Stephen Colbert sat down for an interview with David Letterman this week. What made their conversation front-page news? The fact that Colbert will take over the Late Show when Letterman retires next year. Colbert read his own “Top Ten” list and confessed that Letterman had been his idol since his college days. He was offered a job as an intern with Letterman’s show in 1986, but turned it down. “Why is that?” Letterman asked. “Because you did not pay people,” Colbert explained. Then he added, “The next job I’m taking here, it pays, right?”
Colbert is currently star of The Colbert Report and one of America’s funniest personalities, but there’s more to his story than most television viewers know. His father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash when he was 10 years old, and he was raised primarily by his mother. Her faith marked him for life. He teaches Sunday school and attends mass regularly with his family.
When a guest on The Colbert Report claimed that God created evil, Colbert broke into an impromptu theology lesson, pointing to the disobedience of Satan and man’s abuse of free will. When a skeptical theologian came onto the show to question the veracity of Scripture and divinity of Jesus, Colbert spent seven minutes explaining apparent biblical contradictions and defending Jesus’ divinity. When testifying before Congress about immigration reform, he argued for migrant workers’ rights by citing Jesus’ statement, “whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers.”
Is his show always as moral as it should be? Unfortunately, no. But ask yourself this: does his engaging personality make you more or less attracted to his faith?
Commentator Dennis Prager argues for happiness as a “moral obligation.” He notes that our happiness affects other people, many of them directly. Parents are typically only as happy as their least-happy child. A dour co-worker can depress the entire office. A happy person makes us want to be happier. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not just our rights—they are our responsibilities to others as well.
Happiness is especially imperative for Christian witness. We are told to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), not just so we can have joy but so that others will want our joy for themselves. Joy is listed among the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), evidence that the Holy Spirit is freely and powerfully at work in us. As we live joyfully in a broken, dying world, our happiness in Christ will be obvious and enticing to others.
Stephen Colbert once appeared at Fordham University with Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan to discuss “humor, joy, and the spiritual life.” He told a packed crowd that “joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Have you asked Jesus for his joy today?