Is God boosting Stephen Colbert’s ratings?

God - Jonathan Merritt

Before 2017, Jimmy Fallon dominated Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel in the late night talk show ratings wars.

But Colbert has since emerged as the victor, besting his rivals in overall viewership for the recently concluded 2016-2017 season.

Colbert ended the September-to-May season with an average of 3.19 million nightly viewers, compared to Fallon’s 3.17 million and Kimmel’s 2.2 million. (The previous season, Fallon absolutely crushed his competitors.)

Given that Colbert’s rise started the week of President Trump’s inauguration, publications from Variety to Newsweek have credited the CBS comic’s newfound popularity to his stinging criticisms of the president.

There’s obviously truth to this.

Colbert routinely hammers Trump — far more often and usually far more effectively than either Fallon or Kimmel.

Many liberal viewers love Colbert for this. But there’s more to his rise than just throwing red meat to throngs of Trump-hating viewers.

I’m talking about God.

Colbert is religious

For the past decade, he has been one of the most unashamed Catholics on television.

In 2007, he talked to NPR’s Terry Gross about how he explained complex theological beliefs about matters like God and the afterlife to his children.

His wildly popular Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, regularly featured religion segments. He debated the divinity of Jesus with religious scholar and Jesus, Interrupted author Bart Ehrman and discussed the pope with a Jesuit priest.

However, when Colbert took over David Letterman’s historic show in September 2015, the God talk barely followed Colbert to his new home at CBS. Sure, a month in, he did ask Oprah to share her favourite Bible verses.

And in February 2016, Colbert offered televangelist Joel Osteen a chance to explain his theology. But that was basically it.

This changed around the same time that Trump won the presidency. On Nov. 17, less than two weeks after the election, Colbert brazenly attempted to convert noted atheist Bill Maher during the show.

“The door is always open. Golden ticket, right before you,” Colbert said.

“All you have to do is humble yourself before the presence of the Lord and admit there are things greater than you in the universe that you do not understand. Take Pascal’s wager. If you’re wrong, you’re an idiot, but if I’m right, you’re going to hell.”

Maher wasn’t having it and shot back.

“I do admit there are things in the universe I don’t understand, but my response to that is not to just make up silly stories, or to believe intellectually embarrassing myths from the Bronze Age, but you believe whatever you want to.”

In January of this year, Andrew Garfield visited the Late Show, and the result was like a primer from a college religion course. The host and actor talked about Jesus, spiritual warfare, the afterlife, the religious discipline of fasting, and Ignatian spiritual practices. Continue reading.



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