When the dust of our time settles…

I hope people will realize that one of the most surprisingly effective and culturally subversive Catholic evangelists and catechists in the public square was Stephen Colbert.

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  • Kathleen M. Ritter

    He is truly awesome.

  • Dave G.

    If my sympathies were more for a Catholic Church in line with modern liberal culture, then Colbert would definitely be at the top of my list. As it is, I find something about the Comedy Central approach to advocacy off putting. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like one step past talk radio. Like the sort of thing I would expect from my old college buddies when they were arguing one way, but you knew they were really pushing for something else. Still, given our culture and where it is, I guess you couldn’t do much better. That he’s openly Catholic in a society increasingly hostile toward the Faith in general is something. Though again, to what end.

    • chezami

      My sympathies are with somebody who, in the great desert waste of secular TV, asserts *something* of Catholic teaching, however imperfectly. But the general watchword and method of the right is to burn heretics rather than seek converts, so Colbert’s obvious Catholic faith and subversive evangelism are inevitably written off because he is wrong on a number of points. I think it wiser to be grateful for a real but imperfect effort.

      • Dave G.

        Then thank goodness I’m not part of the right seeking to burn heretics. Just someone who’s seen enough to know that what you present as the Faith will often be what ends up the Faith to those who come in the way it was presented. Something worth considering whether it’s Americana conservatism or modern cultural liberalism.

        BTW I hate responding on my smartphone. I can only see part of what I wrote. I hope that made sense.

        • chezami

          I don’t present this *obvious* opinion on my part as “the Faith”. I make a very simple argument: exploring the possibility of safer guns rather than threatening death against those who do is perfectly reasonable. That’s not a doctrine of the Church. It’s simply common sense moral reasoning. And in a sane gun cuture, there would be two or three perfunctory, “yeahs” and we’d move on. But since our gun culture is insane, this mild suggestion evokes hundreds of insane responses, which you then defend as reasonable while complaining about my nasty dogmatism. Insane.

          • Dave G.

            Is this response on the right thread? Though fwiw the common sense answer to a suggestion is almost never just ‘yeah’ but rather’let’s see if it will solve the problem.’

            • chezami

              Oops. wrong thread.

              • Dave G.

                I assumed. :)

  • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

    Have you seen his interview with Gary Wills about the book Why Priests? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Colbert so flabbergasted by the nonsense being spewed by a guest: http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/he6l0j/garry-wills

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      I saw that when it aired. Fantastic.
      .
      Our culture has forgotten the sacred need for the bard and court jester.

    • chezami

      I remember that. It’s interesting when the character he plays gets forgotten and the catechist asserts himself.

    • AquinasMan

      “Are you going to the Barnes and Noble in Hell?” Sweet.

  • Michaelus

    “oh you know the early Jews better than the early Jews”!!! Wonderful.

  • Rosemarie

    +J.M.J+

    Colbert’s entire act is a spoof of Bill O’Reilly. Anyone who watches the O’Reilly Factor would recognize that Colbert is mimicking (even mocking) Bill’s brash style. Also, when it comes to religion, O’Reilly tends to be both highly opinionated and misinformed; Colbert is mirroring that as well.

    Listen to this interview with that in mind and Colbert doesn’t sound like a Catholic evangelist or catechist, but like a pompous theological illiterate tossing out dumb logical fallacies just to throw Ehrman off his game. From an apologetics POV his arguments aren’t good at all: “Son of God” means Jesus is God because a son of a duck is a duck? Ehrman takes that one down handily by pointing out that King David was called the son of God, too. If this were a serious debate, I’d say that Ehrman won by default because Colbert’s arguments were plain lousy.

    Make no mistake, this interview is part of Ehrman’s book promotion tour, and at the end of the piece Colbert dutifully hawks the book. All that came before was just a mock trashing of it, not a serious defense of orthodox Christian belief.

    • BillyT92679

      Colbert in real life is a catechist at his parish.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        I’ve heard that and don’t doubt it to be true. I’ve heard him say before that he believes the Apostles Creed and I know that he is a Catholic. All fine and good.

        Nonetheless, he’s acting a part here, not playing himself but a Bill O’Reilly-type character. So he’s not engaging in subversive evangelism but parodying a certain television personality. And his personal faith does not change the fact that his arguments are poor and that Ehrman bests him in their play banter. The audience will not be evangelized or catechetized by this exchange, not only because Colbert’s objections are weak because they’re in on the joke, laughing at his pretend bombast.

        EDIT: Finally, even if his audience is somehow stealth evangelized/catechetized by anything he says, if they read Ehrman’s book (which the Colbert Report is basically promoting) it will likely undo that.

        • chezami

          Ehrman does nothing of the kind. I’m amazed people take the guy seriously.

          • sez

            I agree. While Colbert’s arguments aren’t perfect, his audience doesn’t know that, and his banter with Ehrman leaves the audience thinking that he won, or maybe it’s a draw on a point or two. But Ehrman’s arguments are shown to be pretty weak if a comedian can quickly take him down. Colbert always has a response, and remember: his fans love him, so they won’t remember any weaknesses in his arguments.

          • Rosemarie

            +J.M.J+

            He does take down the “Son of God = God” argument, which is weak since since many persons who aren’t consubstantial with the Father are called “sons of God” (angels, Christians, etc.).

            I don’t take Ehrman seriously but he was able to hold his own pretty well against Colbert’s softball mock-criticism. I’m sure a more knowledgeable scholar could have really made mincemeat of his assertions.

        • sez

          Colbert’s audience doesn’t buy books! I’m sure the authors he interviews thinks they might sell some books that way, but that is not gonna happen. Colbert’s fans watch him and Jon Stewart and Kimmel, et al, and accept the opinions fed to them by their favorite funny men. They don’t take time to read books.
          I know this, because it was how I got my news and views… until I returned to the Church. Colbert was undoubtedly watering seeds that had been sewn in my childhood, so he deserves my eternal thanks for helping me learn the Faith.

          • Rosemarie

            +J.M.J+

            It’s good to know that God was able to use his program for someone. I hope He helps a lot more people that way and I also hope you’re right that his audience won’t buy the book.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        I don’t have a lot of respect for catechists any more, sadly. Far too many of them around my age know a lot less about the faith than I do.

        • Mark S. (not for Shea)

          That’s true in all too many parishes When I first went through RCIA on the West Coast, our RCIA teacher certainly wasn’t orthodox. In our first meeting, she told the class that all religions were basically the same, many paths up the same mountain, and the bible was just sacred legends. So we went through the motions of the class and basically educated ourselves.
          .
          Here in New England our catechists are much more orthodox and informed, but most of the classes (at least for kids and teens) are geared to be more about your feelings and having fun than being educated in the faith. The kids get a brief lesson, with little true teaching, then sit around to share their feelings, then it’s off to fun and games. The catechists are very nice people, and they’re trying, but I just can’t help but think this isn’t a job for the laity. When they’re holding down full time jobs and trying to raise their own families, it’s a wonder in itself that they can devote any time at all to catechesis.
          .
          My own kids get more real teaching out of an 8 minute Wordonfire video than they do at youth group.

  • kmk1916

    Genius…

  • Peter Williams

    Jim Gaffigan may be serving a similar role. He and Colbert are succeeding in delivering truthful messages to a significant number of people that have been difficult to reach by traditional means.

    • chezami

      Yes. Gaffigan is another interesting voice getting into places that a lot of the Uber-Righteous won’t even try to go. So, frankly, is Fr. Robert Barron who likewise gets that the goal is not to preach to the choir in the Fortress, but to go into the agora. May their tribe increase.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        My only complaint about Father Barron is that he doesn’t post enough for me to get my fix. I listen to his weekly sermons and occasional videos and find myself craving more. He just needs to preach and teach 8 hours a day as far as I’m concerned.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      Is Gaffigan a practicing Catholic? I know he has said that his wife is. In one show, he described her as a “shi’ite Catholic,” which made me laugh. Has he ever professed the Faith himself?

      • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

        Yes, Gaffigian is Catholic. He doesn’t talk about it directly in his act (that I’m aware of), but he has mentioned it in interviews.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

          Every Sunday the NYT does a “Sunday in the life of …”-type piece on some celebrity or prominent citizen. Gaffigan was one subject, and he said he attends Mass every Sunday. It made me happy to read that, because so very few profiled ever seem to attend any kind of church service.

          (Obviously, I don’t expect non-Christians to attend a church on Sunday.)

          • HornOrSilk

            Of course, you can find the biggest surprise when you read about Andy Warhol and how he went to daily mass

            • Mark S. (not for Shea)

              Yep. Definitely an interesting character. Warhol was a lifelong homosexual who never missed Mass, and at least one person entered the priesthood largely because of Warhol’s influence.

            • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

              I always like learning unexpected tidbits like that. We tend to categorize people into “Faithful Catholics Who Are Perfect in Their Faith” and “Badly-Catechized Cultural Catholics Who Never Set Foot in Church.”

      • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

        “shi’ite Catholic” — Bwahaha! I know a few of those myself.

      • sez

        From what I’ve heard, Gaffigan started out a bit like a cultural Catholic, and got laughs by mildly mocking the Faith. But his “shi’ite Catholic” wife’s influence brought him to see that he could get even more laughs without the mocking. So, his later material is much better. I assume that his faithfulness to the Church has increased along the way, and pray that it will continue. More like him, please!

      • ImTim

        It sounds like Jim Gaffigan is going to be presenting at the Fellowship of Catholic University Student’s (FOCUS) next national conference.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    I hope not, but chances are, yes. But to stay subversive, he has to be that kind of Eastern Seaboard American Catholic with no knowledge of history and a larger connection to Washington DC than to Rome.

  • Jason Hall

    When the dust of our time settles…everything is going to be really dusty.

  • Mike

    I used to think that. Certainly he does a good job and overall a good service when he takes on atheists. I enjoyed this Ehrman interview. He has also gone a good way towards using his right-wing Catholic persona to mock the Church’s teaching on things like abortion and gay marriage. It’s not that I’m expecting him to be perfect, but the overall message is not a completely positive one.

    • chezami

      True Like most Catholics, he has ideological blind spots. But still and all, I’m happy to see *somebody* managing to get in some rather large chunks of Catholic teaching in the very unlikely venue of cable comedy TV.

  • Dave G.

    In terms of being a Catholic voice in a non-Christian medium, the same could be said for Bill O’Reilly. Or Sean Hannity for that matter. And in terms of how and what they deliver, the three aren’t far apart. Clearly Colbert (and Stewart) are simply a new brand of advocacy. I read in a Slate (or Salon) article how they are pioneering a new form of issue advocacy. Comedy and entertainment and punditry all in one. I think that’s just another step down from journalism-sensationalist entertainment journalism-daytime talk show-talk radio-cable news. But without any real sense of accountability or responsibility. Which is very post-modern, but not overly Christian.

    Perhaps it’s from those years as a protestant minister where we always struggled with ‘how little is too little, and how much is too much?’ Do you say whatever it takes, just get the word out? Reduce everything to Christ and Him Crucified? Lay out the basics with the message? It’s not like there’s a clear answer in stone, and extremes of all approaches have been documented. But this isn’t just that. Whether O’Reilly or Colbert, we’re talking about Catholics who don’t just say you have to compromise to bring the message to the Forum. You’re talking about Catholics who openly bring sacrifices to Caesar as they approach the Forum, and bid others to see their sacrifices as the acceptable sacrifices and the sacrifices that clearly should define the Faith. And that’s a tough way to start someone down the True Way, since unlearning can sometimes be tougher than learning in the first place. .


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