Well, I did it. After my earlier post I bought an enormous bar of chocolate and settled into a big, comfy cinema seat to watch Bill Maher take on Jesus Christ.
I have to tell you I was disappointed.
I’ll say this for Maher – he is a funny guy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh – a lot. But despite setting himself up as honestly investigating God, a major strategy Maher employs is to ask people hard questions, to expect eloquent one line replies, to laugh at their absence, and to intersperse them with footage of material deliberately intended to undermine and ridicule them.
Predictably, he focuses on easy pickings, examining the controversial edges rather than the core foundations of faith. Creationism, homosexuality, and Islamic fundamentalism are come under scrutiny in favour, for example, of asking people about the basis and values of their faith. We come away knowing the ways in which it’s possible to ridicule religions but without the balance of counter-arguments.
So first and foremost, sadly, Religulous is a rant. That said, it’s also thought provoking.
First, I was struck how frighteningly easy it is for christians to be way out of touch with people who don’t believe the same things they do, and to be unable to relate to them.
Second, I was reminded sharply religion can be ugly, has a great deal to answer for, and that as a church we face a huge challenge in disentangling our mistreatment of God and His people from the truth of His message. We have a lot of work to do to re-introduce our society to who Jesus is and his cultural relevance.
Third, I the film was a reminder that what a person of faith says and does is watched, and it’s judged, and will be viewed through filter of: “this is what God stands for”. Scary. How we choose to present ourselves and our faith – whether we’re thoughtful, balanced and equipped to discuss intelligently and honestly with other, matters.
Fourth, as I blogged previously, even without the help of satire, it’s easy to see how faith can seem to be crazy. We need to recognise that. However, the fact is that people continue to want to investigate Christianity. We also need a space where people can really consider life’s big questions and make their own informed decisions. Gordon Brown (reportedly) recently said he intended to do just that attending an Alpha course. It was on April 1st (shame – I thought it might be for real – my innocence made me giggle when it was pointed out to me!) Whatever, having skirted the edges, maybe Maher should consider it.