God's Politics

God's Politics


Ryan Rodrick Beiler: Colbert Can’t Believe It

posted by gp_intern

Stephen, I have a “wag of the finger” for you. Wednesday night you opened your show by talking about our recent presidential forum on faith, values, and poverty by saying, "CNN gives the Democratic candidates an hour to talk about God. Wonder what they did with the other 58 minutes."

Well, let me tell you what they did with those 58 minutes. They helped dismantle the tired myth that the GOP is “God’s One Party,” or the more recent angle that Democrats are only getting religion as a crass election strategy. Instead, these candidates described a faith that is both sincere and authentic.
You claimed, “Asking Democrats about religion is like asking Mel Gibson how he enjoyed his Passover.” Well, Stephen, as a Catholic you should know that the first Lord’s Supper was a Passover meal, and from what I understand, Mel Gibson takes communion regularly. That is to say, we need not agree with a person’s politics or even their theology to affirm that their religious beliefs are real and personal, and have shaped their lives in vital ways. Monday night we learned more about why faith is important to these candidates.
But just as you can’t dismiss a candidate’s faith because of party affiliation, nor can you judge a candidate’s fitness for office based on their religion. Stephen, even you must agree that born-again Christians can make bad presidents. (I know you’re picturing Jimmy Carter right now, but not everyone is). Instead, as scripture states: “by their fruits ye shall know them.” So, except for the most ideologically driven media voices – ahem – most coverage of the event made the vital connection between the candidates’ faith and their policies on poverty, criminal justice, immigration, health care, energy – even war and peace.
As I’m sure you are, I’m looking forward to examining these same connections during our Republican forum on faith, values, and poverty in the fall – that is, assuming they accept our invitation. I just hope one hour will be enough time for the top three Republican front-runners to explain how their faith has inspired them to overcome poverty.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.



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Anonymous

posted June 8, 2007 at 2:20 pm


Ummm… you are aware that Stephen Colbert is a composite caricature of many conservative pundits, and that the character is just that, a character, and not an actual person espousing his own actual views, right?
Even Bill O’Reilly gets that it’s a joke, and he’s one of the one’s getting lampooned.



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Ryan Rodrick Beiler

posted June 8, 2007 at 2:28 pm


ummmm… are you familiar with the concept of playing along with a joke, or the concept of a “straight man” (in comedy, that is)?
Colbert’s best interviews are when his guests take his character at face value and debate him as if he’s the wingnut he’s portraying–not when they try to prove how cool they are by demonstrating they’re in on the joke and don’t allow him to act as a comic foil.
Which is why the O’Reilly’s interview was only funny when Colbert was talking.



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natala

posted June 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm


yeah – just on the same lines, what he was saying was great in the form of a parody, if he was serious – totally not cool, but he’s not serious, if anything he’s saying in his own way tht what happened this week was fantastic (again in his own kind of Jon stewart/Colbert/Comedy Central) kind of way :)



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marcie

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:07 pm


Yeah, you just gotta take a joke, sometimes. I enjoyed the Sojo Faith discussion with the candidates immensely, and still found Colbert’s bit to be extremely funny.
It’s a joke. Just laugh!



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Jlo

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm


Mr. Beiler, you have been had. No need to put Colbert on Threat Down. His whole show is an exercise in Swiftian satire for the post-modern age.



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Ryan Rodrick Beiler

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:21 pm


Ryan here–as I tried to explain in my earlier comment: I GET IT.
No need to explain that Colbert is satire. I just happen to think it’s more interesting to respond to him on the terms of his character, and not try to be as funny as he is, that’s all. Apparently I succeeded in the latter.



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Jenny

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:23 pm


It looks like the others have already got this covered, but Colbert is constantly saying outrageous things–often supporting them with cuts to FOX news to show their ultimate ideological source–for the purpose of pointing out how laughable they are. You can bet that O’Reilly, Hannity, and the like are making these kinds of snide remarks about Christian Democrats, prominent or otherwise. Colbert, though is a practicing, Sunday-school-teaching Catholic, and a humorist for the left.



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Christopher Joiner

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:28 pm


Ryan,
I got the Colbert satire, and laughed and laughed. I also got your “straight man” response, and I thought it was a nice way of drawing attention to the Colbert piece AND making the larger point. Thanks.



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Brian Thompson

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:30 pm


While I agree with most of the previous comments, “can’t you take a joke,” is usually what is said by someone after they have behaved hurtfully. What Colbert does is not just funny, and to say so is to miss most of the point. His show can be culture-changing. There is a new culture arising. One which doesn’t buy into the fact that the only way to discuss something is with the utmost seriousness and candor (e.g. CNN). Colbert proved a long time ago to those who watch the show “religiously” that great progress can be made with well-constructed satyr and sarcasm. Not that he was the first to have this idea (read: “A Modest Proposal”). Colbert’s comments were the greatest affirmation of what Sojo did Monday night that we could hope for.



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Ken

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:34 pm


Wow. Hard to believe that anyone would respond seriously to Colbert. It makes one look like the people he interviews who just don’t seem to understand what he is all about. So, it’s nice to hear Beiler say he gets it, but responding to him sure makes it look like he doesn’t.



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Aaron

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm


Ryan, I loved your comeback… I thought Colbert was hilarious and I got a good laugh at you coming back in a serious tone to the comedian.



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Allison

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:03 pm


I agree with Christopher Joiner. Thanks, Ryan.



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Roger

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm


You wrote: “I just hope one hour will be enough time for the top three Republican front-runners to explain how their faith has inspired them to overcome poverty.”
Oops! Sounds like the same “one party has a monopoly on faith matters” that this blog decries in others. Same song, different verse?



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Steve

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:48 pm


Yeah, sounds to me like you’re just stumping for the Democrats… when all is said and done, I’m not sure its about just poverty, its about the Democrats winning. How disappointing…



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Joe Allen Doty

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:58 pm


“The Colbert Report” hosted by Stephen Colbert on the Comedy Central Cable Network is total satire. His show is a spin-off of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” It apparently was created to be an “equal time show” for a (pseudo)-Conservative Point of View. He might be a “Sunday-school-teaching Catholic;” but, if I were a member of an RCC congregation, I would not want him to be teaching my children. He actually makes fun of all sorts of Christians and he uses vulgar language when he does it. But, my favorite part of his show is “The Word” segment where he says something on the left side of the screen and what he says is mocked on the right side of the screen. I prefer Jon Stewart who happens to be on at the same time as the local news; but, I can watch a repeat of that on a Cox Cable channel.



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 8, 2007 at 6:43 pm


Watched some of this . Thanks for the link . I have to admit he is funnier when he makes fun of the left which is seldom . It appears there will be a majority of folks from that side elected politically in the future .



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kevin s.

posted June 8, 2007 at 7:04 pm


I don’t think Colbert is quite as funny as Stewart. His stuff would work better as a bit as part of an hour-long Stewart program.
I got what this post was doing, but Sojo is such a gravely serious blog that it is tough to process this sort of thing.



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Lisa LeDonne-Stan

posted June 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm


I don’t think the author of this article gets that Stephen Colbert is a paridy on how right wingers think!
He was making fun of the right wing for assuming that Christian’s can ONLY be Republicans!
Let’s not lose our sense of humor here, Colbert and Stewart are the comic relief we need as we watch our “born-again President” dismantle everything we cherish about our country!
Lisa LeDonne-Stan
history/government teacher
Petaluma, CA



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Ted Voth Jr

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:39 pm


Come ON, Sojourners! Smile! Jesus even used irony! If you guys are gonna be such sober-sided old poops, I dunno that I wanna hang out with you no more. ;-D LOL



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kevin s.

posted June 9, 2007 at 12:03 am


“Let’s not lose our sense of humor here, Colbert and Stewart are the comic relief we need as we watch our “born-again President” dismantle everything we cherish about our country!”
Everything we cherish? Seems a little extreme. I cherish my wife. Bush didn’t dismantle her. I cherish the right to speak out against Bush’s immigration plan. That right has yet to be dismantled.



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Matt Channing

posted June 9, 2007 at 12:17 am


Ryan–
Stephen Colbert’s show is a LAMPOON of the tired drivel churned out by O’Reilly, Hannity, et al.
It is satire, designed to make fun of those guys. He’s “doing” O’Reilly, the way Rich Little used to “do” Nixon.
Your first clue is that Steven’s show airs on COMEDY Central…
Sheesh….
You’re not doing much to convince the rest of the world that we Christians aren’t a bunch of cretins…



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Gayle

posted June 9, 2007 at 12:53 am


Gotta chime in here, Mr. Beiler. My first impression of your response to the Stephen Colbert’s “Faith Down” segment was that you apparently are not a regular viewer. He is masterful – a Master – at political and cultural satire. This show is the best on TV, network and cable, for intelligent discussion of faith from a progressive perspective – and very funny! Do go to The Colbert Report website and watch many (many!) of “The Word” segments (and many of the guest interviews as well). So many are about faith and the hypocrisy of the Christian right – exposing the leaders (Dobson and the like) for their intolerance, social invasion of the lives of others, and political pandering. Stephen regularly displays a sophisticated understanding of the gospel and who Jesus truly calls us to be in our world. It’s brilliant satire and lampoons those who would claim to speak for all Christians and in place of Jesus. Colbert is an ally. Watch out, though. Your commentary may show up in a response from Stephen on an upcoming show.
Gayle
UMC Seminarian



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John

posted June 9, 2007 at 5:44 am


Colbert is THE MAN. Don’t be knocking him. Watch him interview some right winger sometime. He is very astute and is often more honest than the “real” news/talk folks. I can’t remember the exact name of the group, but he took the Washington D.C. press corp to task at their own event when he MC’d their annual banquet. Check out his comments at that event if you want to learn about the fruits of his labors.



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Pete Zimmerman

posted June 9, 2007 at 11:15 am


the basic difference between the LEFT and the RIGHT
is that the right in the name of faith wants us to NOT do stuff: no abortion, no gay marriage.
the LEFT wants to MAKE us do stuff: federally fund poverty.
I think we both need to step back a bit.
I do not want the government to tell me and my wife what to do with her pregnancy. there is no secular reason that abortion is murder. and the bible does not teach WHEN life begins. all theories are mere opinions.
however, my right friends think that the government should not force them to help the poor.
i point to the fact that the bible is silent on abortion but LOUD about helping the poor.
they say the church should do it. I say after this long of the church NOT DOING IT, maybe we should make people “do the right thing”



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Pete Zimmerman

posted June 9, 2007 at 1:57 pm


the basic difference between the LEFT and the RIGHT
is that the right in the name of faith wants us to NOT do stuff: no abortion, no gay marriage.
the LEFT wants to MAKE us do stuff: federally fund poverty.
I think we both need to step back a bit.
I do not want the government to tell me and my wife what to do with her pregnancy. there is no secular reason that abortion is murder. and the bible does not teach WHEN life begins. all theories are mere opinions.
however, my right friends think that the government should not force them to help the poor.
i point to the fact that the bible is silent on abortion but LOUD about helping the poor.
they say the church should do it. I say after this long of the church NOT DOING IT, maybe we should make people “do the right thing”



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clay campbell

posted June 10, 2007 at 5:26 pm


Now that CNN have given the Dems a platform to speak of their “deep religious faith” will they start to refer to them as “the religious left”. Kind of doubt it. This entire debate was nothing but a dog and pony show. I can’t believe the softball questions by the leftist jim wallis. Wallis proved once and for all his commitment is not for Christ but for getting democrats elected and expanding the welfare state. He’s a Jerry Falwell with good press.



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kevin s.

posted June 10, 2007 at 11:25 pm


Maybe you are being humorous in the vein of Mr. Beiler, so forgive me if I am missing the joke.
“the LEFT wants to MAKE us do stuff: federally fund poverty.”
So, in reality, the LEFT wants to MAKE certain people do stuff, by way of taxation.
“I do not want the government to tell me and my wife what to do with her pregnancy.”
I do want the government to tell your wife what to do with her pregnancy, not because I want to inconvenience her, but because I believe we must accord all human life Constitutional protection.
“there is no secular reason that abortion is murder.”
Sure there is. The fetus is life. It is murder to forcibly end life. You might disagree with that reason, but you cannot just pretend that reason does not exist.
“and the bible does not teach WHEN life begins.”
God teaches that he knew us when we were in the womb. Why not use that as a starting point?
“all theories are mere opinions.”
I’m willing to bet you use this logic very selectively.
“however, my right friends think that the government should not force them to help the poor.”
I don’t know who YOUR right friends are or what they think. However, conservatives believe that asking taxpayers to help the poor actually hurts the poor by harming the economy. That’s a broad statement, and people on the left disagree with it, but that is closer to an accurate summation of conservative thought on this issue.
“i point to the fact that the bible is silent on abortion but LOUD about helping the poor.”
Unless the Bible simply assumes that we regard human life as equal, and thus make no exemption for human life in the womb. The Bible is LOUD about helping the poor, but silent on what role government ought to play in helping the poor.
“they say the church should do it.”
Do you disagree?
“I say after this long of the church NOT DOING IT, maybe we should make people “do the right thing”
A standard which you apply to something with which you agree (entitlements), and do not apply to something that you do not (prohibiting abortion).
I don’t buy the argument that we shouldn’t support this or that entitlement because the church should be doing it. I think that is irrelevant to the question of whether it is effective for a society to support the poor by way of entitlements. Most conservatives agree that some entitltlements are necessary, and even effective.
However, I believe that increasing entitlements beyond a certain point hurts the poor. The best thing we can do for the poor is to create good paying jobs. The government, by and large is incapable of doing that, and the proper middle ground (and everyone here recognizes that there is some sort of middle ground) between capitalism and the governmental safety net is the sticking point here.
Some think that the safety net is insufficient. Others think that it is excessive. Still others think that we are utilizing the wrong nets entirely. No matter how loud the Bible is about the poor (and it isn’t quite as loud as you say) we come no closer to relieving this tension.



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SL

posted June 11, 2007 at 3:05 pm


I think Stephen Colbert did a brilliant job of exposing the absurdity of the extreme conservative views milling today. It is very effective- Satire is alive and well- Made ‘em look!



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Harold

posted June 11, 2007 at 7:08 pm


Ryan,
After reading the responses and your responses to the responses – I think I understand.
I think that your original satire was not effective. Several, including myself, thought you were serious -
Satire has to be over the top – - over emphasising the obvious.
I guess that is what made your comment so difficult, it may be impossible to over emphasis some of the obsurdity that is not only proclaimed, but believed by so many of our brothers and sisters.
Grace and Peace,
Harold



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peacestartswithme.blogspot.com

posted June 11, 2007 at 8:13 pm


I think we need comedians like Colbert and Stewart to remind us to not take politics so seriously. It makes me extremely nervous that sojo.net sponsored a faith-based discussion that included only one side of the political spectrum. When faith discussions become partisan it makes me wonder what happened to the message of unity and reconciliation that Christ preached. We need comedians to remind us that politics are no more than politics. Satire is a great way to reveal the absurdity of partisan politics.



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Kevin S.

posted June 12, 2007 at 1:56 am


“Satire has to be over the top – - over emphasising the obvious.”
Goodness no. Satire should cut near the edge, as a razor blade slices the many skins on an onion. There are different forms of comedy other than satire (Stewart, for example, is more irony than satire), but satire itself is a tough game to hunt. As such, it often falls into either histrionics, overseriousness, or both.
Colbert is satire, to a certain extent. South Park is certainly satire, which explains its staying power, even though satire was not the impetus for the show’s creation (but rather absurdity).
But good satire never serves the obvious. If something is obvious, satire is unnecessary and boring.



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Korey

posted June 12, 2007 at 7:37 am


So I can understand your intention to play along with the satire, but I agree with a previous poster “I got what this post was doing, but Sojo is such a gravely serious blog that it is tough to process this sort of thing.”
Just an aside, I am a little concerned that this Sojourners event focused on the democrats. It seems sort of divisive. But I didn’t watch because of the chosen network. Was there no other option, but CNN? FOX News is certainly not news, but poor entertainment and I lump CNN with them. I have no respect for either networks and never watch them. Frankly there’s nothing better than public broadcasting. If you can’t get a forum there, then I think I’d prefer you have a spot on the History Channel (though that doesn’t bode well for the cause) or Animal Planet.



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Kevin S.

posted June 12, 2007 at 12:18 pm


“or Animal Planet.”
You’d have to invite Kucinich.



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Anonymous

posted June 12, 2007 at 2:06 pm


Korey,
“I am a little concerned that this Sojourners event focused on the democrats”
Well I am a little concerned that Sojourners thinks it’s okay to circumvent the Constitution, which USED to ‘guarantee’ that there shall be NO religious test to hold public office. By holding this event, they’ve forced all the candidates to submit to just such a test.
Phooey on Sojo for this. It’s a donnyright tactic and should be abandoned for the good of the country.



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DHFabian

posted June 13, 2007 at 9:17 am


The Bible has a great deal to say about the personal responsibility of all people to help—not penalize or exploit—the poor. In a modern society, the only way to do this effectively and fairly is via organized government programs. In the US, we abandoned these programs with a lie, i.e., by repeatedly stating that they didn’t work, and trapped millions into that “cycle of welfare dependency”. (In fact, some 80% of welfare recipients voluntarily left the welfare roles in under 5 years, with most moving out of poverty, becoming tax-payers).
Welfare saved lives, and saved billions of dollars via providing adequate nutrition, housing and basic medical care. Opening doors to higher education and legitimate job skills training moved millions into the middle-class, where they more than repaid (via taxes) the aid they received. At its highest, welfare used only some 5% of the federal budget.
Welfare was ended for a couple of reasons that had nothing to do with reducing poverty/dependence, and everything to do with greed and scapegoatism. We have gone through a quarter-century string of
massive “tax breaks” for the wealthiest 1%/corporations, reducing funding available to the government by billions of dollars. Our welfare “reform” was one measure that freed up money needed to cover those costs.
We see the results of welfare “reform” today in the severe economic disparities in this country. We have seen how “workfare” has been used to break family-supporting jobs down into part-time/bottom wage/no benefits work while blocking out unions, and we have been watching the impact of this on the (deterioration of the) economy. The life expectancy of America’s poor has rapidly declined, and infant mortality among America’s poor has surpassed that which is found in many Third World countries, as nationwide poverty deepens.
Take a good look at America’s (mis)treatment of its poor, elderly and disabled, then take a look at everything the Bible teaches about our responsibilities toward the poor.



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BarbaraKB

posted June 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm


Are you aware that there is a new blog that discusses Stephen’s Catholicism and faith?
http://catholiccolbert.com
Lots of video clips and commentary!



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Gregor

posted June 19, 2007 at 4:01 pm


I’m also concerned about sojourners limiting this debate to the major Democratic contenders. Sojourners should host similar debates with Republicans, Libertarians, and even Green Party members.



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