Why all the nonsense about Nunsense?

Published 8:44 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

Growing up Catholic in the South has not always been easy for me. I had to endure my share of questions from friends, such as “Why aren’t you eating the chicken fingers at lunch,” on a Lenten Friday, or “Why do you do that thing with your hands?” anytime I did the Sign of the Cross after I finished praying.

I also realize that in today’s modern secular society, it’s not really considered “politically incorrect” to make fun of Christians. I can see why so many people are upset by any jokes that are made at Christianity’s expense.

Yet, despite all this, I have no problem whatsoever with the First Presbyterian Church’s decision to perform Nunsense this weekend as a fund-raiser for Habitat for Humanity.

Have you ever seen the movie The History of the World Part I? At the very end, there is a segment entitled “Jews in Space,” where Hassidic rabbis in full regalia fly around in a spaceship shaped like the Star of David and sing of “fighting to save the Hebrew race.” It could certainly be seen as offensive to some Jews, were it not for the fact that the writer of that movie — Mel Brooks — was in fact Jewish himself!

Nunsense also reminds me of another mainstream entertainment vehicle that focuses on the Catholic religious — Sister Act. In this movie, Whoopi Goldberg plays a crude Reno nightclub singer who is forced to pretend to be a nun and hide in a convent after witnessing a murder. Literally nothing is sacred in this movie, which makes jokes at the expense of the Catholic blessing before a meal, the rosary and even the Pope himself.

And yet, despite all of this, the message of the movie is still a positive one — spirituality can help you find inner peace and meaning in an otherwise meaningless life. At the start of the movie, Deloris Van Cartier (Goldberg’s character) swears, drinks, smokes and has promiscuous sex — all traits you would not expect a nun to have. By the end of the movie, in one of my favorite scenes, she looks the murderer right in the eye and says, “I got two words for you, Vince…”

As the sisters rush to stop her from swearing, Deloris simply calmly looks the murderer in the eye and says, “Bless you.”

I have no doubt that the production of Nunsense will have a similar positive message. People who see the show might also be surprised to learn that the idea of nuns doing more than just praying is not that unusual — the Benedictine nun who taught me how to play guitar once liked to ride motorcycles and stood in line for the original Star Wars.

In short, my Catholic friends, let’s lighten up a bit. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at? And who knows, maybe someone in the audience at Nunsense this weekend will decide to themselves, “Hey, this God and Jesus stuff might be a cool idea.”

After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal of witnessing?