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Jesus at Trump Tower

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jesus at trump tower
Part 2 of our talk with Karl Giberson and a dramatic reading of Jesus at Trump Tower

Snarky Faith 2/21/17


Join us for part two in our conversation with professor and author Karl Giberson. Karl is the Science and Religion professor at Stonehill college and author of many books such as Saving Darwin and Worlds Apart: The Unholy War between Religion and Science. Karl also penned a satirical series for the Huffington Post called, Jesus at Trump Tower. We discuss his motivations in writing and also have a dramatic reading of Jesus at Trump Tower. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week.

Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Title: Jesus at Trump Tower
Episode: # 141
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony

Download the Jesus at Trump Tower Transcript Here

Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. We have a show that is pretty packed, chock-full, stuffed to the brim, and other synonyms I could probably use to describe how much stuff that we actually have going on in this show. We have part two of Karl Giberson’s interview. Part one was amazing. Part two, we’re going to get to this. We’re going to get to his whole new series that he’s publishing called Jesus at Trump Tower. After Karl’s interview, we actually have the dramatic radio play version of his first article “Jesus at Trump Tower.” Before that, you know what we’ve got. We’ve got “What’s good // What’s bad” and something else that I just want to float out there to you. For the last little bit on the show, we’ve got a surprise. What is that surprise? Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I went ahead and told you now. You’re going to have to stay tuned and listen to that. Yes. If we’re going to go down the checklist: “What’s good // What’s bad”, Karl Giberson interview, part two, “Jesus at Trump Tower” dramatic reading, and super surprise (that I won’t tell you about just yet). Without further ado, let’s hop into this week’s “What’s good // What’s bad”. Here we go.

Just a reminder that you can catch everything, every video, every link that I’m mentioning in “What’s good // What’s bad” over on our website, which you can find it at www.snarkyfaith.com. It’s just that easy. It’s just that simple. All you got to do is click and all these things will just pop up for you because they’re waiting for you. They’re there for you.

Here’s the first thing in “What’s good // What’s bad”. Oh my gosh, do I love Ken Ham. Ken Ham, the ardent supporter of creationism, the creator of the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. He has outdone himself. He has absolutely outdone himself because they’re premiering online a new diorama that depicts the wicked population in the pre-flood world. Now, you may say, “What’s the big deal?” We tend to love trolling Ken Ham on here because of just the ridiculousness of the Ark Encounter and pretty much, just everything, everything about it. Yes, in his search for trying to prove the fact that everything in Genesis is absolutely, literally true, they are now going to have a new part of their exhibit with a diorama that shows dinosaurs fighting gladiators against humans and giants. Now, if this was a total joke piece, I would be like, “Man, well done Ken,” but we all know they’re not going for jokes here. They’re trying to continue to prove their ridiculous ideas and theories, so what we literally have in this diorama, which you can see on our website, they have giants who are gladiator-style fighting tiny, little humans, and at the same time, they’re unleashing dinosaurs into the gladiator pit. That’s right. I even, almost, just feel dumber by expressing this, but it’s too funny to not miss. Thanks, Ken Ham. Thanks for continuing to pop up into our “What’s good // What’s bad” of the week. You have truly outdone yourself.

Next, you may have missed this in your news cycle, but it is beautiful. It is absolutely beautiful. They have a Japanese pool player giving one of the best interviews, one of most bizarre, hilarious interviews that I’ve ever seen to the BBC. You have this BBC reporter, which is Tony Wainwright, and he’s interviewing Nayoyuki Oi who is the defending Chinese Taipei player 00:05:36 in pool. Oi’s answer to everything is just hilarious. I don’t even know what you’d call this. We’ve got words around here like Spanglish when you somehow interweave Spanish and English. This is—I don’t even know. It could quite easily be one of those things that you would say this is just English folks making fun of this guy, and his accent, and his lack of being able to fully grasp and hold onto the English language. Oh, no. Oi sells it. He sells it up and down. The reporter doesn’t even know what to say. It is hilarious. It is something to absolutely behold, and it’s beautiful. I’ve never really cared to watch the sport of pool. It’s fun to play, but this dude makes me want to start tuning in week after week if he’s playing, and really, just tuning in to figure out what happens afterwards when somebody sticks a microphone in his face. It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. Hats off to you, my friend.

Alright, so you didn’t assume that we would have a week without mentioning our dear Trumpy. Before we get to him, we’ll start easy. We’ll start easy with his beloved Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Now, Sean Spicer has become known for, not only his incessant, ridiculous OCD love of chewing gum. What he also has a huge problem with is pronouncing names. I’ll tell you first, I would be the first one—not the first one, the last one to be calling out somebody who can’t pronounce names. I butcher them constantly on this show. It just somehow doesn’t work in my brain, but at the same time, I also know enough that I don’t have the skill set to be a press secretary, so therefore, I would not go for the job of press secretary. They’ve actually set up online a word generator on the Sydney Morning Herald, and it’s really funny. You simply type in your name, and it spits out what Sean Spicer would call you. For mine, Stuart Delony, it’s Stubbins Delt. That seems about right. Right? I don’t know. Yes, you should try it. It’s on the website. Moving on to our dear president.

Stephen Colbert ran this small, little video snippet on his show last week. It’s just too good not to play here. Just too good. So good. It’s called “Self-reflections with President Trump.” It’s Trump talking about the president and how he feels about our current president. Have a listen. Oh, Donald. If you could only listen to your own words, the world would be a better place.

Speaking of disgusting things like our president, something that you may want to know is that if you are someone who enjoys eating canned greens—which I’m not sure if there’s any of you out there that actually enjoys eating canned greens. I don’t think I’ve eaten canned greens since college. If you do eat canned greens, there’s an article over on the Huffington Post that goes through the FDA defect levels handbook. What they have, they lay out, simply, how bad it has to be to where canned greens can’t be edible, which is a reassuring fact. Thanks, FDA. They go on to say this, “To be sold in the stores, canned green beans are actually allowed to contain up to 10 percent of mildew on their leaves.” Yummy. Doesn’t that sound good? [Sarcasm] If we take that same handbook and then apply it to spinach, which is a little different because it’s in the mustard green family, mildew’s not the worry here, but insect larva. In their handbook it says this, “You are allowed to have two or more, three millimeters or longer, larvae and/or larvae fragments or spinach worms (which are, basically, caterpillars) whose aggregated length exceeds 12 millimeters that are present in 12 pounds of spinach.” Isn’t that enlightening? Isn’t that wonderful? [Sarcasm] Yeah. It’s pretty gross.

Lastly, in our “What’s good // What’s bad” segment, I’ll give you something that’s actually uplifting, and interesting, and does not involve anyone talking about larvae or any such thing. This comes from Kimberly Stover who blogs at kimberlystover.com. She wrote this absolutely, on point, just hitting the heart of the matter blog post called “If being a Christian means X, Y, Z, then I’m not a Christian.” The article starts off using this quote that I’ve been seeing floating around social media. It’s a quote from Billy Graham where he warned, “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Just even unpacking that statement coming from Billy Graham is amazing considering the fact that he fathered Franklin Graham who continues in his father’s footsteps. [Sarcasm] Maybe. No, not really at all. Franklin Graham’s a douche. What Kimberly does, is that she moves forward to this article, really it’s an article of resistance. She wrote this poem that I’ll read you hear today. She says:

“If being a Christian means that I have to deny healthcare to another human being, then I’m not a Christian. If Christian means I have to deny equality to the LGBT community, then I’m not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees, then I am not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to accept building a wall separating me from another human being so I can be privileged and they can suffer, then I am not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to deny scientific evidence of climate change, therefore, contributing to the destruction of the Earth, our home, then I am not a Christian.”

You can find the entire article over on her website, kimberlystover.com. The poem that she wrote was beautiful, and that was just a tiny snippet of it. I thought it was a good staging point for us to hop off of, and then go into our talk with Karl Giberson. If you caught last week’s episode, which was part one of the Karl Giberson interview. Now, Karl is a Professor of Science and Religion at Stonehill College. He has written many pieces for the Huffington Post, and on top of that, he is a proponent of evolution, but also holds in his other hand, the fact that he’s a Christian and how those two things can get along. We talked about what it means to be a thinking Christian because oftentimes, it feels like those things don’t exist in the real world. Sounds like an oxymoron sometimes, and it absolutely shouldn’t. We have part two of Karl’s interview here today talking about science, critical thought, and then eventually, we’ll use that interview to dovetail into our dramatic reading of his first article in his series of posts that he has at the Huffington Post called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” Here is the second part of our interview with Karl. Enjoy.

[Begin Audio Clip]

Stuart: Well, we had mentioned earlier just in this whole conversation that we’re having here about that whole divide between science and religion. Why do you think, in that same realm, why religion and politics have been easy bedfellows and you see science and religion being very against one another? Why do you think that somehow politics and faith have been integrated way more than they probably should be?

Karl: Well, Randall Balmer, a friend of mine that teaches at Dartmouth College. He’s done a very interesting analysis of the relationship between the evangelical church and abortion. Most evangelicals think that being anti-abortion is the traditional Christian position that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. This is Randall Balmer’s work, not mine. If you look at the response of the evangelicals, even people like Jerry Falwell, and so on, in the immediate aftermath of Roe v Wade, there wasn’t this consistent message that we need to oppose abortion at all costs. Balmer traces this. He shows that what we think of as the religious right was originally organized around opposition to civil rights. I mean, it was a southern, racist movement. Jerry Falwell, Sr. spent the latter part of his career trying to buy up all the books that he’d written when he was younger that were opposed to the integration of the schools. Many of the Christian schools that got started in the south were started to avoid white evangelicals needing to have black classmates. There was a lot of political power in the civil rights movement. This power created the opposition of the religious right. Then, they lost. Right. The civil rights movement won, basically, all of the battles, at least legally. This is Balmer’s insight here. The movement had political power but nowhere to use it. They said, “Well, we’ve lost the battle for civil rights. We need something to animate our followers, so we can keep this unity, this big powerful voice that we have, alive.” They picked up abortion. They made a political decision to try and convince evangelicals all over America that abortion was the great question of our time, and that Christians needed to rally against that. This, then, was exploited by the Republican Party. The Republican Party, basically, suckered this large, evangelical demographic into thinking that because we are anti-abortion, we are your party. Gradually, over the last two decades, the GOP platform, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible all became blended together in this big mishmash of stuff. That’s what evangelicalism is today.

Stuart: If you took that from an evolutionary standpoint, probably, DNA-wise, all those things shouldn’t be combined and create anything. Right? Is that how it—


Karl: That’s how you get a monster. Right? You throw together random genes from disparate species and you put them together and you say, “Let’s see what comes out.” What comes out of that is now sitting in the White House as the president of the United States.


Stuart: Yes. Speaking about that, speaking about our beloved McDonald president that is in the White House, you wrote this piece, which is what initially led me to finding you, called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” I think it is a beautiful satire that also just has undercurrents of truth that, hopefully, folks should be able to read and be able to just begin to question more about what’s been going on especially with a candidate that was endorsed by so many evangelicals out there. In talking about this piece, what led you to write this article?

Karl: Well, the concern that developed for me as I watched the political scene over the last year was an astonishment at how enthusiastic many of my own lifelong friends who were conservative evangelicals, how much enthusiasm they had for Donald Trump. I just found that mystifying. Then, as he won the nomination, they became even more enthusiastic, and they seemed to, somehow, feel like these little, small things that Hillary Clinton had done like use a private server like that that was a gigantic, moral failure, but Donald Trump’s history with woman was just something to be overlooked as locker room expectations, and so on. I began to become really discouraged about the moral insight of this community that I had once been a part of and that had done a lot to shape my understanding of the world. Out of my dismay at this and I had many Facebook dialogues about how the Republican Party and Donald Trump, in particular, were about as far away from the teachings of Jesus as one could possibly imagine. If you just theoretically tried to invent an anti-Jesus party, you’d get the GOP led by Donald Trump, and Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell, and so on.

My specific impetus to write this piece came when I became convinced that Trump, as president, was actually worse, not better than Trump as candidate. I tend to be an optimist. I held out hope that some of the worst characteristics of him as a public figure might retreat, and he might become more of a statesman when he moved in as president, and perhaps we could get behind him. Maybe, in some mysterious way, he would be a much better president than he was candidate. It quickly became clear that he was a worse president than he was candidate. The more power that he has, the worse he gets. I thought, you know, the right thing to do in a situation like this—and by right, I mean, if one takes morality seriously, and if you have a public voice, you should use it—then, we need to oppose Trump. We need to make reasonable efforts to make sure that Trump’s failings as a leader and as a human being are spotlighted with enough regularity that people will slowly become fed up with him. I thought, well, if I satirize Trump talking to Jesus to try to make it clear to any thoughtful evangelical who might read that that really Jesus and Trump have no overlap whatsoever. I can’t, as a Christian, continue to support Trump. This, actually, would be a contribution that I could feel good about. Plus, it’s fun to do that. The piece is more than Alec Baldwin just making fun and you just laugh, and the end of his little diatribe, there’s no real point that you’ve taken home. I wanted it to be a, if you will, highbrow, more theologically informed take down of Trump.

Stuart: I thought you did that very well. For those of you that were looking for this, you can look up “Jesus at Trump Tower,” and it’s featured at the Huffington Post right now. Before we finish this interview, I like to, usually, end these interviews with a ridiculous question. Karl, I wanted you to be able to take this as I was looking into your background. I did find out that you’re a little bit of a Treky. Is that correct?

Karl: Yeah.

Stuart: Yeah. The Next Generation.

Karl: Yeah. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s the glories of binge viewing. I watched them in consecutive order from one to the end. I thought this was marvelous.

Stuart: It’s easy to see how The Next Generation could inform some of your desires and your love of science. How would you say The Next Generation informed issues of faith for you?

Karl: I probably don’t have a constructive answer, but I do have—there was a sense in which there was faith connection that Star Trek with its interesting vision of traveling from one intergalactic civilization to the next and meeting all kinds of different people, it does, I think, remind you that if the universe is, indeed, like that, we need to wrestle with the parochialisms of our Earthly religions. There’s been a fair amount of discussions. Some people have even written entire books on what is the relationship between Christianity and life on other planets, and so on. I remember back in college when Larry Norman who was the first big Christian rock star, who was controversial because he was making regular rock music acceptable. He talked about life on other planets. He had this great line from a song where he said, and he’s talking about Jesus, he said, “If there’s life on other planets, then I’m sure that he must know, and he’s been there once already and has died to save their souls.” The notion that Jesus has hopped from planet to planet to planet and died in some way to save them all from sin just seems so implausible to me that it really forces, I think, a certain humility on somebody taking the Earthly situation seriously. We may not be able to simply generalize our religion in some universal sense. That’s the kind of thing that has drawn me more and more to think that, really, Christianity ought to be about trying to dig really deeply into the things that Jesus taught, and to figure out how one would translate those into a modern world where we have a tax system, and an internet, and a global economy, and so on. We should be thinking more about who is our neighbor like I tried to do in my piece.

Stuart: Well, Karl. Thank you so much for your time. If anyone is wanting to find out more information about Karl Giberson, you can find his books on Amazon, Saving Darwin, Saving the Original Sinner, Language of Science and Faith amongst many others. You can also find his blogging at the Huffington Post. Karl, Thank you so much for your time, and I just really appreciate you joining for the show, and tolerating me long enough to make through this hour together. Thank you so much.

Karl: Sure. It was fun talking with you.

[End Audio Clip]

Stuart: Well, that is it for our talk with Karl Giberson. I just want to, again, say, muchas gracias, Karl. Thank you so much. Karl was a wonderfully, gracious person to be on the show. We chatted a bunch before the interview. We chatted a bunch after the interview. He’s just an all-around, solid dude who’s, also, pretty smart to boot. Moving on. This is the thing that we’ve been building up for the last two weeks. It’s finally here. Yes, we have the dramatic reading of Karl’s first work in a series that he did call “Jesus in Trump Tower.” Here is “Jesus in Trump Tower.” Enjoy.

[Begin Audio Clip of “Jesus in Trump Tower”]

Narrator: One day, Jesus visited Donald Trump at Trump Tower. He had been invited because Donald wanted to ask him a question, and Jesus was curious. Trump usually answers questions since he has such a high IQ and even has an uncle who was so smart that he taught engineering at MIT for fifty years.

Trump: You know, Jesus, I’m smart. Really smart. Probably the smartest person who was ever president. It’s in my genes. I have great genes. But I want to tell you something, something big. I don’t know everything. Okay. I know you might not believe that, but it’s true.

Jesus: I believe you. In fact, I’ve known that for some time.

Trump: And you are smart too, I hear. Maybe as smart as me. Who can say? But you’re the Son of God and all. So, I want to ask you a question.

Jesus: What would you like to know?

Trump: I’m interested in eternal life, in heaven. Okay. Now, I’m not worried that I won’t go to heaven, of course. In fact, if you come to Trump Tower you will see I practically live there now! And my latest wife is an angel, if you know what I mean. And we know angels don’t grow old, just like my wife doesn’t grow old because I keep replacing her with a younger one. Okay.

Narrator: Jesus stared at Trump, struggling to maintain his divine composure.

Trump: So, my question is this, Jesus: Let’s just suppose I wasn’t 100% certain about going to heaven. What must I do to be totally sure that I will, you know, inherit eternal life, as they say?

Jesus: Have you read the Bible?

Trump: Oh, totally. Look, nobody has ever read it quite like me. I am the ultimate Bible reader.

Jesus: Okay. What does it say about how you should live?

Trump: You mean in Two Corinthians?

Jesus: No, in the Law. In the Old Testament.

Trump: Oh. I see. My Bible is brand new. Latest edition. I don’t read old stuff, only new Bible stuff like Two Corinthians.

Narrator: Jesus responded patiently.

Jesus: In the part of the Bible called ‘the Law’ it says you should ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’

Narrator: Trump combed his hair and formed his mouth into a perfect circle as though he was going to say something, but Jesus interrupted.

Jesus: Do you do that?

Trump: Big League, okay. Nobody loves the Lord more than Donald Trump. Believe me!

Jesus: Well, good.

Trump: So, I am all set! I have this eternal life thing in the bag. Bigly! I knew it.

Jesus: Not so fast. There’s one more thing you have to do. You must love your neighbor as yourself.

Trump: Love my neighbor as myself? As myself? Come on, Jesus. You are pulling my leg, right? I mean, I have some great neighbors but they’re not as great as me. Okay. They don’t have as much money. Their wives aren’t supermodels. They’ve never had a reality TV show, and nothing in their apartments is plated with actual gold. Okay. Some are losers. How can I possibly love them like I love myself?

Narrator: Jesus began to respond, but Trump interrupted.

Trump: You know I just thought of something. I bet my neighbors actually love me more than they love themselves! Okay. Why wouldn’t they? So, I make it easy for my neighbors to follow this rule about loving your neighbor as yourself.

Narrator: Once again Jesus tried to respond, but Trump interrupted.

Trump: I do have some great neighbors, though. Great neighbors. Every one of them is a millionaire. Every one. And some are billionaires, but not so rich as me.

Jesus: Donald, these are not your neighbors.

Trump: Yes, they are. They live in the same building. They are my neighbors.

Jesus: No, that’s not what the Bible means when it speaks of our neighbors.

Trump: Well, then who is my neighbor, according to the Bible? Not those foreigners who work at Gucci’s on the first floor, I hope.

Jesus: Let me explain this by way of a story.

Narrator: Trump looked at his watch.

Trump: Okay, but I hope it’s not a long story. I feel a tweet coming on.

Narrator: Jesus got up, and walked to the window, and began to speak.

Jesus: A man was traveling from San Diego to Los Angeles when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes. They beat him and went away, leaving him half naked and bleeding to death on the edge of a deserted beach. The pastor of San Diego’s largest megachurch happened to be walking along the same beach, and when he saw the man, he made a wide berth and passed by at some distance. In similar fashion, the mayor of a local town, when he came to the place and saw the unconscious man, passed at some distance. But an undocumented migrant worker, as he walked along the beach, heading to the farm where he picked watermelons for $36.00 a day, he came across the injured man and took pity on him. He went to him and saw that he was bleeding from knife wounds. So, he poured clean water from the bottle in his lunchbox into the man’s wounds to clean them. Then, he took off his shirt and ripped it into strips to make bandages to stop the bleeding. And he waited with the man, cradling his head in his lap. After a time, the injured man regained consciousness, and the migrant worker helped him stand and supported him as they walked together to a nearby building which housed a small shop that rented beach towels. Although he had very little money, the migrant worker gave the owner of the shop $50 in exchange for letting the injured man rest in his facility, and use some of his towels for bandages. He also borrowed the shopkeeper’s phone and called 911. As he headed off to the watermelon farm, the migrant worker was happy to see an ambulance pulling up in front of the shop.

Narrator: Jesus paused and kicked Trump in the shin.

Jesus: Pay attention, Donald.

Trump: Sorry, Jesus, but this is such a long story.

Jesus: I need to ask you something important about the story I just told you. Which of the three people who encountered the injured man was a neighbor to him?

Trump: I have no idea. I don’t know where any of these people lived. Probably, none of them were neighbors.

Jesus: But you see, Donald, in the Kingdom of God our neighbors are not just the people who live next door or in the same high-rise building. Our neighbors are the people who come into our lives who need our help. And the injured man on the beach needed help.

Trump: Was he vetted?

Jesus: Vetted?

Trump: Yes. Vetted. Was he a terrorist? A rapist? A murderer? Was he an American citizen? The pastor and the politician were right to give him a wide birth until he was vetted. You don’t put yourself at risk helping people who are not vetted.

Jesus: How long does vetting take?

Trump: Doesn’t matter. You take whatever time you need.

Jesus: But the man was bleeding to death.

Trump: Doesn’t matter. You vet people before you help them. Okay. And if they die, too bad. They should’ve been more careful. Look, this migrant worker was probably not even an American citizen. Okay. And he took this unvetted guy, who could have been a terrorist or a murderer, and left him with a shopkeeper. Not very neighborly if you ask me. I certainly wouldn’t have brought that injured guy to Trump Tower, believe me.

Jesus: In the kingdom of God, we help those in need, even when it is uncertain, or even dangerous. That is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. If you were bleeding to death on the beach, you would want help. Would you want a neighbor to help you, even if they did not know who you were? You asked about eternal life, Donald. You must love those in need, all of them, in every part of the planet, in every religion as you love yourself. Then, you will inherit eternal life.

Narrator: Jesus noticed that Trump was typing something into his phone.

Trump: @realDonaldTrump. Jesus has crazy ideas about neighbors. Over-rated as a thinker, even if he is the Son of God. Sad.

[End Audio Clip]

Stuart: Well, this is the moment that we’ve been waiting for the whole show. I teased it, and you’re wanting to know who our special guest is. It’s none other than illustrious, Dr. Ben. [Begin sound clip of audience clapping and cheering] Dr. Ben is back after you’re extended paternity leave.

Dr. Ben: Illustrious makes me sound like I have conditioner in my hair.

Stuart: Oh, if they could see the video I see, there’s a lot of conditioner.

Dr. Ben: [Laughter]

Stuart: Maybe some hot oils.

Dr. Ben: I can’t remember the last time I used conditioner.

Stuart: Okay. So much has happened, Ben, since we’ve had you hang on the show. Really, I guess, the way I’m making it sound, I haven’t talked to you either, since then, but I have.

Dr. Ben: I just fell off the map, fell off the grid—

Stuart: You did.

Dr. Ben: – like most people do when they have children.

Stuart: No, you were, essentially, just in a coma, and we were about to pull the plug. Miraculously, you started breathing on your own again.

Dr. Ben: You’re about to Million Dollar Baby me.

Stuart: I know. [Laughter]

Dr. Ben: I’m more like a $10.00 baby.

Stuart: Alright. So much has happened. We have not talked to you since the inauguration. We have not talked to you since baby Deacon dropped onto this Earth and made a crater impact.

Dr. Ben: Historic.

Stuart: It is. He’s been changing your guys’ life. First of all, how is it being a dad right now? Where are you at dad-wise?

Dr. Ben: I’m feeling a little more like a dad, I guess. It’s interesting how people, I think, have this mythos around children. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but it’s very difficult. Actually, a lot of the things that people joke about or hinted at like not being able to sleep. I need some wood to knock on. That’s been good. He sleeps like a champ. I mean, he’s actually a pretty, easy kiddo. For both of us, there’s just a long learning process of recognizing that we’re parents. It’s not like you have a kid, and then all of a sudden, magic happens and you feel like a parent. You know.

Stuart: Usually, it’s magic happens, and then you have the kid.

Dr. Ben: [Laughter] Yeah, pretty much, and then the magic’s over. I’m just kidding.

Stuart: My oldest is about to turn 15, and we’re still learning. We’re still figuring this out. We still don’t really have a clue. We’re doing the fake it ‘til you make it, or until they leave for college.

Dr. Ben: Yeah. I think that’s pretty much life, in general, just fake it ‘til you make it.

Stuart: We’re going to have to get little Deacon on the show at some point. We’ll have to get him to, at least, cry into a microphone.

Dr. Ben: He might show up on this show.

Stuart: Uh-oh.

Dr. Ben: Depending on [laughter] whether he goes down to nap or not.

Stuart: Okay. The weather’s pretty warm today. Are we going to have naked babies? This isn’t that kind of program.

Dr. Ben: No, we were out playing with compost earlier, so I think he’s pretty wiped out right now.

Stuart: Compost and wiped out. There’s so many—

Dr. Ben: Compost pickin’.

Stuart: On all of that, do have any good dad jokes now that you’re a dad?

Dr. Ben: Myself.

Stuart: [Laughter]

Dr. Ben: Bad. That’s a pretty good joke.

Stuart: Well, considering you haven’t been on the show since we went from orange messiah as a candidate to, now, orange messiah as a wrecking ball in the White House. What have been some of your unique observations you had since all this craziness has happened, orange in the White House?

Dr. Ben: I’ve been thinking this morning that we joked months and, gosh, maybe even a year ago, about feeling endangered like, “Oh, Trump’s listening to this. He’s going to have a hit out for us.” Now, it’s becoming more of that could actually happen at some point. Right? He’s removing people from jobs. People are dropping off the map in some places that have criticized him like companies are closing. He goes after people with a vengeance when they come at him.

Stuart: Very Putinesk. 00:42:24

Dr. Ben: Yeah. His buddy, Putin. Yeah, he’s learned a lot from him. I guess, in terms of insight, we’ve talked about this before. I think I get a little frustrated because I feel that people are so distractible. Maybe, I’m too idealistic, or I simplify things too much, but I feel like there are general problems on the table in our country. I’m not saying that there aren’t still problems right now that we’re trying to deal with and raising awareness for in the country, but on the one hand, we go from one problem to the next so quickly. I feel like Trump puts all these problems out there, and our messages get watered down, and confused, and muddled. It’s very attention deficit right now in politics. Also, I feel like for me, at least, I’m just tired of hearing about it. I’m exhausted from Trump. He just is everywhere. Also, from anti-Trump. I’m not saying I agree, really, with anything that he says or does, but I’m just tired of him. He’s exhausting. All of this is just exhausting.

Stuart: Yeah. That’s one of my biggest worries is that we’re going to, eventually, just hit a point where this crazy that we’re living in becomes normal. Then, we become numb to that.

Dr. Ben: Yeah. It’s true.

Stuart: You can only be shocked so many times before it just tends to—you start to shrug it off. I feel like we’re living in the middle of a Saw film. After a while, you just become numb to the violence. You become numb to what awful things are happening.

Dr. Ben: Yeah. This could be, potentially, a dividing analogy. It could be way off the mark, but after having watched basketball for 20-something years now, have picked up that over at Duke has this strategy with his team that they tend to foul a lot throughout the game because, I mean, the referees can only call so many of them. If you fell ten times in a minute, they’re going to get exhausted. Well, for one, they probably don’t see all ten of them. Also, they’re not going to call that many fouls. You’re going to get away with a lot more. Over time, you’re used to seeing that. It’s cognitively difficult for them to pick out. Of course, they’re still calling fouls, but it’s just this trick of tricking their brains into not seeing that you’re fouling the entire game. I feel like it’s similar to Trump. There’s just so much stupidity and spin. I think that’s what really is coming up in satire and comedy now. He just spins stuff so quickly; fake news and I didn’t say that. People laugh, but it’s scary. It’s very much 1984 that there’s a lot of truth and untruth going on at the same time, and people just get confused or tired. I don’t know which one. You think people of the older generation who don’t have access or don’t care to watch news shows or satire, are not really going to pick up on that there’s so much false information. They’re just going to believe, take everything’s he’s saying at face value. I don’t know. I guess from a philosophy background, I tend to not really bite at the sexy stuff. I really want to dig into what’s actually on the table, what’s actually going on, maybe like pull the curtain a little bit. I think it’s so easy, right now, to just bite into that whatever Trump is saying at the moment, and let’s fight that. We were getting so close with things like Occupy Wall Street and really raising awareness of like the haves and have nots. I feel like we were getting really close, especially, with Bernie Sanders being a mouthpiece for a lot of inequality. I feel like that is at the heart of a lot of our problems. That feels like 40 years ago, now. That feels so distant from where we’re at. It really frustrates me.

Stuart: Well, tell me this. As we start wrapping up this show, what is one thing that gives you hope right now?

Dr. Ben: I am excited to see—I want to be careful in how I put this because I am a Christian. I’m nonviolent. I don’t advocate for violence, but I am seeing seeds of revolution or at least, revolutionary thought, or excitement in voices that feel that they can act against fascism and against bullying. I don’t know. It was almost like there was so much marginal stuff, like celebration of margins, going on that we lost the need to act. We were just reveling in the idea of identity and things like that. Now, I think people are becoming more active and saying, “Oh my gosh. In four years, where are we going to be? We need to do something.” That’s exciting.

Stuart: That is definitely a good word. As we start moving to the end as we have actually arrived at the end of the broadcast this week, just a reminder that you can this show and past shows on www.snarkyfaith.com. If you go to our website and sign up for our newsletter where we just send you one email a week with all the content that we are putting out over on the website, if you join us, if you join our little snarky tribe on there with the newsletter, what we’re going to start doing is what we were testing out here today for this part of the show is that we’re going to start opening up to that private group of subscribers where we’ll start doing a show once a month that we will open it up. We’ll have a part where Ben and I talk like we like to talk back and forth. Then, we’ll open it up for Q & A, and let you guys be able to share questions, and ideas, and pushbacks, and critiques, and all that good stuff. If you want to hop on board with that, go to www.snarkyfaith.com and you can catch all of that. Also, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter. We love to have you a part of this little tribe that we’ve got going here. That’s all I’ve got this week. We will catch you again next week.

Transcribed by Miriam Delony




What’s Good // What’s Bad 2.21.17

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This weekly feature gives you the best of what’s good and what’s bad out there in the snarkiverse. This content is explored more in-depth on our weekly radio show, Snarky Faith, so you should check that out too. Without further adieu… here’s your rundown this week of the good, bad and ugly of the interwebs. Enjoy!

• Ken Ham, you saucy minx of a creationist. You have truly outdone yourself this time… and I don’t say that lightly. This past week, via Twitter, the Answers in Genesis poster-boy debuted a new exhibit in his Kentucky’s “Ark Encounter” theme park that features humans, giants, and dinosaurs battling to the death in a Roman-style arena. Sure this sounds crazy, but you know what’s worse? The fact that they dropped $101 million to create the Ark Experience to push their new earth agenda. Hey Ken, sometimes the answers are not in Gene$i$, they’re apparently in your wallet. This smells like someone is taking a page out of Jim Bakker’s playbook. Heritage USA anyone? 


• After that ark madness, want something truly great to bring a smile to your face? Sure we all do. This may go down in history as one of the best post-game interviews ever. Check out pool player, Naoyuki Oi’s post-match interview in all its broken-English glory. It’s pure joy. The British interviewer couldn’t even handle himself as he simply responded, “I’ve not ever done an interview quite like this…”

• I’ll be the first to admit that I incidentally, yet routinely butcher people’s names. It’s not my strongest suit, but, I’m also not the White House press secretary. Feel like, having Sean Spicer butcher your name? With the help of the Sydney Morning Herald you too can be spicer-ized. Spicey dubbed me Stubbins Delt. Drop your ‘new’ name in the comments section below.  [SMH]

• If you enjoy the wilted delights of canned veggies, you may want to read this interesting article that dives into the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook. It’s reassuring to know that we have acceptable lives of large and mildew in our food. Yummers! [Huff Po]

• Ever want to see Donald Trump eat his own words? Well, are some wise words from candidate Trump speaking about the failings of President Trump (sort of). Retroactive hypocrisy has never been so much fun. Thanks Stephen Colbert!

• Looking for a great read? You should head on over to Kimberly Stover’s great blog post entitled, “If Being a Christain Means XYZ, then I am NOT a Christian.” That’ll preach.

• Living in Trump’s world can be pretty taxing and stressful for a lot of us. Living in the bizarro world is never easy, but I’ve got a great way for you to relax. Electronic singer-songwriter, Moby, has created some amazing ambient music for this just issue. To put it in his own words, “over the last couple of years I’ve been making really really really quiet music to listen to when I do yoga or sleep or meditate or panic.  I ended up with 4 hours of music and have decided to give it away.”

Who doesn’t like free music?  [Download Long Ambients1 by Moby here]

If you see any snark-worthy news, feel free to send it us: questions@snarkyfaith.com. Have a great week!


Let’s Talk About Silence

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A snarky take on Silence

Snarky Faith 2/7/17


A rundown of Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. This was a tough movie to get through, but a rewarding and powerful one, none the less. Join us as we talk about the importance of doubt in the journey of faith. We also have an interview with Scorsese presented by FULLER studio. It’s an outstanding talk about his faith and how it impacts his films. We’ve also got What’s Good? What’s Bad? chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week. Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

For more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life can be found on Fuller.edu/Studio.

[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]

Title: Silence
Episode: # 139
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony

Download the Lets Talk About Silence Transcript Here

Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. My. We’ve got a show that’s going to be—I think it’s going to be a little different, but I still think it’s going to be something special. How about you just buckle up your seats? Make sure your tray tables are up and ready, so we can just launch into the snarkaverse. First up, let’s go ahead and just hop right into “What’s good // What’s bad” from this last week. Just a reminder that you can catch everything from “What’s good // What’s bad” on our website www.snarkyfaith.com. Just go over there. We’ve got the videos. We’ve got the links. They are sitting there and they’re just waiting for you. They’re like, “We’re lonely. Why haven’t you come and found us? We’re here. We’re waiting.”

One thing I have learned over my many years of being here on the earth is simply this. If you’re going to insult somebody, especially in a snarky manner—because again, you’re listening to Snarky Faith Radio, and I take snark very seriously. If you’re going to insult somebody, do it right. With the Super Bowl, I’ll just give you a snippet of snarky comebacks. I had a friend of mine that had been saying, midway through the Super Bowl, there’s nothing that can stop our Falcons’ rise-up. All this other blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. He had commented, “Who’s the joke now,” at halftime because he’s a Falcons fan. If anybody who’s anybody that was either watching the show or has any amount of news that you get, that you consume regularly on your feed, know that the Falcons really didn’t return from halftime. The Patriots came back. Huge win. When you start trying to insult things and insult people, just make sure you have your facts straight. I had a buddy, so I snarkily threw something back at him, who was casually saying, “Oh. Look who’s the joke now?” It was him that was the joke. He threw back an insult at me that, “Well, you like in North Carolina. When you guys actually get a football team, then you can talk.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Well, the closest thing that you have is the South Carolina Panthers.” [made a wa wa sound] If any of you guys know the NFL, there are no South Carolina Panthers. There’s the Carolina Panthers who have a stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Again, if you’re going to take something on, if you’re going to insult somebody, at least do it right.

I’m using that as a pivot over here to “What’s good // What’s bad” with the Fox News crew in the morning. They were slamming Al Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton, because he tweeted this out last week. He said, “Before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his Son. Jesus was a refugee who fled to Egypt.” What began to happen with that statement was they started to tear it apart. They were saying it was inaccurate, and foolish, and the Reverend needs to go back to Sunday school to be able to get his facts straight, which is funny because one of the things they went on to say was, “It was simply known that Jesus’ parents were just simply going to go and pay their taxes. That’s why they were going to Bethlehem.” You see, the only problem with that is, yes, there was a census. Yes, Mary and Joseph were required to go to Bethlehem for the census, which as we know census, oftentimes, is like secret code. We want to count you, so we can tax you. The problem with that is Sharpton wasn’t even talking about that at all. He was referring to the fact when King Herod decided to start killing the babies to get rid of this child Messiah. Then, Joseph gets a dream. An angel tells them, “Hey. You need to flee. You need to get out of here. You need to go to Egypt.” He wasn’t going to Egypt to pay his taxes. He was going to Egypt to flee from being killed. In essence, Jesus was a refugee. There’s actually several scriptural notes where Jesus actually refers to himself as a refugee. If you’re going to insult somebody, Fox News goons, just make sure you have your facts straight unless you want to look like an idiot. If that’s what you were going for, well done. You get a gold star for being a bunch of morons.

Speaking about religion in the news, if you haven’t checked this out, again, the links are on our website. There is a fascinating interchange that goes on between Stephen Colbert and Ricky Gervais where they begin to have this dialogue/debate. I would say more dialogue than debate because I thought it was very classily done. It was done in a way that I thought was very evenhanded where, again, Ricky Gervais is well known to be an Atheist. Stephen Colbert is a good Catholic boy. They have this dialogue, this back and forth that goes between each other. What I love about it is that it is a spirited conversation, and it is a respectful conversation. For those of us that don’t know how to do this, this is a great example of watching two people that respect one another, have a dialogue about positions where they are very, very diametrically opposed to one another, but they can still do it. They can still smile, and they can still be friends for another day. I thought it was a beautiful interchange. You don’t have to agree with either side of them to at least note that they did dialogue quite well.

Next. I’m not sure if you want to classify this one as good or bad. It all really just depends on where you’re sitting and really, your taste in movies. Guess what, folks? This is big news. The Syfy channel has announced that Sharknado 5 has finally begun filming. Yes, Sharknado 5, known as the unemployment check for Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. The fact that they have no careers, but have found this weird little niche in the pop-culture universe to keep acting in bad movies. It’s really fascinating. The movies are so bad. They are so bad. My kids love watching them. It’s almost phenomenal how bad they are. I hope Ziering and Reid can understand this that they suck so bad that they actually make something better by being together in this. How can you take anything seriously called Sharknado. Well, you could also say that, probably, about the president of our United States right now. It’s as absurd. It’s as horrifying, and it is just as awful as Sharknado except for in Sharknado you can sit back and enjoy the escapism as it rolls over you as you have a tornado full of sharks, whereas, with our new president and the way our government is heading, it’s one of those things you actually can’t sit back. I mean, I wish it was on the Syfy channel because then we could go, “Oh my gosh. The credits will roll at some point. It will be over,” and we can say, “Wow, that was just awful.” Sadly, every day I wake up and I’m still living in Trump’s America. It’s incredibly sad, and we’ll get more to that [Laughter] as we move through this show.

Next. If you’re in the mood to read and not simply watch stupid videos on our website, the Atlantic put out an article last week that is fascinating to be able to go through. I’ll just summarize it up in small little bits right here so I don’t steal anything from this. I would say it is well worth sitting down and reading through this. The title of it is called “It’s Putin’s World. How the Russian President Became the Ideological Hero of Nationalist Everywhere.” It takes you on this journey through the past couple of years and the rise of Putin, and the rise of nationalism, and how all of these things, much like Sharknado, were a perfect storm. You should check out the website. You should check out the link. It is very good, and it is well worth your time.

Next. If you don’t like reading about reality and Vladimir Putin, I’ve got another article for you that, again, I will repeat myself by saying it is well worth your time. This one is escapism. It’s snarky, and it’s satire. Yes, Karl Giberson whom I’m going to work on trying to get on the show. He’s the Professor of Science and Religion at Stonehill College. He wrote for the Huffington Post. He wrote an article called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” I would say it’s a satire. It’s a parable of Jesus having a meeting with Donald Trump. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s mainly just sad because there’s so much truth in the midst of this. I think it’s one of those things for us that would say that we walk this path of faith that we walk after this Jewish Rabbi, that we follow his teachings, that he matters somehow to us in this insane world that we find ourselves in. It is beautiful to be able to watch one of these modern-day parables unfold in the face of the horrors that we’re living. I just lay out like it’s not funny at all. It’s actually really satirical. It’s funny. It’s worth your time. Go out and read it because reading is fundamental.

Next. You know what’s also not satirical even though it sounds like it? Yeah, the fact that Trump has vowed to destroy the law that bans churches from endorsing political candidates. It’s finally come down to that. Yep. Good ol’ MacDonald pledged to repeal a 50-year-old tax law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in political campaigns. This is why we have the separation of church and state. To go and to smash that divide, smash that line, leads us into some scary, scary, dangerous places. Now, I know a bunch of pastors out there who would love that because, simply, they’re using the pulpit as a political platform week after week. The scary part about that is churches, in many ways, should have very little to do with politics. Now, I think politics should inform what our faith calls us to do, especially when we see atrocities, especially when we see bans, especially when we have refugees that are in crisis and folks that are hurting. Yeah. I think our faith can move us to want to do positive change, positive impact in our community, but I do not believe that our churches need to become more and more political. It is a dangerous move that he is playing with amongst all of the other dangerous moves that he is playing with. This is one of those that slides under the cracks that I think we need to know about, that we need to know that that whole separation of church and state is a good thing. We want our government to be about the government. We want our churches to be about our churches, and never the two shall meet. We do not want that to happen.

I’ve been in those situations too often. I’ve actually literally been in churches that passed out voter pamphlet guides. They would preach, and they would bring in candidates that they believed were whatever “God’s chosen people” were. The problem with this that I have is that you’re not educating your congregations, churches out there. You’re not educating them to have a lens of faith in how they look at the world around us. All you’re doing is telling them to think. You’re telling them how to walk through the steps, how to pantomime this, how to lip sync a faith. I know you do it mainly because it’s an easy control structure for people. Don’t teach them to think, but tell them what to do. [Sarcasm] It’s like one of those big parenting mistakes that I’ve seen people make with their kids over and over. They don’t teach their kids to think. They just tell their kids what to do. Guess what? At some point, the authority structure breaks down, and the kids have no idea how to make decisions rationally for themselves.

Churches, you are doing the same thing to your congregants. Teach them to walk out the ways of Jesus. Teach them to walk out the loving, and merciful, and gentle ways of Jesus. Then, let them apply it to their world. Do not steal the act of learning from people because, otherwise, we’re just having congregations of parrots and not prophets. We’re having congregations of people that do not know how to think for themselves when it comes to matters of faith. Then, we have situations where you have people saying, “Oh. He’s God’s chosen one. Whatever he does, he farts mercy and grace because he has God’s favor.” [Sarcasm] Then, we get in this crazy, cranked-up situation that we find ourselves in where the religious right puts an insane fanatic in the presidency, and they say that they are doing this for God. When you begin to look at the actions of what is happening from this administration, they are far from anything that Jesus would ascribe, or endorse, or actually call His followers to do. Frankly, Jesus calls his followers to do quite the opposite of everything that we are seeing done by this Trump administration. The long story short, the fact that there is a divide between church and state is a good one. It’s a check and a balance. It’s something that keeps those two parties, even so thinly, apart and to break that, will cause a ton of religious ugliness even more so than we’re seeing right now in this country. Mark my words. To get rid of that is a huge flaw, a huge mistake. By no means, does it have anything to do with the name of Jesus.

Lastly for “What’s good // What’s bad”, we all sat through the Super Bowl, saw the commercials. For the most part, for probably the last three years running, I could say, for the most part, I was quite disappointed with the content that they were pushing out. I get tired of that forced sentimentality that tends to happen during the Super Bowl, and I’m more of a fan of the outrageous stupidness that we used to have like the over-the-top if you keep going over the top. At least, I felt like I’m being amused or having the opportunity of being amused. When it comes to these commercials, I don’t want to be preached at during the Super Bowl with one exception, and I’ll get to that in a second. My main beef is with Netflix. You threw out a Stranger Things season two commercial in the middle of the Super Bowl. Everyone in our family was excited. We were all jazzed up until the end of the commercial, which is what ruined it when it said we have to wait all the way to Halloween. I’ll get back to the commercials in a second.

Anyone check out Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL. It was everything. It was absolutely everything that I needed to be able to laugh my way through this week. I feel like this is three episodes in a row when “What’s good // What’s bad” is filled with escapism because it’s my only outlet for sanity. It’s my only outlet to make it through the insane news cycle that we find ourselves caught within.

Lastly, circling back to the Super Bowl. Again, we’ll make sure links for this are on the website. They had had a commercial during the Super Bowl. Surprise. Surprise. No. There was a commercial by a building supplies company called 84 Lumber. First of all, it’s to be noted that there was a bunch of controversy surrounding their ad because the Super Bowl would not let them show the entire ad. They said it was too controversial. What they did was they put in part of it, and then, called you to go to their website to go and watch it, which all of us did at the same time because we were confused and curious about what it was all about. It’s an ad featuring a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on this difficult journey north, which we’re assuming, how they left us, that they’re trying to get to the wall, to get into the country to have a better life. It’s five minutes long. It’s powerful. I would just say it’s definitely worth a watch.

Moving on in the show from that from one thing that was worthy of a watch to another thing that was worthy of a watch. What I wanted to bring today—which is why I said earlier, this episode is going to be a little bit different than usual. I went to Fuller Theological Seminary for my master’s degree. One of the reasons I chose them was that they were an interdenominational seminary, meaning that they are a seminary that doesn’t have one kind of groupthink fuelling what they educate. They’re from a broad spiritual spectrum of traditions that comes together. I will tell you this. One, I don’t know that my master’s degree has necessarily paid off for me. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, that I went to school with, the other day, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was one of those things where going through that program messed up my faith in a good way. It messed me up in a way that probably—well, I’ll just go ahead and say this—that means I can never work for a church again simply because of—I’ll circle back to what I mentioned earlier—it taught us to think critically with our faith, to think critically in how we view culture and the world around us with our faith. Part of Fuller is they have all of these other initiatives on the side. They have all these faith and film, faith and art and culture initiatives that are informative. They are brilliant, and I got an email out, since I’m an alumni, last week about a session that they had held with Martin Scorsese who directed the film Silence. As soon as I got this interview back, I was like, “This is great. This is really interesting. This is an interesting conversation about someone’s journey of faith, and how they wrestle it through, how they deal with doubt, and how doubt is good.” As I was watching this, I was like, “Oh man. This is really, really good.” I decided to write them. I said, “Hey, I’ve got a radio show. I’m an alumni. Can I use this on our show?” The odd thing that they told me was, “Absolutely. We would love to bring this to a broader audience.” I will let that be the last part of our show, the interview with Martin Scorsese. Before I get to that, I wanted to debrief you on the movie that he’ll be talking about. I wanted to debrief you on the movie Silence.

I went and saw this movie a few days ago. I will tell you that it’s still haunting me. Now, it is not an easy movie to watch. I will go as far to say that this is not a movie for everybody. When you think of Oscar contenders, which this movie, by and large, was shut out. It doesn’t have the feel goods. It doesn’t have those feels that La La Land would have. It doesn’t have that religious, war bombasity that you’d have in something like Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. You see, the problem with this movie is also its greatest strength. This is why I think a lot of folks were surprised that it did not get more Oscar nods than it did. It’s well done. It’s got Andrew Garfield. It’s got Kylo Ren in it, and Liam Neeson. I mean, hey, this is like Taken for the Catholic clergy, I guess, except for Liam Neeson. He’s the one that has been taken. That’s how that works. Okay. I digress. No, but what I’m saying is this is a movie that doesn’t give you clear answers about faith, which is one of the main issues that I have with Christian films is that the message is everything. The acting, and script, and cinematography, all of those things, nah, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a good message. [Sarcasm] Typically, those types of Christian films are the ones that give the audience what they already know. They do not require you to wrestle through anything. They do not bring up any poignant parts of faith. I mean, they’re just candy-coated religious tracts for people to consume, and nod their heads about, and feel good that they’re doing their godly duty by sitting down and watching whatever Christian crap movie that they’re watching. Silence is very different than that.

If anyone knows Martin Scorsese, one, he’s a master filmmaker, and two, if anybody knows the book Silence, this is a difficult one to adapt. Let me just read you the summary of the movie before I give you my knee-jerk, deep-gut reactions to this film. I’ll read you the summary here. Alright, I’m taking this from Matt Solarsice. This is part of his review, which I thought actually summarized the movie quite well. His words for this was, “Silence is monumental work and a punishing one. It puts you through the hell with no promise of enlightenment, only a set of questions, propositions, sensations, and experiences.” Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah. I would say that that is 100 percent true. The synopsis of the film goes like this. You have priests. They leave for Portugal for Japan to find a third priest who’s gone missing while working as a missionary. The third priest, which is the Liam Neeson character, is believed to have committed apostasy. Apostasy in this context is renouncing God or renouncing Jesus. He’s seen to have committed apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus while being tormented by the Japanese. This is a work of historical fiction that is going on here from a famous novel. The movie is just simply that. It’s just a quest to be able to find the truth of what happened to this other priest. While I’m not a Catholic and I don’t really comprehend all the nuanced elements that were going on, I still comprehended the entire thrust of what Scorsese was trying to do with this.

There was a few lines in the movie that just really, really hit me. I felt like this movie was a meditation. As I’m sitting there watching this and letting it just wash over me, it was gut wrenching at times. It was hard to watch at times. There were these two quotes that I wrote down while I was watching it. I’m the nerd that has a notepad when I watch movies, probably not when I’m watching the Fast and the Furious. I don’t need a notepad for that one, but for movies that I expect (a) to talk about here on the radio with you, and (b) just ones that I think are going to move me in a way that I want to remember. I do. I’ll take in a notepad and I’ll jot these things down. Really what this is, is you have these priests coming to this island of Japan in a time where it was very hostile towards missionaries to be there. As these young missionaries, these young priests, are beginning to see how people are hungry for the gospel, but at the same time, the government wants to squash all of it. It’s really, really hard to watch just the martyrs and all that goes on, torture-wise, within this movie. By no means, is this like a—I mean, there’s movies that have far more torture than this. I’m not even talking like Saw-level torture. I’m talking even like Braveheart-level torture. I guess what wrung my soul out was this idea of silence, and what do you do when God is silent to you.

It made me just think of so many different things in the Christian landscape. One of the quotes in the movie was, “The price for your glory is their suffering.” This was somebody who was taunting one of the priests. This idea that the priests were there to be able to share the gospel because that’s what they feel called to do based on the Great Commission in the Bible. By doing this, it was causing great pain amongst the people because the government was oppressing them because they did not want this to spread. Another line that stuck out to me was, “This is of no use and has no value to us in Japan.” I think that it’s something that should lay true to all of us that walk in faith regardless of what faith tradition you’re a part of is that, especially, when you think of just the historical context of colonization and how, especially, the Catholic church moved along the colonization of, well, England, of France, of Italy, all of these, that somehow, they saw these imperial conquests or conquistadors, but they also saw them as bringing their religion along with going in to change their culture and subjugate their people in a certain sense.

It brought up a lot of issues that I’ve had a lot in my life mainly that being this idea of apostasy, this idea of renouncing your faith. I’ve always just thought about this when you see posts on social media when folks are like, “Look at these Christians that are standing and being killed for their faith through ISIS.” In my own heart, which is funny because—well, (a) I’ve been through seminary, and (b) I’ve actually been ordained as a pastor. I think of context like this where I’m just like, “Well, if ISIS is wanting to kill me and all I need to do is renounce what I believe in, what do crazy people care.” For me to tell crazy people something to make them stop being crazy, I don’t necessarily know if people can touch where my faith lies in my heart. Now, I may be wrong with that, but I always just think in these incidents where—because they have several people, they show incidents of folks that are willing to try to not to go through the torture just to renounce their faith even though they go back to living their life in faith, and this idea of what your words mean, and this idea of renouncing something. It’s a very strong film that just really deals with these elements of faith, and doubt, and what does it look like when God is silent because we’ve all had those times when God doesn’t answer, where God seems distant, where God doesn’t seem to be a part of what’s going on.

I loved how Scorsese wove in elements that, in a certain sense, that it all at times, for those of us that are trying to follow after God, there are moments where we are like Jesus. There’s other moments, probably more moments [laughter], when we are like Judas. I just felt like, watching through this movie, it was something that really took great endurance of the soul. It just made me just think on just a couple deep levels. These are really just off the cuff in that when our faith—see, this can easily be misconstrued, but our faith needs to make sense to all people. When we’re sending people to go out and be missionaries or whatever around the world, are we bringing them American Christianity, or are we bringing them Jesus? I think that it’s easy to paint this picture in broad strokes when you begin to look at this from the realm of missions work. Even in our own communities, are we still bringing a white Jesus to a Hispanic community or a white Jesus to an African-American community? I don’t know.

This movie’s still ruminating in my soul. It’s something that I will return to again. I think that Scorsese does it in a very eloquent and evenhanded way. It’s not simply that Japanese bad. White Catholics good. It doesn’t really give you those solid answers that most Christian films do, and because of it, I loved it. I loved the torture that it did to my soul. I love how my faith was pulled and pushed within me. For that reason, I would absolutely recommend this. Enough of me in all of this, I think it’s better to be heard in the conversation that Martin Scorsese lays out. What I want to give you, is what I mentioned earlier, is this interview. It is presented by Fuller Studio. Just for you to know that there are more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life that can be found at fuller.edu/studio. This is the interview that Fuller published, produced, and gave us license to be able to use here on the radio. Enjoy.

Click here for the video of Fuller Studio’s interview with Martin Scorsese.

Well, that’s all we’ve got for this show this week. Thanks again to Fuller. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always catch us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks so much for being a part of the conversation. I’ll catch you again next week. I am out of here.

Transcribed by Miriam Delony



Colbert and the Problem with Nostalgia

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By: Mark Rain

Stephen Colbert premiered as the new host of the Late Show last night to good reviews. The show was fun, a bit overlong, but as anything with Colbert, filled with great promise for years to come. It’s been funny to watch the reactions on Twitter and the comment sections of web reviews. The one comment (or iteration of the same comment) I kept seeing was something along the lines of “I miss Dave [Letterman].”

This struck me as funny because most people haven’t even been watching Letterman on a regular basis since the 90’s. This isn’t a knock against Dave, but one about how we choose to see the past. That’s the problem with nostalgia. The good old days get frozen in time and begin to ferment with age. Some memories get better in our minds, while others sour. The past is either idolized or demonized.

Back in high school, I saw Cabin Boy (a Letterman produced movie where he also makes a cameo) twice on the opening day (don’t judge). I thought it was awesome and hilarious. I couldn’t get enough. I probably alone accounted for half of the weekend’s opening box office sales. Returning to the film years later, I have no idea what I was thinking. It was more about the moment in time and the friends I was with. It was less about the actual cinematic quality of the film. In memory, the moment trumps the reality.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this until we begin to assume absolute truth to the history of our memories. With the instance of Colbert, we have folks comparing one show to decades of Letterman’s best on TV. Dave had his moments, but with most of comedy, for every laugh, there are also three times as many jokes that went flat. Unless the joke went epically wrong (Uma-Oprah), we tend to only remember the high times.

Outside of entertainment, I’ve seen this happen in two prominent areas: politics and religion. I know these aren’t the only places we see nostalgia run amok, but they seem to be the places that scream (or preach) at us the loudest.

If you made a drinking game out of every time a Republican made a reference to Reagan during presidential campaigns, you’d die from alcohol poisoning. Politicians love to prey on the nostalgia factor because you can make promises out of memories, and they don’t ever have to be real. Hearken to the past you want to remember, and declare that you can take the present back there again. It’s a thing of fairy tales. The last thing we need right now is fairy tales.

In our churches, we play the similar game. Yesterday is framed as a more innocent time with less evil, less sin, and better morality. The message again is that we need to get back there. The funny thing about this is that we were never there. There has always been sin, evil, and corruption since the world began. The idea that there’s more of it today than yesterday is simply a farce, and it plays at our longing for nostalgia. Like politics, our faith can and should have a voice in our lives that drive us to engage deeply in the problems of the world. It’s not an excuse to run to the nostalgia of the past.

We can’t move backward. Moving backward means living in a world where smallpox is still a present issue or women and African American’s can’t vote. You can’t go back to the glory days and not get the mess that was present then. Hen picking memories can never be a reality. It’s counter productive and not healthy. When we live in the past, it clouds our vision for the present.

We can certainly learn lessons from history and recognize that we stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us. We just can’t go back. For the world to be a better place we need to be fully engaged in the present. Should we celebrate the past? Absolutely. We’re just not meant to live there.

Letterman had his day in the sun, and it was great. Today is not his day anymore. Hopefully, Colbert will move forward into years of late night greatness. With us, there are so many present issues pressing on life today: immigration, climate change, inequality and poverty (to mention a few). These problems won’t go away and require us to step into them with sober eyes fully focused on the present. You can’t solve a problem by wishing it wasn’t there. Nostalgia has its place, it just doesn’t move us forward.