The Christian Character of Stephen Colbert(T), New Host of 'Late Show'

( [email protected] ) Apr 15, 2014 12:57 PM EDT
Stephen Colbert
Colbert with his sons, Peter and John, at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Wikipedia)

I'm not at all surprised that the show is good - he's amazing at it. He's able to weave a character in a way that's never been done on television before - rendering this fictional character in 3-D, live, in such a way that he's still able to retain his humanity." The extra dimension, he explained, is the other Colbert, the real one. "The third dimension is him. That's the thing we started to see here. He is so interesting, smart and decent. He's a good person, and that allows his character to be criminally, negligently ignorant."  - John Stewart, On the success of Stephen Colbert and "The Colbert Report" 

After it was announced last week that Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman as CBS' Late Show host, the world now awaits to see which Stephen Colbert will show up.  

It seems Christians who have been paying attention to the 49-year-old South Carolina native have a lot to look forward too if the Sunday School teaching, faithful Christian family man that few people know about brings his native southern manners and charm, and sharp wit to the late night chair.

According to Entertainment Weekly, CBS has made a five-year deal with Colbert, which was announced last Thursday by CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves and CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler.

"Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,"  Moonves said. "David Letterman's legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today's announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night."

Most people are familiar with Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report (both t's silent so the last two words sound french) on Comedy Central. The Colbert on that show is a conservative egotist that, to the delight of his audience, rubs his guest the wrong way almost every night.  He has become somewhat of an enigma in hollywood, because the actor who studied improv in Chicago for many years sells out to the abrasive "character" of Stephen Colbert (french t) in such a committed way when he is in front of the camera.  This is odd, because it goes so against the person that many people close to the real Colbert report knowing.

But sometimes, the person once known as Stephen Colbert ( pronounce the T) comes out.  As we all come to know him(them?) more, it will be interesting to see what rendition of the man reports to the Late Show stage next year.    

He has already confirmed he will not be playing the same character that he played at Comedy Central, much to the delight of many conservatives, who felt he had been lampooning them for the last 9 years on his TV show.

But through the show and the character he played, he brought his faith in to view on a few occassions.  Like in this classic interview with famed evolutionist author, and God-denier, Richard Dawkins.

Or the time Jesus, Interrupted author Bart Ehrman, who questions the authenticity of the gospel and the divinity of Christ, showed up and Colbert lead him into a question and answer session about ducks and elephants that is simple, brilliant, and hilarious in defending Jesus' divinity.  

Christians should be hopeful more of this Stephen Colbert shows up to work for CBS.

Colbert also opened up about his faith in an interview with NPR where he talks about his personal life, and how he raises his children in a Christian environment. He quotes scripture and explains God as Love, and hell as a place absent of that Love. He is obviously a deeply spiritual person who is chasing after his salvation through Christ.  

"I think the answer, 'God is love' is pretty good for a child. Because children understand love," he said."My son asked me one day, 'Dad, what's hell?' So, I said, 'Well, if God is love, then hell is the absence of God's love. And, can you imagine how great it is to be loved? Can you imagine how great it is to be loved fully? To be loved totally? To be loved, you know, beyond your ability to imagine? And imagine if you knew that was a possibility, and then that was taken from you, and you knew that you would never be loved. Well that's hell-to be alone, and know what you've lost.'"

In an interview with the NY times, Colbert, who was raised by his mother primarily, after his father and two brothers closest to him in age died in a terrible accident when he was 10, talks about learning from his mother's faith. Like Paul instructed Timothy in the bible, young Stephen watched his mother lean on her faith to get through tough times, and he learned to do the same.     

"She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that's directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain - it's that the pain is actually a gift. What's the option? God doesn't really give you another choice," he said.

Colbert has also used his fame, and his knowledge of Jesus and His way, to advocate for migrant workers in front of congress.  

After a somewhat tongue-in-cheek exchange, Colbert calls on the words of Christ to make his point.

"'whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,' and these seem like the least of our brothers right now. Migrant workers suffer and have no rights," he said, quoting Matthew 25:40.

So, whether you agree with all his politics, or his methods, there is no denying that Colbert (either T) has wrestled with God on many issues, and has studied the word of the Lord.  It will be interesting just how much of that solid Christian character comes out in his new job at CBS.