Learning to Talk Like Tina Fey

Today I read a review of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, her account of spending a year trying to “take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.” This has her end up calling her husband “master,” keeping her mouth shut in church, and staying in a pup tent during her period. I have not read the book. All this I learn from the back cover.

I did read the review, though Pastor Guyton, the reviewer, has also not read the book. His article is called “Why Al Mohler Doesn’t Get Rachel Held Evans.” Apparently Guyton does get Evans, even though he hasn’t read the book. Al Mohler (president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), who has apparently read the book, does not get her. So there’s lots of ignorance about Evans’ book going around—ignorance and opinions. (They do seem to go hand in hand.)

I’ve now said all I can say about Evans’ book, my ignorance and my opinions converging into a dribble. But something in Guyton’s comments caught my eye, particularly in light of my long foray into Trinitarian history and spirituality this year.

Guyton writes this: “Christians today who want to share the Gospel with any credibility in postmodern culture must learn how to talk like Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, et al.”

I’m not a big viewer of these celebrities, but my limited experience (see comments above re: ignorance and opinions) has revealed them to be, in turn: clever, shrewd, flippant, crass, hilarious, derisive, vulgar, and completely, always irreverent. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Learning to talk like Tina Fey… How do you really do that, if you want to explore the sacred in a way that leads to transformation? Curiosity and cleverness may lend themselves to absurdity, but desperation never does. Evans’ book may or may not be a gentle poke at the silliness of literal biblical interpretations, but whatever it is, it is not a serious examination of “biblical womanhood.” Whatever that means.

Guyton tells us Mohler is offended by Evans’ book, and he spends some time speculating that Mohler’s criticisms come from a chronic inability to understand postmodern irony; he further hypothesizes that such “tone deafness” is derived from the fear of losing a Pleasantville version of Christianity. Many evangelicals, he asserts, wallow in Fifties Nostalgia, and long for the picket fence Christianity of former years. Those evangelicals are never going to be able to articulate a message of the gospel that speaks to the postmodern world. In which we all live. Except, apparently, in our imaginations. Where those of us who do not understand Fey-speak want to wear beehives and saddle shoes.

If we want to be relevant, articulate, and meaningful, we had better get hip. Sassy. Brazen.

I remember my dad once saying that if he had had a British accent, he would have been a famous preacher. I can fake the accent (badly), but I’ll never be able to do the Fey thing. I do believe, however, that there are seasons in all of our lives when we will want to turn off the show and speak quietly and gently, with humor and authenticity, about the grace and truth that come to us in Jesus Christ. And it has nothing to do with the 1950s.

 

About K. Mulhern

Kathleen Mulhern teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Denver Seminary, Colorado School of Mines, and Regis University. She particularly focuses on the historical roots of the political, economic, religious, and cultural systems that have contributed to contemporary society.

  • http://www.storytalk.blogspot.com Tristan

    Couldn’t agree more about this post and what Guyton said about learning to talk like the outspoken influential and interesting celebrities. I’m actually trying to study Jon Stewart’s rhetoric and the way Stewart speaks on my own blog. Cheers!

  • Laura

    I am a Christian pastor and fan of Stewart, Colbert, and Fey. One of the things that strikes me about them is how they, although differently in turns, use their comedy and irreverence to engage spiritual truths or cultural [mis]interpretations of faith. I left the taping of one Jon Stewart show convinced that every preacher should take notes on his careful use of words and facial expressions. As the mother of a daughter, I have prayed different versions of Tina Fey’s mother’s prayer for her own daughter. While some comments – in the prayer or other sound bytes – may sound vulgar or irreverent, my experience is that their humor, particularly Colbert’s satire, doesn’t stem from a desire to be hip, but from different points of engaging the shallowness of mainstream North American cultures. All this to say, they may not be your taste, but I think Guyton has a point.


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