Saturday, January 05, 2008

Stephen Colbert on Protestantism

Stephen Colbert, that faux conservative commentator who has his own Comedy show 'The Colbert Report' has now published a book 'I Am an American (and So Can You!)'. Yes, you read that right.

My son the pundit gave me this book for Christmas, and I must say-- it is rather hysterical, whatever your views on politics and religion.

In real life Colbert is both a Catholic and a Sunday School teacher, and he has been known to take on the likes of Bart Ehrman on his show-- and skewer him pretty good!

So the following excerpt from his book comes with a warning label--- BLAME HIM, NOT ME FOR THESE REMARKS.

Chapter 4 of the book is devoted to 'Religion' and begins auspiciously with a quote from a Doobie Brothers song' Jesus is just alright with me.' To this is added Colbert's retort-- "But are they alright with Jesus? Drop the reefer boys, and pick up a Bible!"

His discussion of denominations begins with the reminder that the Roman Catholic Church is 'the church'. He adds "Catholics have many advantages over other Christians. One is marble. For the buck I put into the collection plate, I want some production value. That means a church, not some community center that doubles as basketball court. Also Catholics have saints-- more than 10,000 of them. They're like God's customer service reps, and each of them has a speciality." (p. 53).

But then he gets down to brass tacks with Protestanism, here defined as "This is a variant form of Christianity, or 'heresy'. " He adds "Protestants don't make me angry as much as disappointed. Unlike the world's crazy made up religions, they're so close to getting it right. They're a single Pope away from reaching their full potential." (p. 53). He says that now that Protestants have had their little 490 year protest, its time to move on and stop dwelling in the past. Here's his blow by blow account of various Protestant denominations.

Episcopal Church: " Why don't Episcopalians just come out and say it-- their Anglicans! A bunch of Tory Loyalist Brito-philes...waiting for the day America let's her guard down and they can reinstate Henry VIII"

Methodist Church: "What, the Church of England wasn't heretical enough for you?"

Presbyterian Church: "Presbyterians are identical to Methodists except that one of them says 'debt's instead of 'trespasses' in the Lord's prayer. Hundreds of years of bitter armed conflict has failed to resolve this difference. How many more lives must be lost?"

Baptist Church: "I'm a pious guy but even I have my limits. I draw the line right around spending eight hours in church every Sunday. Church should be a solemn 45 minutes to sit quietly and feel guilty, with donuts at the end to make you feel better. I don't go for a full day of singing, dancing, and rejoicing, no matter how nice the hats are. I prefer my Gospel monotonously droned to me from the pulpit, thank you very much."

Quaker Church: "There folks produced only two things I like--Oatmeal and Richard Nixon."
(all the above is on pp. 54-55).

I will spare you his comments on Unitarians, Mormons, and Jews. He defines agnostics as "Atheists, without balls.".

He also provides a svelte commentary on the nature of the Bible, for example stressing "After Jesus showed up, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." (p. 57).

So if you are in need of more enlightenment of this variety, by all means rush out and buy this fine book published last year by Grand Central Publishing, which has a silver seal on the cover informing us this book won "the Stephen Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence" (and you thought he was the grammar police).

If religion is not your thing, not to worry-- there are chapters on sex, sports cars, politics and a plethora of other subjects-- bon appetit.


art said...

Dr. Witherington.

I also posted a review of Colbert's book, although I realized I could not say it better than he did, so I simply included some of my favorite quotes from the book.

Thanks for the review!

K.W. Leslie said...

Of course you notice, with his comment on how the Gospel is "monotonously droned to me from the pulpit," that he's perfectly willing to take a jibe at his own denomination too.

Pascalian Awakenings said...

My only disappointment with Colbert is actually with the Democrats from South Carolina. I can't believe he didn't make the ballot. I may have even moved from Texas to SC just to vote for Stephen. He would have made a great president. :)

BTW, new shows are back on Monday! Woo hoo!

Christfollower said...

Love reading your blogs. I am learning a lot, especially how much I don't know! I am enjoying your book "What Have They Done With Jesus?".

Gallagher said...

Since Mr. Colbert is from Charleston, SC - Maybe he will visit our congregation and give a review of the Church of Christ. could only hope!

His show last night was hilarious without the writers there.

Kristina said...

Dr Witherington,
My friend has this book and he offered to let me borrow it. Hopefully, I'll have some time to do that.
quick question though. I have read some material on Jesus and how he was different from any other person in history. However, I am noticing that his concept of "loving your enemies" is very similar to the Greek cynic movement. How would you then show that what Jesus said was vastly different?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Kristina:

No one is claiming that Jesus was completely different from everyone else in human history on all important ethical matters. There is however no evidence I know of that Cynics were especially given to loving enemies. Indeed, they tended to be rude to everyone in general. There is the famous story about Diogenes, the founder of the Cynic movement who was out lying on the side of a hill in Greece when along came Alexander the Great. When Alexander asked the philosopher what benevolence he could do for the great thinker, Diogenes replied 'Stand out of my light.'


Ben W.

jongunna said...

Dr. Witherington

Thank you for your review. I found it odd that Colbert doesn´t seem to pick a fight with the Lutherans. Odd since the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA)is almost twice the size of the Episcopalian church. I guess he's giving Calvin the blame for the 490 year protest;-).

Duke of Earl said...

Kristina, I think I read somewhere that the Stoic philosophy might be summed up as "love your enemies, be indifferent to your friends."

I'm not sure where I read that though so take it with a grain of salt.

thegreatswalmi said...

i have what i believe to be an even funnier version of "I am America (and so can you)"...on by Colbert himself. The little asides you read in the book are really little asides, and his inflection and speech really crack me up. His skewering of "Judeo/Christian" was awfully funny too (Judaism is the "Roebuck" of Sears Roebuck!)