Monday, January 10, 2011

Christianity and Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the funniest movies ever filmed. I hope that after the bombs have fallen and the survivors of mankind must war against the super-intelligent cockroaches, someone finds this movie in a vault. It will give our descendants an 89-minute release from the horrors of post-nuclear life. It should be a part of our cultural legacy for centuries. Those of you who haven't seen it are probably annoyed with those who have because we quote the movie all the time. That's on purpose; if we tick you off enough, you'll just break down and watch it. Then you will join us. Join us. Join us.

However, the Christian viewer ought to stop and think about its depiction of God. God is shown to be annoyed at the overly-pious response of the faithful Arthur and his knights. He is frustrated that their apparently sincere reverence is keeping Him from His important business. He has arrived simply to give Arthur his mission to find the Holy Grail. An excerpt from the exchange:

GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's "sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy". What are you doing now!?

ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, oh Lord.

GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms-- they're so depressing. Now knock it off!

What has Scripture to say? God the Father tells Moses that man shall not see God and live. In the New Testament, the Apostle John twice tells us that no one has ever seen God the Father. Paul speaks of the unapproachable glory of God in his encouragement to Timothy. So is Arthur's reaction really so ridiculous?

It would also be serious if this Monty Python scene is an attempt to make a joke of God. Paul elsewhere tells us that God is not mocked. We are told that mocking God and His prophets is what caused God to lead Judah into exile and lose the Promised Land. The Third Commandment given to Moses forbids God's chosen to use His name vainly. This is proven serious some time later when a guy is actually stoned to death for cursing another in God's name.

So how do those of us who love God and take Him seriously and adore Him above all else take away from all this? I think the very first thing is to not make too light of this subject. God is to be held in reverence. There can be nothing held higher than Him in our hearts or on our lips; to do so would be idolatry. Second, we should sift through this treatment of God critically and recognize it for what it is--an author who does not know God as He really is.

I don't mean to sound like a wacky fundamentalist or a killjoy. Those guys are the worst. They can't laugh at anything, either because they are too literally-minded or because they take lots of other things that aren't God and hold them in a similar position to God. You know the type. 'You mustn't listen to rock music because somehow voodoo African rhythms hypnotize you into smoking pot." "You can't watch movies with 'grown-up' language because you'll get desensitized to it and next thing you know you'll be cursing your parents' graves and fornicating with a streetwalker." But honestly, some things ought not be taken lightly. The big two are God Himself and the suffering of innocent victims; those two subjects aren't funny at all because they make a farce out of something very serious.

I still love The Holy Grail. The truth is that God still comes out of the movie looking very competent, which isn't really true of anyone else. I also considered the possibility that the creators were mocking people's idea of God and not Yahweh Himself--an idea which would have been fine. However, the point of the joke is that people must get on God's nerves by being constantly afraid of Him. Yet the Bible says three different times that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So keep the good of Holy Grail because it is very clever; endure this scene because you must.

...And because the nuclear cockroaches have no laughter.

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