As you may know, this here weblog has been on the move the past 24 hours from one server universe to another. So, while your GetReligionistas wrestle with all of the new bells and whistles in our updated software, let me pass on some good news from the religion-writer hereafter. It appears that religion writer and popular culture theologian Mark I. Pinsky is alive and well (lots of cool stuff at his home page) after his early retirement in Orlando. In fact, he still has his since of humor.
While most book lovers know Pinsky as the author of "The Gospel According to the Simpsons" (there are about 666 editions) and similar popular works, people who care about old-fashioned journalistic values such as accuracy and fairness are especially fond of one of his other works -- "A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed." Yes, Pinsky is a Jewish liberal but he has a well-earned reputation for his insights, even empathy, for evangelicals and their concerns. Obviously, he disagrees with them on many issues, but he covers their beliefs and actions with professionalism. It's called journalism (attention Newsweek).
Anyway, Pinsky is back with a new piece in USA Today entitled "Putting the 'fun' in fundamentalism." The whole idea is that the ability to laugh at one's life and culture is a sign of maturity. Thus, Pinsky is fascinated by the rise of comics or who are -- brace yourself -- traditional believers in a number of different faiths.
Behold! A sample:
The popular image of fundamentalist faith -- whether Jewish, Muslim or evangelical Christian -- is humorless, intolerant and angry, unhesitant to cast the first stone, sometimes literally. The words "whimsy" and "orthodoxy" do not often appear in the same sentence.
Yet humor is a way of explaining religion -- to its adherents and to others. Increasingly, believing members of orthodox faith traditions are able to joke about their foibles and shortcomings before an audience of their community -- if only in the safe, sheltered environs of a mosque social hall, an Israeli comedy club or a sold-out Apostles of Comedy concert at a central Florida megachurch.
Brad Stine is an angry, braying stand-up comic whose best-known venues are Promise Keepers rallies that have drawn thousands of evangelical Christian men to coliseums. He once admonished conservative churches that were burning Harry Potter books: "Here's a good rule of thumb: If Hitler tried it -- maybe go the other way." His first book was titled "Being a Christian Without Being an Idiot: 10 Assumed Truths That Make Us Look Stupid."
Shazia Mirza, a British stand-up and practicing Muslim, has taken the greatest risks.
"Last year, I went to Mecca to repent my sins, and I had to walk around the black stone," she told one audience. "All the women were dressed in black; you could only see their eyes. And I felt a hand touch my bottom. I ignored it. I thought, 'I'm in Mecca, it must be the hand of God.' But then it happened again. I didn't complain. Clearly, my prayers had been answered."
As the old saying goes, read it all.