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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Godless America

I always hated Julia Sweeney. That's a little strong, I suppose. Maybe I just hated the characters she played on SNL, which I thought were always terribly unfunny. They included the ambiguously-gendered Pat, who, if the box office take from the movie is any indication, was apparently hated by most people.

I haven't watched SNL in years, in part because of cast members like Sweeney. I guess I blame her a little bit because I lost interest in a show I used to watch every Saturday for years.

I hadn't heard anything about Sweeney in more years than I can remember, and I probably wouldn't have heard anything about her for many more happy years to come if it hadn't been for today's episode of "This American Life."

Now, "This American Life" is my favorite radio program and has been for years. I mentioned it in a post here back in May of last year, calling it the best show on radio. Which I still believe it is.

But even I must admit that I groaned a little bit when host Ira Glass said that Julia Sweeney would be doing an excerpt from her one woman show as part of this week's radio program.

But then I perked up when I heard what the episode, titled "Godless America," was about. Ooh, I thought, this should be interesting. From their website:

"At a time when House Majority Leader Tom Delay calls for enacting a 'Biblical worldview' in government, when Christians are asserting their ideals in the selection of judges, in public school science classes and elsewhere, This American Life spends an hour trying to remember why anyone liked the separation of church and state in the first place. Julia Sweeney, among others, gives a full-throated defense of godlessness. Julia's faith began to crack after reading Biblical passages like the one pictured here, of Abraham about to cut the throat of his beloved son, Isaac..."

Now, the entire program was excellent, as usual, and it got me fired up about the christian (I think I'm going to start de-capitalizing the word from now on, when used in reference to evil factions of the religion) right that wants to do things like amend the Constitution to include wording that proclaims the United States a christian nation.

But I was most surprised by the vignette by Sweeney at the end of the show. It's excerpted from her one-woman show, "Letting Go of God," which just closed last month in Los Angeles and apparently was getting rave reviews. And from this excerpt, I can see why. She proved thoughtful (and funny in a way that none of her characters on SNL ever were) about an episode of her life in which she began to question her Catholicism. And as she admits, she was truly a believer, practically a poster child for the church.

It's truly an excellent piece of writing, and I hope at some point she publishes it as a book.

You can hear it, and the entire "Godless America" episode, which I highly recommend, on RealAudio in a day or three when "This American Life" puts it on their website.


Blogger Gene Cowan said...

I'd always loved Julia Sweeney, but despised what she was made to do on SNL.
Did you ever see her one-woman show "God Said Ha!" Excellent. Really, really excellent.

6/07/2005 04:35:00 PM

Blogger espd said...

I didn't see "God Said Ha!", although I saw mention of it on her website.

But I was so thoroughly impressed by her outtake on "This American Life" that I'm definitely going to look out for more from Julia Sweeney from now on.

Just goes to show you that, despite having written someone off a long time ago, they can come back and surprise you -- and impress you.

6/07/2005 05:20:00 PM


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