Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Religion:" George Carlin on the First Episode of SNL

A few weeks ago I noticed that every season of Saturday Night Live is available to watch on Netflix Internet streaming, so I was interested to see the very first show of SNL, which I'd never seen before.

This show was interesting for a number of reasons. First, it is obvious that production value has changed, as the show looked like it was filmed in somebody's basement. Second, there were already a couple of examples of the bawdy humor that has come to characterize so much of the show. Third, there were certainly a few examples of real comedic brilliance in the show, such as Andy Kaufman's rendition of the "Mighty Mouse" theme and the "Show Us Your Guns" sketch.

The most interesting part of the show, from my perspective, was a stand-up comedy routine performed by George Carlin. I knew that Carlin was notorious for his attacks on religion in general (and when he spoke about "religion" it seems like he usually meant the "Judeo-Christian" rather than more mystical variety), but I had assumed that his overt attacks on religion in his stand-up comedy had developed more slowly over the years. And so I was surprised to hear statements like the following:

Religion at best is like a lift in your shoe; if you need it for a while and it makes you walk straight and you feel better, fine, but you don't need it forever, or you can become permanently disabled. Religion is like a lift in your shoe, and I say, just don't ask me to wear your shoes, and let's not go down and nail lifts onto the natives' feet.
The above quote came after several statements that were blasphemous and sacrilegious.

My first reaction to the above quote was to think of the statement I've heard from more than one preacher, that Christianity is not like a crutch, but like an iron lung: relationship with Christ is necessary for survival.

Also, I thought of the New Testament definition of true religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)
Notice that if we take the above definition of "religion," then Carlin's statements are shown to be selfish and nonsensical. If "religion" were defined properly, then Carlin was basically saying "don't try to get me to help the most needy in society, and don't go and try to help the most needy among the natives."

One main reason why Carlin got away with making the statements he did-- and so many others get away with similar statements today-- is that people in general, and even Christians in particular, have allowed "religion" to be defined in terms of ritual rather than in terms of justice, charity, and holiness.

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