“But do you really still believe in God?” Becky asks me at a comedy club Friday night, 1:30am, after I do a set for fifteen people who were all falling asleep. I say yes because that is the easiest answer to give, and it is true some of the time, though most of the time “I don’t know” would be more accurate. But an “I don’t know” seems silly to me. It’s weak. Wishy-washy. Indicative of failure to sort through, consider, reflect. If I devoted more energy to this question of God’s existence, to the legitimacy of Christianity, to my sources of truth, would I not have a more solid yes or no to give Becky? On the drive home I sense small pangs of guilt. For once these pains are not of my failure to do the proverbial murdering of the crowd. Tonight I lament my complacency, my uncertainty concerning this supernatural being I talk about on stage but rarely give any thought to off of it. Are you real, God? Am I using you for a shtick?
Saturday night I perform for people who are alert, listening, laughing, thank God. Afterward, an elderly gentleman approaches me. He says, “You’re not really a Christian, are you? That’s just a character you do?” I smile and assure him that I am, indeed, a Christian, that most of what I say on stage is true to reality. “I don’t buy it,” he says. “Christians don’t talk like you talk. You can’t say what you said on stage and be a Christian.” I had no idea that such authorities on Christianity would be present at a comedy show. I explain to this man that the fundamentalist Christian characters he might see on television or even in the news are not representative of the Church as a whole. I say that his idea of Christianity isn’t necessarily in line with what Jesus preached. That people have murked up the words of Jesus, that we cling to rules and traditions that may not be of utmost importance, may not be grounded in truth. I say to this man that I can be a Christian and it is not the kind of Christian my parents in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, would like me to be, but that does not negate my faith.
The man says, “I’m not so sure about that.”
He asks about my stance on homosexuality, on heaven and hell, on other world religions. I give him my honest answers. He doesn’t think they align with Christian teachings, and maybe they don’t. I thought I could still be a Christian with those opinions in hand, but perhaps not. Perhaps he is right. I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought. I haven’t been asking questions. I don’t know where I stand in the world of evangelicalism, or Christianity, or the supernatural. That is the world that made me, and yet what is it to me now?
We all have our gods. I don’t want to make comedy or writing or romance or whatever else my god because I know those things will let me down. They already have. They will continue to disappoint. They are great things, but they are not worth my worship. But I also don’t know if I can worship a being who may or may not exist, who I will always question, who I easily forget.
I don’t know what I think about God, but I love the Church. The Church, arguably the manifestation of Christ on earth. Arguably the most tangible expression of God. On the Friday before my show for drowsy people not ready to be wooed into laughter, I drink beer with some friends. They are not old friends, but they know me and support me, and they are my family here. “I just love you guys so much,” I say. “And I’m not even drunk.” These people are my church. They are The Church. They practice the disclosing of the truth. They work through tension. They know how to forgive. They are willing to sacrifice the self for the other, because after all, we are one body.
I was warned that comedy would be a dark place, full of depressed narcissists, full of people fighting for attention. This is not entirely false. If comedy is art, of course it will contain some darkness. Art exposes the human condition, much of which involves hurt. And yet. I have found great lightness in comedy, lightness beyond laughter from a good joke. Last week at an open mic, seven of us were left to go up. We all listened to each other do their allotted five minutes. We did not check our phones. We laughed when we thought something was funny. We were tired and ready to go home, but we stuck it out. We are all striving, and we all recognized that. As the host of the mic got up to thank us for staying, I wondered what would happen if the apocalypse would occur in that very moment. What would happen if I were somehow trapped with those six other comedians. And I thought it would be okay. Because they too are the Church. Sharing space and time and dreams and acknowledging the humanness in the other. Most of them would discount that language, would shake their heads at even the existence of God. So maybe this is heretical. But if I am to be a Christian, it is the Christian I want to be. And I will see God and the Church where I can see them.