Comedians and Prophets – The Parallel quotes: A Coffee Table Book


Comedians of every sort have taken on religion since those monkeys touched that monolith.  These criticisms and satires are usually delivered by humorists thinking outside of any established church or religion.  Likewise, their messages are often only heeded to by other atheists, agnostics, spiritual-but-not-religionists, pantheists, panENtheists, post-theists, infidels, Satanists, and those ever-allusive “nones.”  These comedians are preaching to some sort of unholy choir.

And yet, even as a member of said choir, I can’t help but see these irreligious warriors as actually akin to the prophets of the Jewish Tanakh, especially Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, and Habakkuk.

You see the prophets from the Babylonian exile are hyper-critical of Israel.  All condemn the sins of the individuals of Israel.  It seems they’ve been worshiping other Gods and just generally not following the rules.  Shame on you Israel, someone should correct you.  You’re the one with these rules, you should probably follow them yourselves Some of the prophets go even further.  They don’t just chastise the people, they draw into question the importance of the Temple, usually though of as central to ancient Israelite religion.  Habakkuk, along with the story of Job, go so far as to even question God.

So now I present to you Comedians and Prophets:  The Parallel quotes.

zappa hosea
Because Israel is behaving so poorly, God doesn’t just compare Israel to a whore-of-a-wife, he makes Hosea marry a prostitute to demonstrate the point. It’s almost like prophetic performance art. Zappa shares in Hosea’s need for raunchy metaphors as he compares televangelists Jimmy Swaggert and Pat Robertson to rapists. Hear the song:
Bowers Jeremiah
Jeremiah calls Israel to task. They think the temple will save them from God’s wrath, but really that’s accomplished by following his commandments. It’s a critique of Israel, but also moves the temple off center stage. In a similar move, Mrs. Betty Bowers criticizes American Christians for ignoring Christ’s word. Later in the same video she goes on to observe that “atheists are better Christians than Christians.” Watch that video here:
Oliver Amos
Here Amos makes it pretty clear that the Israelite’s religions operates very well without the Temple. Amos (and this does differ from the Exodus account) observes that they weren’t able to give offerings when they were wandering in the wilderness, why would God need sacrifices now? Clearly temples are not what God needs, they won’t lead to more blessings. In a similar move, John Oliver critiques the prosperity gospel, especially the concept of seeding. Televangelists are telling their listeners if they send their ministry money (lots of money) God will in turn bless them. John Oliver doesn’t buy it. To him churches are for feeding the poor, not buying private jets. Watch that clip here:
Habakkuk Har'sha Diga
Here Habakkuk is not pleased. He’s not sure why he’s being tortured and he’s gonna call out God. There’s a covenant here that God doesn’t seem to be keeping. In “Hasa Diga Eebowai” from the hit musical “The Book of Mormon,” Mufala and the other Ugandan villagers are expressing a very similar sentiment. It’s just more crass and in your face. Later in the show, when Elder Price is trying to tell them about the “All American Prophet” Joseph Smith, it becomes very clear that this religion is for rich white people, not poor Africans. One character interrupts the song/sermon to announce “I have maggots in my scrotum,” a proclamation the Mormon missionaries (as stand ins for all organized religion) ignore. Watch “Hasa Diga Eebowai” here:


These comedians are critical, sharp, brazen, often ragged (at least Frank Zappa) and have much more in common with the ancient Prophets than these televangelists, or indeed many priests, ministers, and pastors  of today.  The prophetic voice was countercultural and was aimed at institution, priest, and laity alike   Though they operate outside of the churches, it may well be these comedians that the churches have to look to in order to realize their lofty purposes (provided their purpose isn’t the accrual of wealth).

If you believe the New Testament narrative (which is problematic but it helps my point along), Israel ignored and killed the prophets because they didn’t like their message.  Only later did they canonize them as prophets in their holy book.  If the only difference between blasphemer and prophet is time and getting published in the right book, let’s just skip those steps.

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