If you don’t have to stand in the line of fire, the absurd struggles of the “Episcopal Church” In Washington have a definite appeal to the funny bone in a series reported recently by the Seattle Times.
Forget all the controversy over the ordination of women, the adoption of homosexuality and the re-definition of Jesus. The latest episode in the long-running Norman Lear situation comedy, “EpiscoParty!” is the excitement of the hilarious apostate bishop of Olympia the “Rt. Rev.” Vincent Warner (played last season by Tom Poston) over the possibilities of Muslim/Episcopal priests. “I’m excited,” says Warner in the season-opening ”Afro/Muslim/Episcopal” episode.
The introduction of the Afro/Muslim/Episcopal theme in the series is accomplished with the new character “Rev. Ann Holmes” (Whoopi Goldberg) who, we think, is destined to take her place with Archie Bunker, Maude, and George Jefferson as an icon in the Norman Lear “People of the American Way” universe.
The character is just too delicious. As most viewers are aware, a central pillar of Christianity (the supposed position of the Episcopal Church) is the idea that Jesus is God. A central pillar of Islam is that he isn’t. Not to worry, the controversy is fully resolved in the “Rev. Holmes” character. “I’m 100% both,” she announces, in her introductory episode. “It wasn’t about intellect,” she understates, further, in the season-opener as reported in the Seattle Times article this week. The camp/stereotypical “Rev. Holmes” then adds the wonderful double negative, “I could not not be a Muslim.” Filmed before a live audience, the show will not need a laugh track.
The “Rev. Holmes” character is a black, woman jazz singer who is introduced as having been a priest for more than 20 years, roughly the same period in which she has been “recovering” from alcohol. She is, predictably, a victim of racism and sexual abuse. As she enters the series, she has been laid off by budget shortfalls from the comic “St. Marks Cathedral” which is set in Seattle, in the visual line of sight (on the horizon) of the picture window of “radio psychologist” Frasier Crane. The “Muslim Episcopal” priest is about to become a visiting professor at an almost-believable CatholicCollege, ”Seattle Univeristy.” Her previous job at the over-the-top “St. Marks” is recounted as running “programs to form and deepen people’s faith,” which included the hilarious sharing of her doubts about Biblical doctrines, disbelief in the divinity of Christ and explaining that Christianity is the “world religion of privilege.” (We hope we’ll get to see a “flashback” to such a “faith-building” session in some future episode.) It is while at the Comic Cathedral that she first hears the “call” to Islam from one of the frequent visits of Muslim cleric speakers. (We can already sense a “St. Marx” spin-off coming.) Even before the introduction of “Rev. Holmes” the series “EpiscoParty!” has painted a more than entertaining topsy-turvy picture of Seattle and the State of Washington where an unlikely ultra-liberal Republican “Brock Evans” supposedly was appointed to the unexpired term of an equally unlikely ultra-conservative Democrat “Snoop” Jackson in the US Senate and directs (from behind the scenes) a far-left organization oxymoronically named “Midstream Republicans.” It is a world where Republicans work to disavow conservatism, election officials “find” thousands of previously unknown phantom ballots for “re-count” and Catholic priests are falsely accused of sexual abuse in a secret inquisition by the Archdiocese. We’re told that in a future episode a conservative “Pope Richard” runs for County Council as a Democrat against a socially and fiscally ultra-liberal Republican, “Jane Vague.” I can’t wait.
If you haven’t yet seen the show you might think you won’t be able to suspend your disbelief in such a world, but tune it in sometime. I can’t stop laughing.