I’m an immigrant (but it’s ok I’m the good kind)

I’m an immigrant.

But hold up. Before you leave this post disgusted, I’m the good type.

I’m not one of those immigrants in Calais who are trying to selfishly move to the UK so they can suck the life out of the country bringing their different skin colors and weird smells to our pale and floral smelling cities like London or Glasgow.

I moved to the USA a couple of years because I was able to and I had family and friends who helped us. I mean, we needed help because otherwise I would have had to probably limit my lukewarm chai tea latte from Starbucks to twice or heaven forfend, once a week.

Sure I moved from Belfast, where I had a great community of people around me, a job, a family who loved me, Boojum and a sense of belonging. But ever since they took Chilis away a few years ago I’ve had to wait once, (maybe twice if lucky) a year, until I visited to have a proper hot meal from a US chain restaurant.

And now Songs of Praise, a long running religious show on the BBC are offensively spending money to reporting from a migrant camp in Calais for this weekends episode. That is money that could have been much better spent on bringing back bastions of British broadcasting like Pets Win Prizes or Eldorado.

What does Christianity even have to do with people leaving oppressive living situations and traveling long distances in unbearable conditions to seek a better life anyway?

Jesus would have been ashamed to see the religion he so carefully structured around the rich, privileged and powerful reduced to reporting from this squaller. At least He had strict conditions for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven, like owning a camel. I haven’t seen one camel in the news reports from Calais and that is worrying.

And of course there will be those who claim Britain is anti immigrant and anti Christian because of all of this and especially after recent cuts to asylum support for parents with two children were announced. But we’re actually doing the Christian thing by forcing those people, oops I mean migrants, to live in even more poverty and so receive blessing from God, just like Jesus said.

Look, I’m all for helping people out a little but Jesus always made sure he kept his distance from those in need. That’s why he climbed a mountain to deliver his political manifesto the Beatitudes and another time got in a boat to preach, probably to demonstrate how cool boats were for any immigrants present who had any ideas about over staying their welcome.

And anyway, Britain has worked far too hard to make itself the country it is ever since our forefathers thousands of years before us just woke up magically one day with “British” virtues flowing through their red and blue blood. Although that’s because it’s always so bloody cold but still.

Britain is a country based on minding our own business and not getting involved in other countries affairs and now people from some of those countries, countries most of us have never been on holiday to and whom we most certainly did not have any negative influence on politically, have the cheek to take advantage of our good nature and Greggs.

Coming over here, taking our jobs that none of us really want.

How rude.

Jesus must be turning in his tomb.

The Identity Crisis of LAD and Jamie Bryson

Yesterday morning as I opened up my twitter feed to see what latest wacky method someone had employed for their Ice Bucket challenge, I soon found myself reading through another twitter discussion between Northern Ireland’s two greatest parody twitter accounts, LAD and Jamie Bryson. Only one of which is actually a genuine parody account believe it or not.

For those who don’t know and who maybe don’t even care let me explain briefly who LAD and Jamie are.

LAD are a satirical twitter account, who under the guise of a quintessential Loyalist seek to highlight the absurdities of those cultures in Northern Ireland (both Unionism and Republicanism) which from the outside must look like parodies in themselves. The obsession with flegs and culture and parades. They bring to light the contradictions that many in the political world of Northern Ireland seem to have no problem in portraying. Using twitter as their main tool as well as occasional parody videos (where they are strongest), they for the most part are successful, while being hilarious. Think, a sort of Stephen Colbert type character, that is employing the beliefs they obviously don’t agree with in order to highlight their absurdities. But with bad grammar (intentional) and an ironic love of flegs.

They are not however perfect. More on that later.

In the other corner we have Jamie Bryson. A young (at least I assume he is, his baby faced features make it truly difficult to tell), proud, Loyalist who was seen as a spokesperson of sorts for the fleg protests of November 2012, after Belfast City Council voted to fly the Union Flag on a select designated number of days, rather than the entire year. And yes, this did warrant country wide street protests and violence. Want to fight about it?

Jamie is passionate, of that no one can deny (is this a lyric?) but his own contradictions are his downfall. Like continually lambasting LAD for their “hateful” and “vile” attacks on those in his culture, while being caught on camera in a crowd of people throwing missiles at another community. D’oh!

But they both have something in common which may just be the last thread of hope for reconciliation between the two.

They both have an identity crisis.

With LAD, I’m never quite sure of who they are supposed to be. While they make a very good go at using humor to view the political situation in Northern Ireland, they often find themselves being sucked into petty twitter disputes with the likes of Jamie Bryson. They break out of character, which weakens the power that their satire has, as rusty and as rough around the edges as may be sometimes.

Compare this to earlier in the year when someone from the aforementioned Stephen Colbert show, tweeted from his characters account something which was deemed racist. It wasn’t. It was a use of satire to highlight the ignorance of racism. He wasn’t really being racist.

Rather than personally taking to twitter or social media to get angry or annoyed, he and his writers took a breath, stayed in character and delivered this amazing response on the next edition of the show.

This is what LAD need to perfect if they are to truly shake up the political landscape of Northern Ireland.

They need to understand that Jamie is someone who has a limited voice in politics and since many of his ideas would have been embarrassing at the height of the troubles, they should seek to make fun of them without getting personal. This only gives Jamie more ammunition and also distracts LAD from what they do best. Making fun of those who have outdated and harmful views on how Northern Ireland should be run.

Lately, Jamie has threatened to expose the real faces behind the LAD account. He says he knows, and he may well do. But LAD should put an end to this and expose themselves (simply their identity that is, nothing illegal). This would take the one trick Jamie could possibly have up his sleeve and would give LAD the chance to concentrate on doing what Northern Ireland politics is crying out for them to do.

Jamie’s identity crisis is just a little more sinister.

As someone who claims to be a Christian but sees no problem in attacking his fellow Christians, he fails to understand the life that Jesus came to offer everyone. Concepts like, loving your enemies, forgiveness, caring for those who face injustice (and no, having your flag taken away doesn’t count Jamie), and turning the other cheek. His faith is one based on fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what would happen if his identity, one held together by a tradition that is famous for it’s role in dividing communities not building it, was placed in something much larger, much more beautiful than “For God and Ulster.”

This is only important because the Gospel that Jamie believes in is far removed from the life that Jesus led where He challenged His own tradition and most pertinently for Jamie, one that is unrecognizable from the call to love His enemies.

Until Jamie, sorts this muddled view of His faith then His identity will always be confused.

For Jamie, this will diminish his great passion that he could direct at building a Northern Ireland where we make the next leap from peace to one where we trust those on the other side.

Perhaps even, to a time when there is no other side.

But for now, as Jamie threatens and promises to finally expose the faces behind LAD, maybe there is one possible explanation for why he keeps stalling.

One that no one would see coming.

What if Jamie Bryson is LAD?!

Now wouldn’t that be amazing?

When God sees the funny side: An open Letter.


Dear Mr Ball,

I remember years ago being brought by my mum and some friends to see the Reduced Shakespeare company play of the Bible in Belfast. I must have been about 12 or 13.

I love comedy and I love God. Sometimes we think that the two are incompatible. That for some reason God calls us to complete reverence when it comes to Him and certainly when it comes to the Bible itself.

I would love to ask you what about the play when you saw it upset you so much? Continue reading

Joking with Jesus

I love Satire. It’s probably my favourite type of comedy if I am honest. And we have a great wealth of satirists to choose from. From shows such as Have I got News for You to the Daily Show and from writers such as Armandio Iannucci to to Mark Steel, nowhere is safe for the absurdities of politics and culture to be made fun of.

I believe for satire to be good it needs to shine a light on all aspects of those cultures that are wrong, absurd, dangerous and ridiculous. It needs to take what is wrong and expose them for what they are. The best satire is the type that is able to show the contradictory facets in public life, be that politicians or celebrities. Whilst being funny, very funny.

Politicians and celebrities have been the butt of many jokes over the years but there is one group who are now finding themselves ridiculed more and more. That group? Evangelical Christians. Namely fundamental Christians. Now you may be thinking this is nothing new. Sure Christians have been made fun of by shows such as South Park, Father Ted and Family Guy before but there is a new group stepping up to the altar and confessing their disdain for most things Evangelical Christian. And it’s not who you would think either.

For the group who are taking it upon themselves to ridicule the absurdities of Christian Culture are none other than other Christians.

Watching this subculture of Christians take it upon themselves to poke fun at the parts of Christian life, language and culture which have seemed so ridiculous to many of those outside of the church already, has been a breath of fresh air.

As a Christian one of the most frustrating things I find about the culture that I somehow find myself loving and hating at the same time, is it’s inability to laugh at itself. Religious folk are by far and away the most easily offended group on the planet which doesn’t bear well for our ability to laugh at ourselves. Comedians such as Tripp and Tyler and bloggers like Jon Acuff though realise that sometimes as Christians we exclude others from being able to feel part of a Church, not necessarily because of some desire to keep people out (although sometimes because of very much this reason) but because those who have been brought up in a culture which doesn’t think it’s weird to talk about having fellowship with each other, when really they just mean hanging out, are quite literally speaking a different language.

The weird and wonderful dynamics of Christian Culture should be open to made fun of because it shows that a/ sometimes the reasoning of a lot which we do is odd and its good to question why we do or say certain things and b/ hey it’s funny. If the old comedy statement that ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ is ahem, true, we should all find Christian culture funny because we all know someone who echos someone else’s prayers and prays invisible, ‘unspoken’ prayers.

But the Christian satirist doesn’t simply stop at weird Christianese talk or prayer triplet and prayer squares as terms to be made fun of. A growing number of Christians who have become disillusioned with certain characteristics of Christianity have come out fighting.

It is one thing to make fun of typical light hearted things as the comedians mentioned above may, but it is quite another to stand up to the practices and processes that many churches use but which in fact may be dangerous and harmful.

A hotbed for this kind of Christian satire can be found on twitter, with tweeters such as Stephanie Drury of Stuff Christian Culture Likes (not to be confused with Jon Acuff and Stuff Christians Like) standing up for those who have been mistreated by the Church by using their voice and own experiences to highlight the darker aspects of Christian culture like misogyny and homophobia. If satire at it’s heart is about seeing things clearly, about seeing that there is a better way then sites such as Stuff Christian Culture Likes are leading the way in exposing what some Churches and Christians believe to be the way things should be.

Fake twitter accounts such as the brilliant @RealRobBaal which pokes fun more at peoples view of Rob Bell than Rob Bell himself and @fakedriscoll which imagines Mark Driscoll as a sort of lovable misogynist are important in how they acknowledge some sort of truth about someone or a culture that many, were either too afraid or too oblivious to mention. Like the elephant in the room, which everyone knows about and no one ever mentions, highlighting an issue in a comedic way can actually bring a sense of relief.

This is where satire in general but particularly in Christian circles can be a positive thing. For those who have been mistreated by the church, seeing other people expose the actions of a few in a way that shows them up for who they really are can bring healing and closure. For those who have tried to change the way things have been done in church, just because ‘that is how we do it’; seeing other people feel the ridiculousness of some of our practices also, can help them realise they are not crazy or alone.

This can be life changing for someone who was about to throw the towel in on Church and God and faith.

For Jesus, this way of thinking was particularly clear. He often took the absurdities of the religious culture in which he was a part of and exposed them for the world to see. Stories of camels going through needles, people removing specks from their buddies eye while they had a plank in their own and even stories of people stripping naked to give someone your clothes were all examples of Jesus using humour and imagery in a way that exposed a wrong thinking or wrong doing.

Perhaps satirising our own Christian culture is important and perhaps it is even biblical. One thing is for sure
it needs to be very, very funny.

Like this.