Every now and then the Washington Post‘s On Faith column asks a ridiculously easy question…
The Book of Mormon, a satirical musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, won nine Tony awards [last] Sunday night. Parker and Stone are known as equal-opportunity offenders when it comes to mocking religion, but for some Mormons the irreverent musical, bearing the name of their holy text, crossed a line.
Is faith funny? When it comes to religion, where’s the line between what’s humorous and what’s offensive?
My full response is here, but an excerpt is below:
Humor is based in truth. Religion isn’t. Faith is all about things we wish were true, not things that actually are true. That’s what made comedians like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, and Bill Hicks so legendary: While everyone else was debating the color of the emperor’s clothes, they weren’t afraid to say the the emperor wasn’t wearing any, and the way they said it was genius. They earned millions of fans by calling out the religious hypocrisy all around us. (And they weren’t just picking on corrupt religious leaders — they were going after anyone and everyone who believed in god.)
Bill Maher did a comedy bit in his recent show in which he just reads from Pastor Rick Warren‘s The Purpose Driven Life. He doesn’t mock it. He just reads it verbatim. And the audience loves it because what Warren has to say is so mind-bogglingly idiotic. Ricky Gervais follows suit in his latest special, telling the story of Noah’s Ark (as written in a children’s book). You can see from the video how he brings down the house.
The Book of Mormon continues this trend. The writers don’t have to be provocative on purpose. They just have to tell the truth about Mormonism and people will laugh. Because faith is funny.
Also, since the Post couldn’t reproduce the lyrics from “The Book of Mormon” on their site, here’s what I’m referring to:
Take the lyrics of one song from the musical: “I Believe”:
I Believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.
I Believe that Jesus has his own planet as well.
And I Believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
You can be a Mormon: you’ll feel it.
And you’ll know it’s all true: you just… feel it.
You’ll be a Mormon by gosh!
A Mormon just believes!
They’re not going out of their way to pick on Mormons. They’re just explaining Mormon theology.
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