FROM Eddie Izzard (“If there was a God, don’t you think he would have flicked Hitler’s head off?”) to Tim Minchin (try “Thank you, God, for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s Mum”), there is no shortage of “fools” prepared to say, and not just in their heart, that there is no God.
What is missing, Clare Truman believes, is a forum for anyone who has ever laughed at such comedy routines and “wondered what a priest would make of it all”. This month, she held the first “Stand-up Christology” event — marketed online as “no-holds barred conversation about religion with people who know their stuff” — at St Mary’s, Guildford.
Eighteen people, aged between 20 and 80, came to explore the theme “Is God a Delusion?”, using clips featuring the aforementioned comedians and prominent theologians, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams and Rob Bell. A panel including both a Christian and an atheist was on hand to field questions.
Her hope is that the series — which she expects to be run each month — will meet demand for discussion about religion that is already taking place in comedy clubs, but is unmet, she feels, by much contemporary outreach. “The prevailing view seems to be that young adults are either not interested in talking about religion, or do not know enough about it to join in,” she said. “Attempts to make church more appealing for people in this age-group tend to focus on making the worship more lively and exciting, while keeping the message very simple, on the basis that young adults will not be able to cope with anything heavy-going because they have never been to church, and therefore they don’t know anything about God.
“This is not the reality of my experience. My non-churchgoing friends are very interested in religion, and are quite knowledgeable about a lot of it. RE is taught well in school now, and God is a hot topic for journalists, comedians, film-makers, and song-writers.”
“Generation Y” is, she believes, “comfortable, confident, and keen to have conversations about God, ethics, meaning and purpose in life, but simply don’t feel that the Church has anything useful to add”.
Ms Truman, who completed the Fresh Expressions Mission Shaped Ministry training programme in 2011, hopes that Stand-up Christology will provide a space “where informed theology and scholarship can be part of the discussion, alongside comedy, art, literature, newspaper headlines and everything else”.
The next event is on 3 December at St Mary’s, Guildford: https://postmodernchurch.wordpress.com/stand-up-christology/