Editorial: My (fantasy) dinner with Bill Maher

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

What’s your weirdest fantasy?

OK; loaded question. We’re not that kind of publication. I’m talking about strongly desiring to do something highly unusual—and, hopefully, wholesome and productive. It’s something your imagination can hardly comprehend. But if it happened, it would be way cool.

While you’re thinking about yours, I’ll tell you mine.

knox newEditor Marv KnoxOne of my fantasies is to eat dinner with Bill Maher. He’s a stand-up comedian, commentator, movie producer and host of his own show on HBO. He’s brilliant. He’s funny. He’s hard on his enemies and generous to his friends. He’s one of the two or three most effective political satirists in America.

But this is a scares-the-bejabbers-out-of-me fantasy. That’s because Maher also is an atheist. He seems to hate Christians. And from what I can tell, he rejects Jesus.

True confession: I don’t see Maher’s TV program very often. I’m too cheap to subscribe to HBO. But every now and then, when I’m traveling, I’ll watch him in a hotel room somewhere. Usually, Maher and his guests talk politics and current events. Fertile fodder for comedians. They make me laugh. And since laughter is part of the recipe for a good night’s sleep, I enjoy their humor before nodding off.

Too disturbed to sleep

But sometimes, I’m too disturbed to go to sleep. That’s when Maher’s conversation has turned to Christians, and he’s gotten all angry and exercised. Wound up for a good rant. Usually, it’s because somebody who claims to be a Christian has done something mean or said something stupid. Think the Westboro (“God Hates Fags”) Baptist Church showing up to protest at a military funeral. Sometimes, a Christian has acted unapologetically, flagrantly, disgustingly hypocritically. Think pedophile priests or adulterous preachers.

With the TV off, I lie in the dark, thinking.

“Of course, Maher hates Christianity. If that’s all I knew about Christianity, I’d hate it too. No wonder Maher rejects Jesus. If all I knew of Jesus were the lascivious, selfish and/or vindictive actions of people who say they follow Jesus, I’d reject him too. Maher doesn’t believe in God? Makes perfect sense. If all God’s ambassadors were as lousy as the charlatans Maher’s been talking about, I’d think Nobody lives behind the curtain too.”

So, I wish we could go to dinner. Spend the evening talking.

In our fantasy conversation, I’d steer clear of debate. For one thing, Maher’s probably smarter than I am. For another, even if we’re equally smart, he debates people for a living; he’s sure to be better at it. And for a third, arguing about God and faith rarely, rarely, rarely changes anybody’s mind.

(Well, maybe we would talk about the problem of evil and suffering. But that’s only because he’d be shocked by my theory, and maybe the surprise might make him think about it later that night.)

First, I’d want to tell him what I like about him. I hope he’d realize not all Christians hate atheists, people of other faiths and religious outliers. And some of us aren’t offended by criticism, even vile criticism. I’d hope—and be praying—he would feel blessed, even if he couldn’t identify the sensation.

The other Christians

But mostly, I’d want to talk to him about the kinds of Christians who never get discussed on his program. We’d talk about …

• Folks who follow Jesus into the poorest, hardest neighborhoods to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

• Believers who spend their weekends in prisons, loving the unlovely.

• Disaster relievers who put their own lives at risk to help victims of violent nature put their lives back together.

• Christians who live modestly so they can buy food and shelter for the less fortunate.

• Pastors who work for less than minimum wage to give and give of themselves to comfort the afflicted.

• Brave Christians who buck political trends and popular opinion to stand up for justice and mercy.

• Women who rescue other women trafficked for their bodies.

• Foster parents who never, ever get a good night’s rest but show shattered little ones the meaning of unconditional love.

• Gentle folks who wake up thinking about who they can show kindness to before nightfall.

Chances are, I’ll never meet Bill Maher. But that doesn’t let me off the hook. Who knows when I’ll meet someone who’s been roughed up by religious people who emphasize law over love, who feel judgment rather than compassion. That’s when I need to be “another kind” of Christian to them. Maybe I’ll be the only Bible they ever read, as the old preachers used to say.

I pray they’ll feel loved. And maybe catch a glimpse of grace.

So, how about you? What’s your weirdest fantasy?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

Care to comment? Send an email to our interim opinion editor, Blake Atwood. Maximum length for publication is 250 words.