This past Easter Sunday, Stephen Colbert’s animated television show, “Our Cartoon President,” not only lampooned the President (which is expected), but Colbert also had the nation’s chief executive talk crassly about severing a part of God’s anatomy.
Of course, his defenders will says it’s just a joke – satire on steroids. After all, how can we take a cartoon seriously?
Mr. Colbert is an entertainer, and as such, he understands how to get a strong response from a crowd. He may even subscribe to the theory that all publicity is good publicity.
But mocking Christians and Christianity on Easter Sunday?
As an aside, why is it that you won’t hear “comedians” mocking Muhammad of Islam and trading in anti-Semitic barbs?
Mr. Colbert, Easter is why billions of people believe in Jesus. It is the high point on the Christian calendar, a holy of holy days.
Has politics grown so toxic that frustrations are now boiling over into the sacred?
Sadly, that seems to be increasingly the case.
To be sure, Jesus was no stranger to being mocked and maligned. In fact, we know that when He was ridiculed, “He did not revile back; when He suffered, He did not threaten” (1 Peter 2:23).
So, in response to this type of event, we don’t threaten and we don’t revile back either. But we can nevertheless react and learn something from it.
Christians are offended by blasphemy, because we take the attack personally, like a husband responding to someone who insults his wife or children. If Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior, we hold Him in the highest esteem. Speaking profanely about sacred things also desensitizes those who may not know what they believe in. It coarsens our culture, for both the believer and non-believer alike. Plain and simple, it is never good for anyone or any culture to insult God.
Mr. Colbert and others in his class should know better.
The successor to late-night legend David Letterman, Stephen Colbert is a bestselling author, has won Emmys, Grammys and Peabody awards – and has been named as one of the most influential people by Time Magazine. Admittedly, the late-night comedian has achieved cultural notoriety over the years for his cutting, cynical and crass humor.
But like Winston Churchill once famously said of Russia in the early days of World War II, CBS’ Stephen Colbert is something of a “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
All the while establishing his television reputation, the happily married father of three seems to live a fairly conventional and traditional life off stage.
Mr. Colbert has often made references to a personal faith. He even used to teach Sunday School. Married in 1993, Stephen and his wife, Evelyn, didn’t allow their young children to watch his show. “Kids can’t understand irony or sarcasm, and I don’t want them to perceive me as insincere,” he once said.
His upbringing was a tale of two childhoods, really.
The youngest of 11 children, the Washington, D.C., native lived in a happy and busy home for the first decade of his life. But he had his life torn in two when he was just ten years-old. That’s when his father and two of his brothers were killed in a commercial jetliner crash in North Carolina. He struggled with depression and anxiety in college, losing over 50 pounds. He took him some time to find his footing.
It’s not unusual for comedians to come from dark places. Many of them use humor to soothe their sorrows. Personally, I can relate. Having lost both my parents by the time I was 12, my sense of humor got me through some very difficult patches in my life.
A self-described devout Catholic, Colbert is said to keep a sign on his desk, a gift of a priest friend that reads: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
The quote comes from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who died in 1955.
So how does one reconcile a self-proclaimed strong faith with the crassness and sacrilege on display this past Sunday?
Dr. Tim Keller has pointed out that in the book of Proverbs, the “mocker” shows up 17 times. I find that interesting for several reasons. First, mockery is not a new phenomenon. Second, God recognizes it as a true and timeless challenge. He wants to help us respond to it. In his analysis of “the scoffer,” Dr. Keller makes an interesting observation:
“They [mockers] never act like they take their opponents seriously, but underneath there is great insecurity. In some cases there may be a root of bitterness. They may have been wronged in some significant way, and, rather than letting God be judge (Romans 12:17-21) they have taken matters into their own hands. But in many other cases, the scoffers are simply lacking the combination of humility and inner peace that a firm grasp of the gospel brings.”
So, how should Christians respond to scoffers, scorners and the overall snark of culture?
“He [the Lord] mocks proud mockers,” we read in the third chapter of Proverbs, “but shows favor to the humble and oppressed” (3:34).
In other words, rest easy and carry on. We can trust that the Lord is aware and fully in control.
And as our culture grows increasingly dark and profane, may the light and holiness of Jesus radiating through us serve as a stark and beautiful contrast.