So who was this speaker invited to address the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security? A religious leader? A business executive? A social activist? No. It was actually a comedian.
To be honest, Stephen Colbert is more than a comedian. He hosts a satirical news program, “The Colbert Report,” on the cable channel Comedy Central. Colbert was invited to Capitol Hill to discuss his experience in the United Farm Workers’ “Take Our Jobs” initiative, in which he spent a day picking vegetables with migrant workers in New York.
While the experience last July didn’t exactly make Colbert an expert witness (it was actually a humorous exercise to demonstrate the challenges of migrant farm work and to illustrate that few Americans are willing to fill the position), he did offer some salient points to lawmakers, mixed in with a few digs and jabs at politicians who have failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform.
Those familiar with Colbert and his comedy schtick are also aware of his Catholic background, to which he often refers in his program. In the entertainment world, Colbert stands out as a man of integrity. Not only does he defend his faith when other entertainers mock it, he applies the teachings of his church to his life, as he so aptly demonstrated on Capitol Hill. How often do we see others bring their faith to the marketplace in such a public way and use church teachings to make a difference in the world?
Colbert’s stardom may be limited because of his religious beliefs, but he may not be too concerned; especially when his authentic witness to a greater cause will have a longer lasting impact.
As Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for The Atlantic, wrote after hearing about Colbert’s congressional appearance, “As a non-religious person, I must objectively conclude that Stephen Colbert is the greatest American Catholic of the moment.”