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For God and shrubbery} ?> Let’s face it—if God is going to show up in the clouds and give you a quest, people are probably going to expect some kind of heavenly reproaching and yelling along with his appearance. But the kingly face in the clouds in Monty Python and the Holy Grail instead reprimands Arthur and the other knights for averting their eyes and groveling.
This is actually one of my favourite things about the movie—the knocks it takes on God and the Catholic Church. That may be shocking coming from a person who loves God and works for the Church, but in my mind, they point to larger issues and realities that we need to look at—and humour is a good place to start!
I couldn’t wait to share this movie with my oldest son (in whose experience of God I take a keen interest), and this was the year for it! Of course, I fast forwarded past the Anthrax Castle scene… I’ve never met nuns like that, and I wasn’t up for a conversation explaining what just happened.
On the other hand, I love Brother Maynard and the other monks. The reading from the Book of Armaments sounds like the new Roman Missal at times—and while I love the Missal and I love the Mass, some of the language can be a little challenging for some. I enjoy watching the monks walking in single file, chanting Latin (an actually very nice prayer) and whacking themselves in the head with boards. I’ve never met any monks like that either, but I suppose it does speak to a certain segment of the population who, to my personal dismay, practice mortification even today.
In his conversation with the knights, God just wants to cut to the chase. I think I do this in my prayers sometimes too; I interrupt with the imposition of my fears and insecurities—sometimes missing what I should be listening for because I’m too afraid to hear it.
I’ve never been able to reconcile the severity that some Christians (and I’m not leaving us Catholics out here) seem to cling to when talking about God’s corrections of us. I mean, gee whiz—who are we worshiping!? Jesus was all about mercy and compassion… correct it and forget it. In the Hebrew Scriptures, The Father also talks often about forgetting our sins and wiping them out. What are we shrinking from? Jesus told us to call God, “Abba,” “Daddy”—not to hide! He wants to give us great jobs and quests to do, and we are all like, “Not me! I’m not worthy… blah, blah, blah.”
Approaching God with true modesty is difficult, because I’m tempted to focus on my hang-ups, weaknesses and frailties. The absurdity represented in the relationship between God and the Knights of the Round Table illustrates my tendency to make God into this caricature instead of who I actually believe He is.
This is why I can laugh at Monty Python and the Holy Grail—its humour points towards bigger things, plus I think it’s important to be able to laugh at myself.
Humour opens me up to hear truths that I might be inclined to rebuff if couched differently, to examine and approach topics that could otherwise be uncomfortable, and when it’s totally over the top, can yank me back into a more moderate reality by challenging what I believe.