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Faith column: Q&A with religious satirist Becky Garrison

August 24, 2010

Here’s the link to my latest column, a Q&A with Becky Garrison. She calls herself a religious satirist. She’s very funny, very irreverent and very much committed to Jesus. Interesting gal.

And the full text:

Becky Garrison is a New York-based religious satirist with the requisite irreverence and vicious wit. But, as she reveals in her new book “Jesus Died For This? A Satirist’s Search for the Risen Christ,” she’s also a seeker who truly wants to understand what Jesus was about and how believers should follow him. In her travels over the past several years, including visits to the Holy Land, Ireland, Seattle and Yankee Stadium, Garrison separates the spiritually meaningful from what she calls the “ungodly glitz and Jesus junk.” She shared some of her observations in an interview with Eileen Flynn.

Austin American-Statesman: You write religious satire, but your search for the risen Christ is very sincere. What inspired you to write ‘Jesus Died For This?’

Becky Garrison: Like Anne Rice, I often find myself wanting to “Quit Christianity so I can follow Christ.” In “Brokeback Mountain” fashion, “I wish I knew how to quit Christ” because most days I’m in complete agreement with George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Eddie Izzard that these faith follies make no freaking sense whatsoever.

Maybe I am just reading the wrong red-letter version of the Bible, but I cannot reconcile the Greatest Commandment with the sound bites uttered by believers like Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Bill O’Reilly. Nor am I interested in the God goo espoused by Oprah and her cadre of self-help quacks.

As I expound in “Jesus Died for This?,” my late father was a radical hippie Episcopal priest who imbued me with a sense of idealism about what could be possible, only to have both my parents succumb to alcoholism before my 17th birthday. Like many comics, humor and satire became the vehicle that helped me to hang on like some crazed pit bull as I emerged from my childhood looking like a reject from a Flannery O’Connor novel. If I hadn’t become a religious satirist, I suspect that I’d be pushing daises by now.

But while I possess no logical reason for wanting a thing do to with Christianity, I’ve caught just enough tiny glimpses of God to know there’s something happening that’s outside of me. So, I started on a quest to seek out signs of the risen Christ amid mounds of Jesus junk that eventually led to this book. And, like Forrest Gump, I’m going to keep on walking.

There are some expressions of Christianity that leave you cold. You describe a Joel Osteen event at Yankee Stadium as a ‘happy-happy-joy-joy multimedia spectacle’ that amounts to ‘faith fast food.’ Are you hopeful that Christians are beginning to seek out what you consider more ‘nourishing’ forms of Christianity?

Garrison:What gives me hope is that in my travels, I’m observing this growing underground movement of folks exploring what it means to enact Jesus’ kingdom here on Earth. They refuse to be branded and reject labels like emergent, organic church, missional, new monasticism and even Christianity. These folks tend to be very politically conscious but fight for change at the grassroots level because they’ve seen too many progressives lose their prophetic voice by becoming Obamatronics.

Some of the voices they read include Cornel West, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero and others who integrate faith and social justice, as well as a rediscovery of the ancient mystics. A few places where I like to play on the fringes include the Web sites Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha and the Revealer, as well as the magazine Geez.

Tell us a bit about your understanding of the real Jesus — the risen Christ — and why many Christians struggle to follow him.

Garrison: The risen Christ is a rough act for anyone to follow. On a biblical level, even though Jesus’ disciples were actually hanging with the Son of God, they kept doing moves that are more Monty Pythonesque than prophetic and pastoral.

From an empire perspective, think of what would happen if religious institutions actually implemented Christ’s teachings on a global scale? Way too many people in power have too much invested in this Christian culture to ever let that happen.

And on a more personal note, there is that whole give up everything and follow me biz that goes directly against our consumerist culture not to mention the need to practice a form of radical love that I find next to impossible to put into practice.

How many of us are really prepared to follow this way of this radical love maker, rule breaker who cut through every conceivable societal barrier to welcome all to come into the kingdom?

He even ate with women who at that time were accorded the same status as the family donkey. Are we willing to break bread with, say, child sex slaves, transgender teens and undocumented workers? Because when Jesus comes back to Earth, that’s where he’ll be hanging.

Garrison will be in Austin in November. For more information, email jesusdiedforthis@gmail.com.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jack Wirtz permalink
    August 25, 2010 1:19 pm

    G.K. Chesterson accurately identified the truth of the matter when he said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” And so it has always been. Eden is forever past and the “Kingdom come” has already come_ in heaven. Just as Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). But still the man who shoots an arrow at the Sun, though he misses his mark by far, yet he still shoots father and higher than the man who shoots at a bush. Though the race fails, the fault lies not in Christ who established His perfect law, but in the one’s who refuse live it. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

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