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Why I'm a Good Christian by Ricky Gervais
April 15, 2011 4:37 PM   Subscribe

On the cusp of Holy Week, Ricky Gervais enlightens with an essay outlining why he is a good Christian.

This is a follow up to a prior holiday message titled Why I'm an Atheist. (previously)
posted by hugandpint (69 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love how it takes a comedian to articulate my belief system.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:49 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If he's trying to demonstrate that he's a good Christian, why is he ticking off all the ten commandments? Has he never read Matthew 5?
posted by The World Famous at 4:52 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The commandment could equally be, You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in “vanity” e.g. when your enemy is hurt or defeated saying, “that’s God’s wrath,” or when you win an award saying, “thank God.” This is using his name in vanity. It’s suggesting that you KNOW that God helped you win that award because you deserved it more, or because he was on your side. It’s always tickled me that God would have a favourite actor at The Golden Globes.

I thought this was an interesting thought. Is this a common reading of "thou shalt not take his name in vain"?
posted by dialetheia at 4:55 PM on April 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


He's pretty blithe about not being covetous. Most people are pretty damn covetous. I suppose being rich might help assuage some of the reasons most people are covetous, but it seems to exacerbate others. Convince me you're not covetous, Ricky.

Or don't. This was a pretty breezy article.
posted by gurple at 5:05 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good for him.

Now stop hanging your atheism on religious holidays Ricky.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:06 PM on April 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I love Gervais, and I'm an atheist, and I agree with him, but this article is still pretty thin — much like the man himself as of late.
posted by defenestration at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am of course not a good Christian in the sense that I believe that Jesus was half man, half God

To be fair, believing this wouldn't make him a very good Christian either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:11 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


What an asshole.
posted by oddman at 5:15 PM on April 15, 2011


To be a good Christian, he'd have to believe that Jesus was fully a god, and 100% a man, that god is absolutely only one entity, and that certainly god is three different entities.
posted by found missing at 5:18 PM on April 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Re. Whether "vanity" is a common reading of 'in vain', I think yes. I know my mom would say so.
posted by lodurr at 5:20 PM on April 15, 2011


Found missing: that would work until he ran afoul of the good christians who believe jesus was fully divine and not not a man, or that the trinity is blasphemy.
posted by lodurr at 5:23 PM on April 15, 2011


I'm not sure why people have problems with a triune god. Or a fully divine being made fully human. Or transubstantiation. I can wrap my head around these things and I am an atheist.

Jesus people! You pretend like there wasn't 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:25 PM on April 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


What an asshole.

To be fair, he'd probably say the same about you.
posted by item at 5:26 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I read a review of the new Bill Hicks documentary today (paraphrase):
Audience member: "As a Christian I am offended by your comments about religion."
Reply: "Forgive Me."
posted by ovvl at 5:37 PM on April 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


cjorgensen, sure. but we're not maneuvering for salvation (or control of an empire) over these questions.
posted by lodurr at 5:54 PM on April 15, 2011


Bulgaroktonos: "To be fair, believing this wouldn't make him a very good Christian either."

I bet the Nestorians are pissed that Ricky Gervais took the time to specifically reject heteroousianism but not monophysitism.
posted by Copronymus at 5:57 PM on April 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


What an asshole.

To be fair, he'd probably say the same about you.


Well he's done worse. So, I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by oddman at 6:15 PM on April 15, 2011


Now stop hanging your atheism on religious holidays Ricky.

Sweet Jebus, the irony. You know where Christmas and Easter come from, right?
posted by DU at 6:18 PM on April 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ricky's mom?
posted by lodurr at 6:20 PM on April 15, 2011


OK, that was cheap. Ricky, if you're sockpuppeting on this thread, please forgive me.
posted by lodurr at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those monophysites, always whining.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:30 PM on April 15, 2011


Ricky, bow your head and repeat after me --

Dear Jesus, thank you for letting The Office be one of the greatest television comedies ever. And thank you that because of the worldwide success of the spinoffs, that I am now one of the wealthiest entertainers who has ever lived. But please forgive me for coasting on that success and making my fans sit through my brutally unfunny and pompous twat movies and HBO specials. In your infinite mercy, please help me to be funny again, and not the irrelevant douche and one hit wonder I fear I am becoming. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
posted by puny human at 6:38 PM on April 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The same hypocritical christian sentiment that Ricky Gervais alludes to, the literal sticking to the letter of the 'law' instead of any positive sentiments that might be gleaned from the bible*, is all to evident in the comments on the original article.

There's Jihad envy: "I'd like to see him say the same about Islam" - We Christians might be all loving and full of forgiveness, but that doesn't stop us wishing that some other religion's followers would kill the author of the piece (simultaneously punishing the blasphemer by proxy and showing how those followers of another faith are both violent savages - double win!)

Then there's the sophisticates: "Well Jesus is both fully God and fully human so there, mr The Office man. I can safely ignore the rest of the article now that I have shown you are ignorant of the more intricate mysteries of theology."

And of course the "Respect meeee's!": "For reasons that I don't think I have to explain - for it is surely self evident that this article is worse than killing babies and something must be done" (mostly cancelling non-existant subscriptions to periodicals).

* Not that I can think of any positive moral lessons that aren't contradicted by a preponderence of bad ones in that lashed together patchwork of re-re-translated tribal memoirs
posted by JustAsItSounds at 6:44 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to the gospel writers, there was a dude who gave pretty much the same speech as Gervais, right to Jesus face:

‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

(from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark)
posted by straight at 7:05 PM on April 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I thought this was an interesting thought. Is this a common reading of "thou shalt not take his name in vain"?

Christian pastors frequently preach along these lines, saying that the 3rd commandment forbids things like pretending you have God's blessing for your personal agenda, talking about God in ways that trivialize him, etc.

It was common for Christians who opposed the Gulf War to denounce Christians who seemed to claim it was God's will as "taking God's name in vain."

And I'm sure Jewish scholars and teachers have an even more rich, elaborate, and nuanced tradition of explaining what all the 3rd commandment forbids.
posted by straight at 7:12 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I liked his bit in that Louis C.K. show but I like Louis C.K. in the Louis C.K. show better. I think I have a bit of a man-crush on Louis C.K. He was lovely in Parks and Recreation.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:42 PM on April 15, 2011


I realize that timing a religion/atheism discussion around the time of a religious holiday makes a good deal of sense. And he raises some interesting points.

But for some reason I can't quite seem to shake a strange "the gentlemen doth protest too much" vibe from Gervais' comments. I'm not sure where I'm getting it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Convince me you're not covetous, Ricky.

Well the targeted readers of this article are clearly not covetous. Look at the sponsored ad at the bottom of the page:

"Invest In Gold - Free Kit
Over $500 of Gold Delivered, Since 1960. Get Free Kit Now!"

They managed to sell $500 of Gold in *fifty years*. Plus the Free Kit!
posted by storybored at 7:49 PM on April 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I really wished that had been edited for grammar.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:01 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Half-man, half-God? That's not Jesus, that's like a...godotaur.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:57 PM on April 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Half-man, half-God?

All cop.
posted by device55 at 9:18 PM on April 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


John Dominic Crossan's 'blasphemous' portrait of Jesus
posted by homunculus at 9:37 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If he's trying to demonstrate that he's a good Christian, why is he ticking off all the ten commandments? Has he never read Matthew 5?

He's ticking off the 10 commandments because some religious people tend to make a big deal about them. For example, on my daily drive to school, I pass a half dozen or so displays of the 10 commandments, but zero references to the Sermon on the Mount.

I couldn't tell you why it's the case, but it seems like many people identify much more strongly with the 10 commandments as an icon of their faith than they do with anything in the New Testament.
posted by jcreigh at 10:10 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Half-man, half-God? That's not Jesus, that's like a...godotaur.

"ALL THESE GIRLS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA," bellowed the godotaur.
posted by straight at 10:14 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I couldn't tell you why it's the case, but it seems like many people identify much more strongly with the 10 commandments as an icon of their faith than they do with anything in the New Testament.

My guess is that it has to do with the history of secularization in this country.

When the most common non-Christian religious "other" was Jewish people, specifically Christian symbols left the public square first, with the more "universal" Ten Commandments remaining, as people shifted from talking about America's "Christian heritage" to its "Judeo-Christian heritage."

Then as the country became more diverse (or more aware of and sensitive to existing diversity), the Ten Commandments was also seen as less appropriate in public schools and government buildings. Christians who had never seen a cross or pictures of Jesus in public buildings in their lifetime watched the Ten Commandments get removed or at least challenged, and so that's what they got upset and defiant about.
posted by straight at 10:24 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most people are pretty damn covetous.
posted by gurple at 1:05 AM on April 16


"Most people"? You're basing this on what?

Not me. I don't covet anything from anybody.
posted by Decani at 1:32 AM on April 16, 2011


What an asshole.
posted by oddman at 1:15 AM on April 16


You might want to work on that whole "turning the other cheek" bit your boy told you to do, oddman.
posted by Decani at 1:34 AM on April 16, 2011


still pretty thin — much like the man himself as of late.

I'll say.
posted by Decani at 1:38 AM on April 16, 2011


You know where Christmas and Easter come from, right?

I think pagans were, you know, also religious.

Also, Christmas and Easter have been Christian for more than 1500 years. It's debatable (interestingly) whether Easter was named after a pagan goddess or not:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

AFAIK, goddesses are also pretty religious.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 2:07 AM on April 16, 2011


EIGHT

‘You shall not steal.’

Nope. Tick.


What, never? Never ever? Not one joke?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:21 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You might want to work on that whole "turning the other cheek" bit your boy told you to do, oddman.

You seem awfully certain that oddman is Christian. Maybe oddman is just anti-asshole.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 AM on April 16, 2011


Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’

I've got my fingers in my ears and I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:09 AM on April 16, 2011


And crap as this article was, I'd definitely wear a 'Bummers for Satan' t-shirt.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:10 AM on April 16, 2011


Decani, you are right.

His being an asshole doesn't excuse my being intolerant. Forgive, me I'm a sinner and douchebaggery about other people's religions brings out the worst in me.
posted by oddman at 5:24 AM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ah man, I was hoping you were just anti-asshole.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:26 AM on April 16, 2011


i love Ricky and love that he wont give up on talking about atheism (hollaback atheists!) but i feel his stand up of late (and yes, these written pieces are an extension of his standup) are jacking Eddie Izzard's work but without the women's clothes and makeup :\
posted by liza at 7:57 AM on April 16, 2011


Dear Mr. Gervais: Thank you for your essay! I constantly struggle with uncertainty and doubt about my faith and feel burning shame about the acts of my supposed brethren, and it's awfully nice to feel smug about my beliefs. (If only for a moment. Then I get back to doubting and wonder why I wasted my time on such sophomoric drivel). Anyway, please continue to write!
posted by generalist at 8:25 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen, is it OK if I'm both?
posted by oddman at 9:58 AM on April 16, 2011


I'm always bemused by those who claim that the US legal system is based on the 10 commandments. Only 2 of the 10 are actually illegal.
posted by binturong at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2011


I don't covet anything from anybody.

Really? I don't mean this as snark, but do you know what that word means?

Because if you honestly never find yourself wishing you had something that someone else has and you don't, then that's pretty awesome.

Unless you're just some kinda billionaire who already has everything.
posted by straight at 12:15 PM on April 16, 2011


Because if you honestly never find yourself wishing you had something that someone else has and you don't, then that's pretty awesome.

Envy, together with regret, is the most futile of emotions. "I wish I had that." "I wish I had/had not done that." What's done is done. The guy with the Maserati may actually be less happy than you. If you think billionaires "already have everything" you may want to research the lives of the rich and famous.
posted by binturong at 1:31 PM on April 16, 2011


What I'm saying is I covet your ability to be content with what you have.
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, noticing those moments when you've shown some genuine humility is exactly like losing the game.
posted by straight at 2:46 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


straight: " And I'm sure Jewish scholars and teachers have an even more rich, elaborate, and nuanced tradition of explaining what all the 3rd commandment forbids."

I'm neither.

I've heard the commandment explained (from a Jewish perspective) as a prohibition against speaking G-d's name. Or of breaking an promise/sworn oath made using the name of G-d.

My wife used to work for a synagogue in Dallas. The head rabbi there, a Rabbi William Gershon, included an essay in a recent synagogue newsletter in which he talked about the ten commandments. I'll try to give the gist of it here:

The Hebrew for the third commandment can be transliterated as follows:

Lo tisa et shem Adonai elohecha la shav. In its most literal, word-for-word translation, "Not you shall take the name (of) the Lord, G-d of you, for vanity."

The second hebrew word, "tisa" is תשא in Hebrew, which means "you shall take." Hebrew is an ancient language, and words don't always perfectly translate into English. Rabbi Gershon told his congregation that a more perfect translation of "tisa" would be "you shall carry." Which would mean that the third commandment would now translate as "You shall not carry the name of the Lord your G-d in vain."

IOW, if you self-identify as a Jew, you have an obligation to act ethically according to Jewish religious law. You should not claim to be a Jew then say, cheat people in business or steal from your neighbors. Religious ritual and ethical behaviour are intertwined and cannot be separated. If you are an ethical person, then the rituals you perform have meaning.

I don't speak Hebrew. Can't speak to whether Rabbi Gershon was accurate about word תשא. But I still thought it a neat way of looking at the commandment.
posted by zarq at 6:11 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


dialatheia I thought this was an interesting thought. Is this a common reading of "thou shalt not take his name in vain"?

Having been raised a Catholic, I never understood it otherwise. Of course, this doesn't stop the Roman Catholic Church itself from taking the Lord's name often and quite liberally, so not everybody in the Catholic hierarchy may share my and Gervais' interpretation...
posted by Skeptic at 4:25 AM on April 17, 2011


I'm neither impressed or offended by either of Gervais' essays. They're in a limbo of almost good, but not really bad for me.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2011


You seem awfully certain that oddman is Christian. Maybe oddman is just anti-asshole.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on April 16


I happen to know oddman is Christian because of an email exchange we had a few years back. But thanks for calling me an asshole.
posted by Decani at 4:03 PM on April 17, 2011


I don't covet anything from anybody.

Really? I don't mean this as snark, but do you know what that word means?

Because if you honestly never find yourself wishing you had something that someone else has and you don't, then that's pretty awesome.

Unless you're just some kinda billionaire who already has everything.
posted by straight at 8:15 PM on April 16


Yes, I know what that word means. I am fifty-one years old and I went to a very good English grammar school so, you know, I understand English and stuff. And yes, I have never wanted something someone else has. I have always been content with what I have. I am not particularly enamoured by stuff. I am very, very non-materialistic. If I have food, drink, shelter and something to play my music on, I am perfectly content. Nothing else is of any significant interest to me at all. And me a morally debased atheist too! Who'd'a thunk it?
posted by Decani at 4:08 PM on April 17, 2011


He wasn't calling you an asshole. How did you read it that way.

Also, earlier in this thread I see that word g-d. What in God's name does that mean? I feel like I'm on Wheel of Fortune.
posted by found missing at 4:12 PM on April 17, 2011


He wasn't calling you an asshole.
posted by found missing at 12:12 AM on April 18


I suspect EmpressCallipygos is a she, but if she wasn't calling me an asshole then my day is complete and lovely. Oddman is still a goddamned Christian though. :-)
posted by Decani at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2011


I suspect EmpressCallipygos is a she

Of course, sorry, EC.
posted by found missing at 4:22 PM on April 17, 2011


found missing: "Also, earlier in this thread I see that word g-d. What in God's name does that mean? I feel like I'm on Wheel of Fortune."

Why Do Some Jews Spell "God" G-d? Also see this wikipedia page.

I usually use a hyphen unless I forget. I'll write about a "god" or "many gods" when referring to someone else's religion, but when I'm talking about my own I try to remember to write it that way out of respect.
posted by zarq at 4:40 PM on April 17, 2011


There's a line in that wikipedia page that was kinda hilarious:

Elah (Hebrew: אֵלָה), (plural "elim") is the Aramaic word for "awesome".

I'm guessing they mean it in the literal sense: awe-filled, or awe-inspiring. 'Cause somehow I doubt passages like, "And Moses said to the people of Israel, "That burning bush was totes righteous, dudes. Wicked awesome," would go over well with the faithful. :D
posted by zarq at 4:44 PM on April 17, 2011


Ok, understood. My interpretation (not yours) is that it's like not speaking the name of the Scottish play. Clearly I'll have a lot to answer for when I die and meet your -o-.
posted by found missing at 4:58 PM on April 17, 2011


found missing: "Ok, understood. My interpretation (not yours) is that it's like not speaking the name of the Scottish play.

Heh. Pretty much. :)

Clearly I'll have a lot to answer for when I die and meet your -o-."

Nah. Jews generally don't believe our rules/laws/guidelines/traditions/rituals should be applied to non-Jews. Assuming you're not Jewish, you're good. :)
posted by zarq at 5:12 PM on April 17, 2011


But thanks for calling me an asshole.

...As has been implied, I was not. But now I'm wondering why you thought I was calling you an asshole in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 PM on April 17, 2011


I am not, in fact, damned by God. If I'm damned, it is by my own doing. Thank you very much. (If I'm saved, however, that will be entirely God's doing.)
posted by oddman at 8:55 PM on April 17, 2011


In other news: Andres Serrano's Piss Christ destroyed by Christian protesters
posted by homunculus at 10:19 AM on April 19, 2011


What assholes those people are, too.
posted by oddman at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2011


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