An article in the Washington Post On Faith Section in response to their question about the controversy over the movie the Love Guru.
The inability of some religious people to laugh at themselves betrays, I think, a great deal of insecurity. What if God was a two-year-old toddler and you were his mother? You’d spend your day keeping close watch and only find calm when your child was taking a nap. But God isn’t two years old, and he /she doesn’t need taking care of. I wish religious people took the analogy seriously, because they are constantly rushing in to protect God, screaming in outrage when he /she is surely laughing. God may very well see the universe as a divine comedy. Every exploding nova could be an explosion of laughter. Nobody knows. But when we look around us, Nature is at play. Every wild animal — at least when young — spends its day playing, apparently in innocent delight. A tiger cub and a human infant have that in common. The difference is that the tiger grows up in peace with its ferocity. Humans grow up to find themselves burdened with guilt, shame, and anxiety.
To relieve these afflictions, we turn to religion but also to comedy. “The Love Guru” is a ridiculous farce, and it has offended some Hindus, but I’d wager it will do more good for people than a week’s worth of sermons. (Personal disclosure: I am lampooned in the movie much more than Hinduism. You might catch me at a screening. I’m the man in the aisle seat laughing loudly.) In an age obsessed with triviality, a silly, light-hearted comedy arouses controversy while religion keeps fostering an unending litany of war, intolerance, and violence.
For all these reasons, more comedies should cross the line between vulgar lampoon and reckless disrespect. Let’s catch God with his pants down — or more especially those who peddle faith in God so self-righteously. Christianity has been mocked in Monty Python’s “Life of Bryan,” Judaism in Adam Sandler’s “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” and Islam (very mildly) in Albert Brooks’ “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.” Let’s look for comedy in the whole world. As for the Hindu fundamentalists who are shocked by “The Love Guru,” let them remember Lila. She is a goddess whose play — and playfulness — runs the activity of the universe. The last time I looked, Lila was a Hindu goddess. That must have escaped the minds of true believers who condemn what they should be enjoying. In the end, comedy equals laughter and religion equals solemnity. You choose.
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