We turn now to Cranmer Hall’s own Kate Bruce who is leading a session engaging with the Theology of Entertainment.
We started by thinking about those occasions where we have encountered something of God in entertainment and then wondered what the positives of associating with theology and entertainment.
Theology shouldn’t just be solemn and grim, but should engage with the joys and excitements of live.
Entertainment and religion can make risky bedfellows:
- Cult of celebrity
- Church as social club
- Religion hawked like merchandise
- Christianity in bed with popular culture may be less able to critique pop culture
- (The Hillsongisation of the Church?)
Why does the topic of Entertainment matter?
- Is there a link between preaching and entertainment?
- What is the link between laughter and mission?
There followed an exploration of how comedy functions, and the lovely image of Christianity itself being the divine comedy echoing with the holy laughter of the living saints.
This is a somewhat discursive talk, advancing points through questions such as:
What is the relationship between entertainment and mission? And Discipleship?
Are certain forms of entertainment more/less appropriate for a disciple and how do we discern which is which?
What are the ethical edges arising for a Christian living in a culture of entertainment?
Kate’s engaging style of presentation is almost as much the point as what she’s saying. The form of her presentation is conversational, banterous and articulate; looking around the room many people have smiles on their faces.
The content moves from a story about singing a song in an old people’s home to wrestling with Tertullian and Augustine who lived in Carthage, 150 years apart, which she describes as the 4th century Las Vegas. She guides us through their yearning for God and the inadequacy of the world to satisfy us while balancing an acknowledgement that beauty is wonderful, as best identified in this passage from Augustine’s confessions
What numberless things, made by divers arts and manufactures, both in our apparel, shoes, vessels, and every kind of work, in pictures, too, and sundry images, and these going far beyond necessary and moderate use and holy signification, have men added for the enthralment of the eyes; following outwardly what they make, forsaking inwardly Him by whom they were made, yea, and destroying that which they themselves were made! But I, O my God and my Joy, do hence also sing a hymn unto Thee, and offer a sacrifice of praise unto my Sanctifier, because those beautiful patterns, which through the medium of men’s souls are conveyed into their artistic hands, emanate from that Beauty which is above our souls, which my soul sigheth after day and night. — Source
Does (entertainment) open or close our hearts to compassion?
Does it help us to see through the eyes of another and open the door to vicarious understanding of the other?
Does it evoke the laughter of derision and spite or the laughter of shared understanding and recognition?
Does it help our vulnerability or deed our fantasies of power?
Lift our eyes beyond the mundane?
Show reverence for humanity?
We then looked at how the idea of play feeds into entertainment in such a way as to help form bonds among people, this idea comes from Huizinga and Gadamer’s works.
There’s something inherently playful about the nature of God, look at the Parables! There is a playfulness about the parables which is deeply and profoundly serious.
We then got to watch a video of one of Kate’s comedy sets, which unfortunately isn’t on YouTube so I can’t share it here! So here’s a picture! It was an amusing set starting from being a self-proclaimed vicar-in-knickers through several humorous anecdotes of scenarios from getting ordained through to a retreat at a convent.
We then had an opportunity to discuss what worked and didn’t work. One of thing things which was positive was the way in which the humour was able to subvert and challenge people’s preconceptions of what a vicar is and how they should be. One question was what is the long term impact? Have people been able to connect with it and engaged with church further?
Someone raised the element of authenticity; through communicating in this way Kate was communicating first and foremost as a human being and then and a vicar. The impact of that might go unseen but could be significant.
Another asked about how to incorporate elements of testimony as material to work with into a comedy routine.
It seems that there is also a peculiar relationship to the truth. All comedians enhance and work with their stories, but when those stories become the basis of a sense of connection and fellowship that could pose some interesting questions.
Overall an enjoyable and perhaps surprisingly profound session.