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Stephen Colbert: On Faith & Humor

I was born and raised a Catholic. As a Mexican, there’s nothing exceptional about that; but there was a time in my life when I was really committed to my Catholicism. I went to Mass (gladly!), took Communion, despaired when I had ‘unclean thoughts’ –which was pretty much *all* the time– walked dozens of miles to see pope John II at San Juan de los Lagos –I was so tired I slept through most of the Eucharist– and even went with a group made of fellow high-school students to a few ‘evangelization journeys’ at some of the poorest communities in Mexico.

And, for a little while, I seriously considered the possibility of taking the vows to become a priest.

Eventually I became evermore disenchanted with the church –even though to this day I still hold a special fascination for Jesus, thanks to J.J. Benítez’s “Caballo de Troya” novels– until a day came when I realized in my heart I no longer felt as a Catholic; to the point that nowadays I can barely stand being inside a church during one of the usual social events my family drags me to.

As a renegade Catholic, you keep telling yourself that you ‘smartened up’, and finally opened your eyes about the many things in the religious dogma which doesn’t make any kind of sense; you also tell yourself that if someone decides to remain in the church, is because they haven’t yet looked hard enough to those logical fallacies, thus suffering some sort of cognitive dissonance. Some people even have a complete 180° and become rabid anti-religious atheists; there’s no greater zealot than the late convert…

Which is why it was so interesting for me to listen to Stephen Colbert, one of the smartest Television figures in the world today, discuss with Fr. Thomas Rosica on the video above how much he loves his Catholic faith, and how for him there doesn’t seem to be any conflict between it and his intellect. The conversation was recorded on April 1st, for the Salt and Light media organization.

“Logic itself will not lead me to god… but my love of the world and my gratitude toward it will.”

In a way it’s interesting to think how there seems to be an interesting rapport –see what I did there?– between Faith and Humor: Both require a fair amount of intelligence –you cannot make a good joke if you don’t understand WHAT things are funny– and yet at the same time both have to be able to transcend rationality –you cannot ‘overthink’ a joke; it has to be a visceral reaction in order to be funny.

A strange thing to consider, especially in a time in which Religion and Humor have become something of a mortal combination. While Stephen mentions during the interview how he was glad he was not on the air when the Charlie Hebdo news broke –because he wouldn’t have been able to respond– later in the interview he might have inadvertently hit the nail on why the satire of Charlie Hebdo provoked such a caustic reaction, by discussing how according to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, ‘flippancy’ is the only type of humor which doesn’t bring joy, and thus moves you away from God.

I also enjoyed how Stephen shares my concept of a Jesus who was laughing all the time.

if Jesus didn’t laugh [at Peter falling on the water like Wile E Coyote] then I’m in trouble, because that’s the God I worship

Well, I worship a ‘God’ –however you choose to define ‘It’– who put someone like Stephen Colbert in the same space rock I happen to inhabit at the moment.

  1. A Fool for Francis
    There is humor in the Gospels, but most of it is of the Ashton Kutcher variety, i.e., vicious pranks that are best appreciated by a ruling elite that has Punk’d the unwitting masses! It’s still humor though. If you are resigned to a status quo in which there is no “upward mobility,” then laughing at one’s condition is probably the healthiest option. Why not be a “happy fool” rather than stew over conditions that just can’t ever be changed.

    The so-called American Century flew in the face of such co-dependency with class distinction and power. But, what ultimately is the outcome? Has it all been in vain? Are we doomed to return to a feudal society? Since it is probably impossible to get billions of people (Americans included) to act responsibly, this experiment in Freedom probably will be a fleeting one. The Window is closing, enjoy it while it lasts!

    1. Feudal society
      I dunno. Things still look pretty good in the Scandinavian nations, where they embraced *gasp!* Socialism, and thus enjoy the most egalitarian society in modern history.

      I think the American experiment failed because it ended up confusing ‘Freedom’ with ‘Greed.’

      1. Scan Design
        Yes, I agree it was more of an Experiment with Greed. I think some forms of socialism can work, but I don’t see that as the inevitable solution. The neo-elite will take decisive action at some point and employ draconian measures to “right the sinking Spaceship Earth.” And they will paint themselves as Saviors for doing so. It will be “Kingship Lowered From Heaven” all over again. Change has always come from the top (even if it is made to appear as rising from the bottom). Heracles was a “royal plant.”

        1. Some forms of socialism can work
          I think we need to keep in mind that for 90% human existence, Socialism DID work!

          We know hunter-gatherer societies were fundamentally egalitarian. Everybody had to share food or other necessities, and if someone didn’t it was banned from the tribe –which pretty much meant death. That’s the point: EVERYONE knew they wouldn’t be able to survive on their own.

          It was only after the arrival of agriculture that humans became greedy and chose not to share with their nighbors anymore.

          1. Is There a Cosmic Commonwealth?
            As far as I can reconstruct, the so-called God-Kings and Priest-Kings have lorded it over the Earth for nearly 100% of modern man’s existence. There were perhaps some remote regions that escaped their “divine dictatorship,” but the vast majority lived and died according to their whims and wishes. If the old age, “As Above, So Below” is true, then there may be a dictatorship of sorts in Outer Space.

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