Latitude is different from other festivals in that its audience is slightly older, often with teenage kids, and the vibe is a bit more intellectual than most. It’s certainly not just about the music for instance people speaking included Sebastian Faulks.
One of the strong elements in the festival is comedy and I went to catch The Early Edition with Phil Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke amongst others on the Sunday morning. This is a live comedy conversation show where about 6 comedians critique the Sunday morning papers. It’s very funny and it’s all off the cuff. The occupational hazard of hearing Marcus Brigstocke is that he is quite clear where he stands on religion – right up against it with his face formed into a bulldog style grimace. It’s not just Christianity he has difficulty with, it’s just that Christianity is the easiest target and as he said in the session “Don’t worry we didn’t talk about the Koran, we’re attacking the religion that doesn’t fight back.” (paraphrase).
So what to do? The man makes me laugh, and he has some excellent political and social insights that he is able to make through his comedy in a way that others can’t. I like all of that. But should I stand by and listen to my God criticised without saying anything? By listening am I condoning the often vitriolic way he approaches Christianity?
Probably, to an extent, I am. But equally, his judgements don’t change my mind about what I believe. Christianity is a choice I made, no one forced it on me, no one can force it on you either. And one thing is certain, that there will always be people who not only don’t believe what you believe, but will attack you for it. So it’s better to get used to it.
When I was younger these kinds of criticisms – in rock music and comedy and literature – affected me with a sort of fear. Maybe these people were right. I was the odd one out. That sort of thing. Now I am still uncomfortable when I hear them, because I wonder if I should act, but I don’t feel that same fear.
You need to face these criticisms and work out what you think. A faith that is insulated from the world is a construct. It’s not real, it hasn’t been tested, it doesn’t have relevance except as a security blanket and a social club. And we won’t ever convince people that our God has value in words – so why worry about it? Focus on action, compassion and prayer and enjoy the bits of comic or cultural experiences that are insightful, sharp and motivating.
If he was racist, homophobic or sexist – now that would be a reason not to listen to him. And maybe one day I will hear something that will make me walk out – but for now I’d rather laugh.