If you haven’t completed your daily Scripture reading yet, you’re in luck. I can provide four profound Bible quotes, all from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, pre-packaged in an entertaining video format. We can thank three slightly surprising sources–a politician, an actor, and a comedian–who had memorized their own favorite slices of Philippi when I saw them on TV. The comedian, Steven Colbert, a clever and joyful Catholic satirist who deserves to be watched closely as he hosts “The Late Show,” orchestrated this unusual Bible study. He prays and preys in popular culture–sometimes worthy of a censer, sometimes worthy of a censor.
Colbert can spark memorable moments that evoke the best, timeless virtues of television entertainment. As a host (someone who makes good things possible for others), he can bring together talented guests for intelligent, witty conversations that bring audiences hope about themselves and the world. Under ideal circumstances, viewers can head to bed feeling truly entertained–that is, given sustenance, paid attention to, respected for their dignity.
The Late Show accomplished this act of kindness for me during some random moments on Thursday, Aug. 25. You can simply enjoy seeing (around the 2:30 mark in this video) how it came to pass that Colbert playfully exchanged Philippians quotes with vice presidential candidate Gov. Tim Kaine.
Later, Colbert opened the door for two more quotes, enthusiastically pitched/preached by celebrity Tony Hale of the HBO series “Veep” (at about 2:29 in this video). My thanks go to blogger Blake I. Collier here for the images and insights. He captured Hale’s supporting role in the New Evangelization.
Three ostensibly coincidental pop-culture incursions by the Holy Spirit on a single, sometimes coarse late-night show? Proponents can use the term “Godwinks” for such coincidences which stage midnight raids on TV’s toxic thinking and shameless self-promotion .
We might credit this troupe of accidental purists–Colbert, Hale, and Kaine–with suddenly taking a detour around conventional edginess, jolting us with references to St. Paul’s inspired writings, instead of something cynical or dismissive. Their unscripted conversations connected the dots between the wise words of Phil 2:3, Phil 4:6, Phil 4:8, and Phil 4:13, not necessarily in that order. We can’t promise this connectivity was birthed in total innocence. This game of verse-versus-verse might have roots in Pharisaical show-off instincts.
But we can be grateful that quoting the Philippians, in some contexts, is still considered a desirable public act (albeit humble bragging). Acting through various amalgams of good will and mere pretense, boastful self-promotion and spontaneous authenticity, God continues to pass along the Good News, in our acts of speaking and listening, in print or video. We watch imperfect human beings perform as empowering hosts and engaged guests, somehow inviting the Holy Spirit in for a moment of true entertainment. The Late Show, like other TV shows where real professionals cultivate wit and kindness, can literally point to a brighter new day. Paul foretold this in Phil. 1:15-18. We can learn from the Philippians, who were a receptive audience for Paul, “staying tuned” as he unveiled paradoxes and other truths with life-changing implications.
THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FOR STAYING TUNED! With this entry in my long-running blog at blogs.nd.edu/word/, I am transitioning so that past reflections and new commentaries all can be found in a different online place. They are part of my independent venture, OnWord, with its official home at onword.net, which will grow as a reflection of my larger body of work, thoughts, relationships, and aspirations for the future. One playfully misspelled word sums up that lifetime vocation of communication, driven toward perfection through collaborations among colleagues, clients and communities of all sorts. That word is ONWORD!