Skip to main content

Why I Am Sad Stephen Colbert is Leaving

News broke yesterday that the great Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman when the legend retires next year. CBS was quick to reach out to Colbert to fill this huge vacancy, and you know executives are thrilled with the possibility of Colbert's large under 30s demographic following him. I have not watched "late night TV" (Johnny Carson/David Letterman/Jay Leno/Arsenio/Conan/etc.) regularly since I was in high school, and yes, I've been out of the under 30s demographic for a handful of years. That being said, I am a devoted follower of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. You'll know by now that Colbert spun off the Daily Show in '05.

Enough history.

Stephen Colbert is a unique talent, and CBS is right to be thrilled at the hire. He will do well, and I will almost certainly follow Stephen. But I am concerned for the move. The switch from cable to mainstream will certainly impact the content on the show. What I love about The Colbert Report is not its frequent language, but the attitude. Stephen's "character" is a conservative political pundit a la Fox News, but the real Stephen Colbert is always near the surface. Colbert is a devout Catholic, and his unique understanding of Catholic theology informs his commentary. Here's a recent example, Stephen commenting on Tennessee's shortage of death penalty drugs (the Catholic church, as well as the United Methodist Social Principles, oppose capital punishment). Throughout his series, Stephen has offered commentary that has been thoughtful, though sometimes sharp-edged. I tried to find a link to my favorite all-time Colbert "sermon," where Stephen commented on the lack of challenging leadership during the recent Iraq war. Recalling how civilian Americans made numerous sacrifices during WWII (rationing, etc.), he mentioned there had been no calls for sacrifice this time around-- not even in taxes to pay for the war effort. I'll never forget this line: "We are sacrificing the idea of sacrifice."

Wow. If only we had heard more of that from pulpits in the '90s and early '00s.

One of the most important roles of the preacher is to be prophet-- being willing to speak a difficult word to the people as one feels called by God. Often these "stepping on toes" sermons are not popular-- so preachers are reluctant to preach them. Sometimes the reluctance even goes to the point of the preacher tuning out-- no longer hearing such messages from God. Our churches have, for the most part, lost the art of prophetic preaching (not talking about this kind of junk, by the way)-- in the sense of offering God's perspective on current events.

So good luck, Stephen, and congratulations.

Whatever Colbert's Late Show will look like, I hope he brings some of his commentary with him. Stupid Human Tricks and Top 10 Lists were great for David Letterman, but Stephen needs to bring his own style. And we need to hear his messages. Even when we don't want to.


Popular posts from this blog

The Famous Black Cat Band

This week my former high school band director, Mr Reinke, died. Mr Reinke is a legend in my hometown of Bay City. He was the leader of our Black Cat Band for many years. He was a fiery man, a perfectionist with extremely high standards. He was a gifted musician. He and I both played the trombone; one of us sounded like a goose being strangled. The other sounded like... well I can't think of a metaphor to properly describe Mr Reinke's horn. It was amazing. He would pull that thing out occasionally to show us how to properly play a part of a song and the sound was spellbinding. 
Mr Reinke was very innovative in his music selections. He had us playing the most random music, from popular stuff of the day by Michael Jackson to Also Sprach Zarathustra (popularly known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This song in particular was a great choice-- it's amazing, complicated; however, this was the late 1980s. The song was originally released…

Grief Is a Powerful Thing

"So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own selves." 1 Thessalonians 2:8
My first couple of Sundays at Grace, early in July, a couple of different people asked me this question immediately before worship: "How are you feeling?" My response: "Terrified." This was met with sort of shocked looks, then afterward the same person would say something like, "See that was ok." I've always been nervous before preaching-- the ramped up nerves help me to focus on my task and give me energy. But this seemed stronger. On Saturday nights my first couple of months at Grace I would hear an inner critic saying, "You're not prepared." "You're going to bomb today." Most Sundays he was wrong. A couple of sermons did bomb, but that happens. I decided to seek out a spiritual director to help me discern what was going on with me. I knew it was internal, but couldn…

a response to gideons international

last sunday prosper united methodist church welcomed representatives of the gideons to share about their ministry. how many times have you stayed in a hotel or visited someone in the hospital and found a gideons Bible there? and while no one can argue that reading the Bible is a bad thing, or that distributing Bibles to others in native languages is inherently harmful, i would like to offer some thoughts on the practices of the gideons, as they were described at church.

1. bravo to the gideons for distributing 73 million Bibles last year. however, most of the Bibles they sent were tiny new testaments with psalms. i am a Christian, and i love the words of the new testament. but those words have their foundation in the old testament, and to remove thousands of years of traditions and stories of God's powerful love and acts of salvation diminishes the power of the whole Bible. we must never forget that the old testament (or "first" testament or "hebrew Bible"…