Several nights ago I watched Stephen Colbert again shred the daily edition of Trumpian and Conservative lunacy and I noted that our culture…and even our world…is in a crisis of meaning. Colbert and other comedians find Trump and his ilk easy fodder for their comic genius and provide immense pleasure for we progressives who also see the lunacy of what is going on in our country. But watching last night’s edition of Colbert’s show and delighting in an ironic look at biblical literalism I suddenly had a flash of insight of how this would appear to conservatives. They would be deeply offended and angry as they would take it personal, feeling that their way of looking at the world was being attacked. I would tell them, however, that Colbert is merely showing them that their way of viewing…and experiencing…the world is only one way of many. But that is precisely the problem; for, in their view, there is only one way of viewing the world and they just happen to be privy to that way and often God has revealed it to them! When worldviews are challenged the threat of meaningless always presents a challenge, usually kept on an unconscious level with conscious focus maintained on some superficial concern like “building a wall” or “Making America Great Again.”
I don’t have the answer for this. But, as an old saying from my youth has it, “It will all come out in the wash.” In terms of history, this is but another in an endless array of “tempests in a teapot” though to us in the throes of the tempest it does look frightening. And I do mean frightening. I am troubled. I think humility is in order and that requires that all of us realize that our viewpoint is only finite, regardless of how noble, enlightened, and “correct” it appears to be. There is a certain foolishness to even our certainties, inspiring Saint William to tell us, “Life is a tale told by an idiot…” I do not think the Bard was a nihilist but he grasped that the things we are most certain of are often proven self-serving in the long run.
Colbert used a parody of Jesus in the aforementioned episode to poke fun at conservatives and it even stirred a dissonant chord in my own heart given my hyper-conservative past in which a sense of humor was not readily welcome in faith. But I now think that Jesus could watch Colbert’s parody of Him last night and laugh uproariously, not taking himself as seriously as Christians are wont to take him. Many conservative Christians cannot do this, and are offended at this vein of humor, because they take themselves too seriously and are not able to acknowledge the foolish dimension of the whole of their life, including their faith and politics. Foolishness is an intrinsically human quality though it does not lessen the ultimate nobility of the human endeavor. But failure to acknowledge our foolishness, and laugh at ourselves, will leave us with a false sense of self-importance. I think religion is so easily lampooned as life is intrinsically a spiritual enterprise so the Darkness that besets us knows that the best way to weaken faith is to infect the most ardent of the faithful with a false sense of self-importance and piety so that to on-lookers they look ridiculous and are easily ridiculed. Thus, “with devotions visage and pious action they sugar o’er the devil himself” and this is apparent to all except those who are dispensing the sugar on a whole-sale basis.