Guest post by Simon Hall
Eddie Izzard gave me something to think about, but it wasn’t his jokes.
I think I can count myself as a member of the Liberal Metropolitan Elite (let’s call us the LME).
After all, the BBC told me I was. I live in the bohemian part of town, but in one of the nicest streets.
Although I’m a church minister, my wife works in television. I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from sitting on the train and saying on the phone (a little louder than is strictly necessary), ‘OK darling, I’ll meet you at BAFTA.’
We went to a good university. We know how to pronounce quinoa.
So, of course, we went to see Eddie Izzard on Sunday night. And of course we scoffed along when he opened his act by saying that people who voted for Brexit and Donald Trump wanted a re-run of the 1930s – but with a different winner.
It wasn’t that funny, but it was a quick way of establishing that this was a show for the LME. I smiled.
Then the show took a left turn for me. Not because Izzard embarked on one of his surreal stories involving talking animals and random items of household furniture (I love those), but because it soon became obvious what the main target of his ridicule was going to be: Christians.
Izzard conceives of Christians in a similar way to Philip Pullman: obsessed with power, fond of dressing up and rather good at Gothic architecture. Oh, and also using nonsense to control the ignorant.
I could have stepped aside and let his hammer fall on those other Christians, retaining my LME status by asserting my difference from those he lampooned. Those who cross themselves and speak Latin (not my tradition), take the Bible literally (getting a bit closer now) and actually believe in a God. Ah…now I’m stuck.
Apparently the age of the universe and the second world war are conclusive proof that there is no God. Smirk. Pause.
How are there still people who believe in a God? If there is a God he must be smoking blow all day. Smirk. Pause.
I have my own theory about the creation of the universe, would you like to hear it? Silence.
Looked down on
The gig was fine. What wasn’t fine was Eddie Izzard kicking me out of the LME. I didn’t like it. Suddenly I felt arrogantly looked down on by someone who displayed almost no understanding and even less curiosity of me, my life and what is important to me and those I love.
I reflected that only someone who had never had a good conversation, let alone a good friendship, with a Christian, would resort to the surface-level caricatures that were deployed.
Or so I felt. Maybe Eddie had a great childhood friend whose faith comprised of speaking in Latin, obsessing over the precise order of the creation of the animals, or their living quarters on Noah’s ark. Maybe Philip Pullman had a really scary school chaplain. But the point is that I felt wilfully misrepresented and deliberately misunderstood. I had paid money to hear him mock others, not me.
Back to that first ‘Brexit voters are Nazis’ joke. Yep, I smiled and yes, I am a Remainer. But it’s the laziest comparison ever – even for a comedian.
Honestly, I don’t really understand why so many people voted Brexit. The words they say don’t make much sense to me so I can easily assume there must be something else behind them: probably xenophobia.
Do I really want to get to know them and understand more why they see the world the way they see it?
Despised and denigrated
But when I don’t bother to hear my neighbour, to see my neighbour, to walk with my neighbour, they inevitably feel the way I felt on Sunday night: judged, despised, denigrated.
Being kicked out of the Liberal Metropolitan Elite (albeit temporarily) made me think whether I wanted Eddie Izzard for an enemy. But it also made me think about the millions of people I judge, despise and denigrate.
Maybe there is something in this ‘love your enemies’ thing?
Simon Hall is a minister at Chapel A in Leeds