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Salt of the Earth: Comedy, Hiphop, and the Lay Vocation

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Vocation

I was a senior in High School when God rocked my world and brought me to Him. One of the things that was so wonderful about this conversion was learning that my life had a purpose. I think part of the reason it’s so hard to believe that God has a plan for our lives is because we unconsciously limit the amazing complexity of God’s ability to write our stories. Before my own conversion, I wanted to make amazing music, go on tour, and change people’s lives with my art ( I know, so high school, right?) After God rocked my world, I thought he must be calling me to be a priest, so I dropped music completely and went to seminary. This is so emblematic of how Catholics tend to think of God’s plan for us. Ether we live boring, non holy lives with a practical career and a family, or we become missionaries to Africa.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe God could call you to give up everything and become a cloistered nun who only speaks once a year. But the church doesn’t make this dichotomy we do between those holy religious vocations and those other boring lay vocations. Let me share with you the catechism paragraph that changed it all for me: “Their [the laity’s] initiative is absolutely required so that the demands of the Gospel permeate temporal realities. The laity are on the front lines and must have a clear consciousness of actually being the Church.” (Pope Pius XII CCC 899,). The Laity are the “front lines” of the church. This statement opened up the horizons of possibly again to me, and set me on a new trajectory for my life. When I read this, I knew the lay vocation was my calling. I was to “permeate the temporal realities” and bring the gospel with me.
Jesus tells us “You are the salt of the earth.” He goes on to say “But if the salt loses its taste, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13-16 I love how Jesus uses metaphors that everyone can understand to explain rich theological realities. Pope Pius & Jesus are speaking together the heart of the lay vocation. Do you want to permeate temporal realities? Be salty.

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Here are three salty people who are permeating the temporal reality of our culture:

The-Colbert-Report-banner1. Stephan Colbert

If you didn’t already know this, the renowned comedian and host of the acclaimed Colbert Report, is a faithful Catholic. You can watch his bits on the creed, liturgical dancing, and watch him slam down Bart Ehrman the (anti) scripture scholar. Colbert isn’t just a Christmas and Easter Christian, or Christian for you abbreviators out there. He’s the real deal. Listen to him tell his story to Oprah, and you get the sense that Colbert is a real guy whose faith is an inseparable part of his life. In this interview, Oprah asks Colbert how his faith and his comedy line up, and the two of them quip about how he used to call his show “The Joy Machine.” Colbert then goes on to say: “I have a friend, Father Jim Martin, he gave me this card and it said ‘joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” That, my friends, is SALTY. Here is a man who is respected by the world for his excellence in comedy, being interviewed by the most watched talk show host of all time, sharing his faith. The world doesn’t need any more Catholic Comedians. The world needs more comedians who happen to also be Catholic. Like for instance….

Jim Gaffigan and his 5 children author of Dad is Fat (5/7/13)2. Jim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan is another world renowned comedian who also happens to be Catholic. The New York Times did a story on how he and his wife take their 5 kids to mass every Sunday. He often jokes about his large family, the pope, and the Mass with a hilarious transparency. In his book “Dad is Fat” which has sold upwards of 200,000 copies, by the way, he shares the Catholic perspective on the family. He writes:
“Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seemed uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life … each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart.”
In this statement, Jim Gaffigan is making the best apologetical argument for the Catholic family possible. He wins the worlds respect with his comedic excellence and simply allows this audience to see into his life. Check out his stand up routine on the mass, on being christian, his kids, circumcision, and Saint Jon Paul II (when he was still pope).

Playdough343. Play Dough (not the colorful molding compound)

Lest you think that you have to be a famous comedian, or a famous anything for that matter, in order to be salty, I’ve included someone you’ve never heard of. His name is Doug, and he is a local hip hop artist who hails from my own home turf: Dallas, Tx. Play Dough is his rap moniker, and like the kids play clay, he is one salty fellow.

What, you never tasted it when you were little?

What, you never tasted it when you were a kid?

I found out about Play Dough when I went to a local show one weekend. Play Dough was sandwiched between a gangster rap group named Buffalo Black and a hipster Macklemore type slam poet. It would be an understatement to say the crowed was diverse. Most of the groups got up and performed for the select audience that came to see them. Play Dough, however, got up on the stage and showed himself to be the most excellent musician in the house. He had everyone in the venue jumping up and down and singing his hooks by the end of his set, hipsters and gangsters alike. But halfway through his set, during his song “Real Like It” I heard some lyrics that gave me pause. “aint you a fisher of men, you got the same bait that didn’t work you using again, I aint churchy for you, too Jesus for all of them, but I aint fishing for religion, I just says who I am.” After that I started to notice something. All of this guy’s songs contained Christian themes. In one song he talks about trading materialism for spiritual simplicity, in another he talks about reading the bible every day. I was stunned. Here is a guy who has achieved national recognition for his excellence in producing hip hop, who, like Colbert and Jim Gaffigan, just allows his faith to authentically shine through his talents. Here in this venue, this artist has violent gangbangers and cynical hipsters together rocking out to Jesus music. That is salty.

After the show, I looked him up online, and sure enough, I saw that one of Play Dough’s videos was produced by Phat Mass, the same guys who do Father Pontifex. This video was featured on Relevant magazine along with an interview where Play Dough also said: “I’m not trying to change Hip-Hop. I want to seek Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding and put that in my music. I want to be a real dude that talks about my real life. Good, bad, struggles, successes and failures. Hopefully people like me who are hungry for Truth will pick up on what I’m on and ride with me. Then together we can change things from the inside out by living authentically.”

The Point

The point is not that you need to be a famous comedian or hip hop artist to bring the kingdom of heaven. The point is excellence. What unites these three men is that they are excellent at what they do. They have honed their art with probably countless hours of practice. They do not narrow their competitive pool by writing Christian comedy, or Christian hip hop. They aren’t preaching to the choir. They’ve focused on producing quality comedy, and excellent hip hop. The world respects excellence. Though it might want to at times, it does not discount exceptional work, even if they disagree with its message. Let this be a motivator to us, whatever vocation we’ve chosen, whatever craft we have made our own, let us become excellent. Let’s not be satisfied with mediocrity in our work, for it is by our excellence that we permeate our culture that we win the credibility to speak the truth. Let us not be, as Paul wrote “Busy bodies,” let us, as never tire of doing what is excellent.” 2nd Thesselonians 3:11-13

 

MarcellinoBlog By Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Twin brothers Marcellino and Anthony are youth
speakers and media gurus with their ministry,
The Crossroads Pursuit. Visit their website to learn more.

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