I had the pleasure of catching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night. It was a great episode, and I think the show is getting better as he settles on a more familiar format and rhythm.
But even from day one, the thing that’s distinguished Colbert’s late night party has been his interviews. He is just considerably better at interviewing people than Kimmel, Fallon or Conan. And last night was no different. In fact, Colbert said something in particular that I think would do us some good to contemplate.
During his wonderful interview with actress Ellen page, who was there to discuss her upcoming film Freeheld — which depicts a lesbian couple fighting for legal recognition under the law because one of them is diagnosed with cancer and wants her pension to go to her partner —Colbert explained his complicated relationship with his Catholic beliefs in a way that really resonated with me.
“I believe in God, and there are things that I believe that I know are crazy. I know they’re not true,” Colbert said. He then tossed out the example of guardian angels. “Not real,” he added, but “I totally believe in guardian angels.”
Interestingly, Colbert’s comment was used to frame their discussion of religion as a way to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, an issue that’s apparently explored in Freeheld.
Page, who came out publicly as gay just over a year ago, responded that she believes religious liberty laws to be very important, but adds that, unfortunately, “religious liberty has been used to justify discrimination based on gender, based on race, and now it’s the LGBT community.”
You can watch the entire interview below, and get all the great stuff she says about the movie as well:
Colbert’s acknowledgement that some of the things he believes as a religious person are “crazy” is an interesting way to call for reconciliation between the Christian and the LGBTQ communities (not that there isn’t any overlap in those two groups).
This is especially true given Page’s recent confrontation with presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. Cruz has positioned himself (in his eyes, anyway) as the representative of Christian America, and in a segment filmed for her new Vice reality show, Gaycation with Ellen Page, Page confronted the Texas senator about his views toward Gay marriage and religious liberty while he was awkwardly making pork chops in Iowa.
Page explained many of her same fears and frustrations with religious liberty laws to Cruz, asking him how he felt that women, blacks and other minorities had been discriminated against under similar justifications. Cruz basically dismissed Page’s question and turned the conversation into a discussion of how Christians are now being persecuted.
So if Cruz has positioned himself as the head of the Christian right, Colbert acts as a pretty great representative of the Christian left in his interview, apologizing for the harm that sometimes comes packaged in the name of the Lord. I appreciated that.
But I also appreciated Colbert’s willingness to recognize the peculiarity of faith. One of the major misconceptions that I encounter with non-believers is that those who find meaning or strength in miraculous stories don’t realize how absurd it all sounds. A lack of religious self-awareness is certainly the case with some believers. I’m not going to deny that. But for many of us, much of the power comes from the absurdity, but it also forces us into a position of humility.
When we recognize that it’s actually perfectly reasonable for people to reject the things we believe, we’re forced into accepting pluralism. I like pluralism. Even Joseph Smith has that quote about how if it hadn’t happened to him, he wouldn’t believe any of it. Recognizing the absurdity of our own convictions, no matter how strongly they might be felt, can help us bridge some pretty important gaps.