Giving Faith a Chance to Speak: Joe Biden’s Interview with Stephen Colbert

by Evangelization, Leadership, World's View

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an emotional, candid interview on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on Thursday, showed an uncommon face of faith on late night television. Having no intention of supporting Mr. Biden, what I would like to rescue in this instance is the possibility of engaging in a conversation about the faith in a commonly hostile environment. What, then, are a few points that we can take away from the encounter?

Talking Points:

1. In the first place, this is an interesting and positive shift in perspective that we are witnessing. OSV commented: “That marks a major shift from previous late night hosts, said Jesuit Father Michael Tueth, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University who teaches a course on television comedy. Father Tueth said past late-night hosts like Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and David Letterman were not known for incorporating religious topics into their shows.

‘They never talked about religion, and if they did, it was always as an outside observer,’ Father Tueth said. He noted, for example, that when cases of clerical sexual abuse became a major news story, both Leno and Letterman made unfair jokes at the Church’s expense. ‘They were much more cynical when talking about religion,’ Father Tueth said of the previous late night hosts. ‘But these (new hosts) are people who won’t be able to talk that way about the Church.’  Father Tueth added that he considers it a major breakthrough to see Catholics who are open about discussing their faith taking over the late-night television lineup.”

2. It’s evident that one can find plenty of flaws and reasons to critique both Mr. Biden and Mr. Colbert. Still, if you are like me, it child’s play critiquing Catholic celebrities. A simple Google search reveals the weak points of each of these men according to the catechetical checklist. Still, our first reaction should always be that of rejoicing when we see that they have at least cracked the door open to God in their lives. What’s more, be wary of being quick to judge: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” A skeptic might reduce the entirety of the discourse to a political maneuver, yet even then, who knows how God has used it to invite others to faith. Quick judgement has a tendency to trample mystery, God’s other name. 

3. Never cease to bet on the human heart, a heart made with the Trinitarian seal, one knitted together in the womb of faith and communion. Have the courage then to ask the question: How important is faith in your life? Perhaps the reason that we hear so little about faith is because we Catholics are frightfully timid in talking about it. Perhaps we too forget that man and woman have been created in God’s likeness and image? I don’t care how many social taboos you are worried about breaking, simply break them! Mr. Colbert had the courage to ask and – surprise! – we have the Vice-President of the United States giving a testimony of how his faith affects his life from saying the rosary to attending Mass. To conceive the faith as being irrelevant to any human being, now matter how murky the water may seem, is absolutely misguided, if not diabolic. 

4. Never doubt in the power of prayer.  During the  mass, we continually lift up our political leaders, asking that God work in their hearts and enable them to guide our society according to His plan. Leaving Mr. Biden’s political record aside (not exactly pretty from a Catholic standpoint, there’s no need to be naive here either), the Vice-president does reveal an opening to God in his life. Today’s video should encourage us to renew our efforts in praying for politicians like him.

5. Do a little apostolic exercise. The fascinating aspect of watching Catholic celebrities is that usually one is looking upon someone who is striving to live their faith in a particular hostile and seductive environment. Before you pick up the magnifying glass to point out all of their faults, try thinking: How would I do apostolate to this person? How would you start the conversation? Before launching the assault against his abominable support of abortion, why not ask him a bit about this story, about his beliefs. Try to understand where he is coming from, what his faith means to him. Then, once there is a dialogue established, perhaps, with God’s grace you can lead someone like him to renounce his past decisions and live out his faith more coherently. When doing apostolate remember: first relationship, first listening, then, do everything you can to help him or her to change their lives and invite them to discover the beauty of a the Christian life.

The contradictions that we can find in the lives of men such as Mr. Biden, can be found in the lives of many Catholics. The question is not whether or not they are right or wrong, it is evident that such behavior is wrong, extremely so. The question is how do we evangelize? How do we reach their hearts and lead them to Christ? To do so, I believe, implies a personal relationship with that person in which they perceive that your primary goal is not to change their ideas rather get to know them. Again, only in the context of relationship is conversion possible.

As a final thought, one an can legitimately ask: Isn’t it dangerous, or at the least complicated, sharing material as such? To be frank, it depends. As with all content on Catholic-Link, we look to offer resources that the apostle must discern whether such resources will serve in his or her apostolate. If you think that sharing this video might lead someone to think that because he talks about the rosary Mr. Biden is president-worthy, I would avoid sharing 😉 . The video offers a candid and refreshing testimony of faith from where one might least expect it. We are not, however, trying and nor do we intend with this post to propose the protagonists as models, be it for the Christian life, be it for the presidency. Please feel free to leave me your thoughts on this post!

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