The other day on NPR I listened to an interview with Penn Jillette, the Penn of Penn and Teller, the comedy duo known for the silence while performing of Teller. Both are known strong liberals who are outspoken against what they consider to be popular myths such as ESP, alien abduction, and anything supernatural. Interestingly, they are critical of some agendas such as animal rights and gun control, going against normal liberal leanings—a tell for objective thinking. These topics were individually highlighted in various episodes of their Penn&Teller: Bullshit episodes, during which they employed a “critical thinking” approach. You might think of it as their conjectural Snopes.com with an emphasis on the conjecture.
Though it covered a number of beliefs they are critical of, the interview with Penn unsurprisingly came around to several Christian themes such as Creationism and the reliability of Scripture, incorporating many of the arguments that are familiar.
Aside from his comedic timing, there was nothing refreshing, and as I have moved on from the days of being uprooted by challenges to my faith, nothing actually that interesting. Just another critic who in my mind, has not looked into the arguments deeply enough, and served up old, stale hash.
The end of the interview however did take me by surprise and was refreshing. He shared his impressions of the many letters from Christians that protested the presentations against Creationism and the Scriptures on Penn&Teller: Bullshit. He said that while being firm in their convictions, they were polite, respectful, and for the most part exuded an attitude of love and desire for the ultimate “coming around,” of the hosts.
Paraphrasing, (for I was in the car at the time,) Penn’s reaction was, “That is how dialogue should be carried out.”
I was so heartened that a skeptic of some of the beliefs of Christianity should be impressed by how Christians came across in response to his critical views. I appreciate those who chose not to belittle, harangue, and pontificate—an approach that just drives people away.
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