October 16, 2010

COMEDY REVEALS THE SELF:

Stephen Colbert may play religion for laughs, but his thoughtful Catholicism still shows through> (Kimberly Winston, October 15, 2010, Washington Post)

"And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, and these seem like the least of our brothers right now," Colbert said, quoting Jesus. "Migrant workers suffer and have no rights."

It was a different kind of religious message than Colbert typically delivers on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," where he often pokes fun at religion - even his own Catholic Church - in pursuit of a laugh. Yet it was the kind of serious faith that some of his fellow Catholics say makes him a serious, covert and potent evangelist for their faith.

"Anytime you talk about Jesus or Christianity respectfully the way he does, it is evangelization," said the Rev. Jim Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America, who has appeared on Colbert's show four times. "He is preaching the gospel, but I think he is doing it in a very postmodern way."

It's a contrast to Glenn Beck, the kind of right-wing media icon Colbert loves to skewer. While Beck's recent Restoring Honor rally in Washington was headed by a conservative broadcaster who embraces theological patriotism, Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive on Oct. 30 will be helmed by a man of more private faith who leaves his God-and-country religion on the set.

Colbert has said that he attends church, observes Lent and teaches Sunday school. "I love my church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout," he told Time Out magazine. "I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic."

His on-air persona, meanwhile, is a bloviating holier-than-thou conservative whose orthodox Catholicism is part of what makes him funny. On air, Colbert has chided the pope as an "ecu-menace" for his outreach to other faiths, referred to non-Catholics as "heathens and the excommunicated" and calls those who believe in evolution "monkey men."

Diane Houdek has tracked Colbert's on-air references to Catholicism on her blog, Catholic Colbert. When he recites the Nicene Creed or Bible verses from memory, as he did in 2006, it shows how foundational his faith is, she said.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2010 1:24 PM
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