that whole being shot and crippled thing.
    • Wallace once stated in private he didn't really believe any of that pro-segregation stuff...but he wanted to be elected and in the South that meant going along to get along. So after his chances to be politically relevent were gone he dropped it since he didn't really have it to begin with. Not entirely sure if it counts but if true it counts as a Real Life version of Just Between You and Me.
  • Joshua Blahyi General Butt Naked (more in Wikipedia. Liberian Warlord, human-sacrificer, and general homicidal maniac. After a theophany in 1996 gave up his past life and became a Christian preacher, opening a mission to help former child soldiers and members of rebel groups (including several guys who used to be his enemies). As far as can be judged without knowing the contents of his mind, he seems to be legitimate in his desire to fix the country. He has even expressed a willingness to be tried for war crimes.
  • According to this interview, many retired Japanese Yakuza bosses become Buddhist priests. Subverted in that most of the time, their motives are at least partly cynical.
  • John Newton, lyricist of Amazing Grace, was at first slave trader who barely survived a powerful storm. After that act, he became a preacher and fought against slavery.
  • Johnny Lee Clary, a former Ku Klax Klan leader who, after being inspired by a black preacher's bravery and displays of faith, became a Pentecostal Christian and teaches against hate groups and racism.
  • Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II. After the Pope recovered from his injuries, he visited Agca in prison. Agca is now a Catholic.
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