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Donderdag 24 november: Jesus (PB) (blog)
After Peter Svidler had won the Russian championship and right after that the World Cup, he said to New In Chess: ‘I’m sure that as soon as I say out loud that my second spring has finally come, it will end precisely at that moment.’
We are talking about one of the more intelligent persons on earth here. It goes to show: even many people who perform on a high level still feel they are a plaything of higher powers. And they sometimes beseech these powers with strange rituals. Latin top football players cross themselves before they enter the pitch, and also after a goal, as a way of thanking the Lord for His help.

Then what is the difference between religion and everyday superstition? I do know what the similarity is: in his uncertainty man feels the need for security. Archimedes claimed: give me a point of support and I can move the earth. But that is precisely it: we have no point of support. Dutch philosopher Bas Haring recently wrote that this is not a problem at all, and I agree with him. Why don’t we just float through life?
The advantage of that attitude is that you can relativize everything. This may not enhance performances in chess or football, but it does make life a lot more bearable. Even – no, especially about such a serious business as religion we should be able to make jokes. Monty Python’s masterpiece, the film Life of Brian, was banned from the cinema in Aberystwyth, Wales, until 2009. To me that sounds like the greatest compliment a film maker can get.

Slowly but steadily times are changing. Even in the often so shockingly bigoted United States, in alternative country, for example, there is space for a few jewels of mockery. In Terry Allen’s Gimme a Ride to Heaven Boy, a song that has also been covered by the otherwise quite well-behaved Flatlanders, the narrator gives Jesus a ride in his car. Hastily he hides his beer cans under the driver’s seat, but the honourable passenger graciously agrees to drink with him. However, a little later a gun is pointed to the narrator’s nose with the remark ‘How’s this fer Kingdom Come?’ and Jesus turns out to be an ordinary carjacker.

In She Left Me for Jesus, Hayes Carll has just lost his girl to a guy called Jesus: ‘Why, last time we made love she even called out His name’, and he continues with the nicely politically incorrect ‘I’ll bet he’s a commie or, even worse yet, a Jew’. You have to hand it to Jesus: two thousand years after he entered the stage there are still jokes being made about him. I can’t see that happening to John Lennon.

And it was about time. Humour is a sure sign that a phenomenon is accepted – in a society, not above it. Hopefully these mockeries will help religion to finally be recognized for what it is: a bizarre piece of folklore. Something to laugh at.