I went to see Brit comedian Eddie Izzard perform live this weekend. He was hilarious; great. He did one bit illustrating the idea that Latin became a dead language because it was just too complicated. A Roman legionnaire comes running to tell a centurion that Hannibal and his elephants have crossed the Alps but he can’t get the verb conjugations or noun declensions right and keeps stammering: “Elephantis… elephanti… elephantitis…” while the puzzled centurion says, “Quid? Qua? Quo?” It was genuine comic genius and nearly killed me.
Now along with being a brilliant comedian, Izzard is a couple of other things I’m not: a transvestite and an atheist. The transvestism is whatever it is – he mentioned it but did not, as he sometimes does, dress the part.
The atheism, on the other hand, was central to his routine, which included some very funny mockery of Bible stories and religious beliefs – including mine.
Now I know this sort of thing bugs some believers, but it doesn’t bother me at all and here’s why – two reasons. First, Izzard comes across as a person of good will who works hard at his humanity. The honest atheism of a man like that is, I feel confident, far more pleasing to God than rote, Pharisaical or fanatical faith.
But more than this, faith is central to a person’s interior world – and that world is the raw material out of which artist’s make art. As someone who has written atheist novels myself, I’m painfully aware that an artist’s spiritual journey becomes perforce a matter of public record. And if he’s a good artist and honest, that can be an important force for good. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland is a brilliant evocation of a world without God – it was also a stepping stone on Eliot’s journey to Christ. It was a stepping stone on my journey to Christ, for that matter. So, having been exactly where Izzard is in this regard, I was actually delighted to see him making something so wonderfully entertaining out of it. What God makes out of it is yet to be seen.
Anyway, he’s a terribly funny guy and it was a great show. If you’ve never seen him, try this – Darth Vader in the Death Star canteen – Not Suitable For Work… unless, of course, you work at the Death Star canteen.
I’m disconcerted to find that January’s not even over and I’ve already burned through most of my Christmas books. Haven’t hit upon anything great so far, but this one – Galileo Goes to Jail – was kind of cool. It’s from the Harvard University Press, a series of essays by scholars ranging from atheist to devout, exploring what they call “myths” about the relationship between science and religion.
So we learn that the Copernican revolution that put the sun at the center of the solar system did NOT, in fact, offend Christian authorities because they thought it demoted man from the glorious center of creation. Many approved of Copernicus and those who didn’t were irked that his theory raised mankind too high. They thought the disgraced and sinful earth belonged at the center of the solar system because that was furthest from God.
And what else? Galileo wasn’t tortured by the church, though he was put under house arrest; Newton’s Christianity was integral to his scientific thinking; Darwin didn’t convert on his death bed (he’d become agnostic not because of his theories but because of personal tragedy and his rejection of the doctrine of damnation); and Einstein never really bought into the idea of a personal God (he was wrong about quantum physics too).
Personally, I think the whole religion vs. science thing is overdone – mostly by those who are against religion. The truth is everybody messes with science, including scientists! Feminists don’t want biologists to explore the deep and unchanging differences between women and men; evidence that IQ scores differ among races is met with cries of condemnation from the liberal establishment; and whenever someone closes in on the causes of homosexuality, the New York Times immediately starts fretting about what it means - how the hell would they know what it means and what difference does it make anyway? And of course, climategate shows that even scientists themselves will cook the books to sell their anti-capitalist hysteria.
I myself believe the facts should be faced fearlessly, and that they can be faced fearlessly if we remember two simple rules: whatever the facts turn out to be, we must continue, as Galileo said, to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.
Or wait. Maybe that wasn’t Galileo.
Patrick Goldstein, lefty LA Times movie dude, unloaded on me the other day for my take on Inglorious Basterds (see below). I responded by having John Nolte go over there and kneecap the guy (you do not want to mess with Nolte). But there was a smarter and more considered response from S.T. Karnick over at The American Culture.
Speaking of American Culture, this is a bit self-referential or infinitely regressive or whatever, but Daniel Crandall also has a very nice piece up there, taking note that I’ve shut down my Pajamas Media blog and have been mouthing off over here instead.
All of which gives me a chance to point readers here over there. American Culture is an excellent site, a strong salient in the war to win back the arts for sanity – a war I’m very optimistic about, by the way. So use the link here to take you there and the link there to take you back here and just keep doing that until you start to feel kind of silly.
Huzzah! It’s time for another episode of Klavan on the Culture from PJTV. This one’s a fun game–can you spot the difference between reality and American culture? As Super Mario would say, “Let’s play!” Except he’d say it falsetto with an Italian accent. The visuals, as always, are by the lovely and talented Justin Folk.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has scheduled publication of Andrew’s new novel Identity Man for sometime this fall. The urban thriller tells the story of a suspected murderer who is given a chance to start again with a new identity. “It’s a thriller about identity politics,” Andrew says. “In an age when we define identity as race and gender, I wanted to explore what really makes us who we are.”