Monday, 1 July 2013

Rowan Atkinson

When Rowan Atkinson appeared on Comic Relief, playing the Archbishop of Canterbury in what could be described as one of the more controversial sketches of the night, he was met with a negative reaction from quite a few viewers. A lot of people found him offensive, thinking his jokes were insulting to Christians, and generally thought he was a bit of a prat, meaning that they promptly complained about it to Ofcom.

Ofcom, though, have cleared the sketch, saying that it was not in breach of broadcasting rules, something which a lot of people are not going to take well. After all, it did take the mick out of the Church of England, portraying its leaders as people desperate to get in touch with the modern world, but completely unaware of how to do it. I know a few Christians who would have found the jokes comparing One Direction to the disciples as incredibly offensive, for example.

In addition to this, it has been said that when the fake Archbishop claimed that, "Prayer doesn't work," he was demonstrating serious contempt for a serious aspect of Christianity. Prayer, as the communication between God and His people, is something that is incredibly important. It is the lifeblood of the church, so to hear accusations that it didn't work, made in a mocking way, hurt a lot of people.

It would have been understandable if Ofcom has decided that broadcasting rules had been breached, that there was a case to answer, and that the BBC had really screwed up. After all, when you first look at the sketch, it does seem like Atkinson is simply going out of his way to make a mockery of a lot of the stuff that I believe in.

But then, Rowan Atkinson is a clever man, and a man I have a lot of respect for. His humour is about making things look ridiculous, and he makes characters all that more funny by adding an element of the uncomfortable truth to them. His character in Blackadder Goes Forth, for example, would not have been nearly as funny if it had not been speaking the truth about the bleak and horrific setting of World War One.

It makes sense that he chose the church as his target, since he saw straight through everything it is trying to do. He saw churches trying to hopelessly re-engage with the youth with poorly thought through plans, so he made fun of it. He saw church leaders talk about Church as a nice thing, a friendly thing, but skip over bits like prayer and God.

All he was doing was pointing this out, and showing us how ridiculous it is, which it really it. It is weird, bizarre, even, that a man who is not a Christian, but just a comedian trying to get a few laughs, can see what an entire section of society is missing: the fact that Christianity is becoming nothing more than a religious fraud. It is seeking to mean a well meaning bunch of do-gooders, who try and sweep all the bits they don't want to talk about under the table.

So, instead of complaining about what was a potentially offensive, but really very observant, sketch by Rowan Atkinson, I propose that we join Ofcom in saying that it was alright, and then actually do something to rectify the problems that were helpfully highlighted. If the the Church is going to be anything more than an interesting social movement, it actually has to be what it is meant to be at the core, and focus of God.

Lets stop trying to fix the world ourselves, and turn to God instead, and see where we are led. The Church is needed in this country, and we have to solve out our problems if we are going to be of any use.

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