D and I have a Saturday night tradition we quite enjoy. We watch Bill Maher's show RealTime on YouTube, pausing to discuss.
If you know who Bill Maher is, then you know his goal in life is not to bring people closer to Jesus. Quite the contrary. He is an atheist, liberal, secularist who, when he has Christian guests on the show, usually asks them about their "imaginary friend, Jesus." He is a comedian who has built a stand-up routine on being anti-all religion, even making a documentary about it.
So why do we watch? For one, I like funny people. I hate that so many comedians have taken the offensive raunchy route to laughs, but there are a few who are genuinely funny. Maher can be over-the-top, I don't agree with him on most things, but he can be hilarious when he is on about an issue. Plus, though he is a liberal, he knows how to call out his side when they aren't doing what he believes they should do. That's something you don't see much these days. People pledge allegiance to a party or ideal, and then they will follow that group into the ground carrying all the hate, aggression and misinformation given to them without so much as a question.
Which brings me to how I walk away closer to Jesus after watching an atheist rant for an hour.
Maher usually has a pretty wide variety of guests, some who are going to vehemently disagree with each other on every issue. It's a good way to try to see both sides, but it's also an awesome way to see why following Jesus is so much better than following people. It's a reminder that I am guilty of trying to form Jesus into some other image, usually one that fits into my middle-class, small-town raised, suburban-living existence instead of trying to be formed more into His image. I take a stance on an issue then I start manipulating Jesus' words to make sure we are unified. I jump first and try to drag Jesus with me down the path I've chosen. From what I've seen, I'm not the only one.
At the end of the show D and I usually end up rehashing what we've seen and asking in all seriousness: What would Jesus do? Based on the current issues discussed tonight, what is the Biblical response? Did anybody on that show present it? Much of the time, despite sincere efforts from Christians, their "Biblical" view ends up being accepted unbiblical truisms meant to serve a political purpose. When Maher asked one Christian guest what Jesus would think about her view on a hot-button political issue, she answered, "He'd be fine with it. Jesus doesn't want me taking in homeless people." Maher, a former Catholic, shot back with, "Actually, I think that's exactly what Jesus said to do."
These exchanges help me remember that Jesus did not come down to pledge allegiance to a country or a political movement. He is outside and beyond all of that. Yes, our faith should affect every action, including how we vote, but things get murky when people start waving the God flag to grab the God people, some of who will not question intent or motive or demand more from representatives as long as they think they are on the God side. I've seen politics make people very stupid. I've been very stupid for their sake. It's infuriating.
That's where our Saturday night ritual helps me. RealTime with Bill Maher is my glass of red wine, stabilizing my blood pressure and keeping me mellow as political season creeps closer. It helps remind me that no matter who wins the election (and I am honestly at a point where I don't feel like I have much skin in this game) I know which direction to go, who to seek, and that the end game is not in the hands of presidential candidates. I will make an informed decision, vote, and that will be that. I walk away from the show more dedicated to knowing my Jesus and truly trying to understand His will and His ways instead of being the person who tries to fit Him into my box with the label I want. When the show is over on Saturday, I feel even more grateful to have a relationship with Christ, the exact opposite of what I think Maher wanted to accomplish, but God can work anything for His glory.