Overview:

In a press release intending to promote inter-faith relations, the Pope says he dreamt God was a standup comic.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s unusual for a Pope to share one of his dreams. In fact, it has never happened before. But what a dream he had: God as a standup comic!

As the Vatican relates it, in a dream, the Pope sat with leaders of all religions in a large, darkly lit ballroom. A thousand were present. Clerics, ministers, ecclesiastics, prophets, preachers, priests, mystics, monks, lamas, nuns, rabbis, powahs, yogis, imams, avatars, rishis, gurus, holy men, holy women, saints—spiritual models all. All in religious garb.

They were seated at round tables—ten or twelve per. They all smoked rolled tobacco or water pipes. Most sipped spirits. A thick, murky haze hung halo-like over the crowd. 

The room was lit solely by a spotlight fixed upon a lone figure on a large stage at the front. The Divine Comic addressed the crowd between deep drags on a thick clove cigarette, which he held between his thumb and middle finger. Behind the Divine Comic was a feather-winged angel seated with a snare drum and cymbal. The crowd was convulsed in non-stop laughter. The Divine Comic (none other than God) could tell a joke so funny that everyone would literally die laughing at it. But the Comic dialed it down for this particular audience:

“Just think of the great ones for inspiration when you’re feeling low—like Ganesha, for instance. Mother of Pearl S. Buck! He got his head lopped off by his own father and then had to go around with an elephant’s noggin. He made the best of it though. He didn’t sulk and say ‘Woe is me.’ He didn’t make degrading elephant jokes like ‘Impressive, but how do you pee with it?’ No, he aspired to divinity. And you know what? He made it, baby. I mean he made it with a capital M. And millions love him now. I myself am a devotee.”

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them. The Comic took another drag on a clove cigarette and went on:

“Think of Siddhartha. Crime in India! He would be the first to admit he was susceptible to peer pressure with the whole fasting thing. Those Indian ascetics really got to him—and he became one. Talk about a pious X-ray. Je-sus! I mean the guy was so skinny that light passed through him. He darn near starved himself to death. But he didn’t just sit under a banyan tree and call it quits. Well, actually, he did. But then at that very moment the whole Buddha thing dawned on him. And he was finally able to gorge himself on chickpeas without a bad conscience. He gained weight, but he kept that slim look. And for that the ironic Chinese adore him in fat, grinning effigies.”

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them. The Comic took another drag on a clove cigarette and went on:

“Think of Jesus. My cow in a rowboat! The guy gets nailed to a pole probably for nothing more than looking askance at a Roman centurion. He made the best of it though. Did he stay dead? Not for a minute. Well, okay, he stayed dead for the weekend. But then he got up and resurrected himself. It paid off in spades too. Millions dig him now.” 

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them. The Comic took another drag on a clove cigarette and went on:

“Think of Joseph Smith. Christ on a half shell! Talk about getting kicked when you’re already down! I mean those backwoods Methodists tried to smother him with a holy handkerchief and a length of twine. But you know what? Ol’ Joe didn’t just call it quits and amble down the Delta with a five-string banjo. And he didn’t sneak off to French Canada in snowshoes with the beaver trappers, either. No! He stayed put and conjured up the Book of Mormon from two buried wagon wheels and a couple of river rocks jiggled around in his wife’s bonnet. I mean he concocted the first modern ‘American’ religion. Yes, I’m talking about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! Never mind that Joe Smith miscalculated the latter days and the Lord never returned. ‘Latter days’ means the general end of the world: tomorrow or five thousand years from now; it’s all latter day.”   

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them. The Comic took another drag on a clove cigarette and went on:

“Think of Amie Semple McPherson. June bug love! I heard she had thousands swaying in the streets and floating two inches above those dove-gray LA sidewalks. But she saw dark moments too. Was she going to let a boot to the backside keep her from evangelical bliss? Never in a million. Okay, so she’s not worshipped like Ganesha. But give her time. Ganesha is several thousand years older, and that’s a little bit of a head start.”   

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them. The Comic took another drag on a clove cigarette and went on:

“Think of Mary Baker Eddy. Slip me sideways! She was down and out not once, not twice, but six separate times. Did she break her own kneecaps and spend the rest of her life begging in the New York City subways? No way. She started a religion. And I don’t mean just any run-of-the-mill religion. I mean, she started Christian Science, thus catapulting untold numbers into the ranks of healthy living—or untimely death if they happened to need surgery or antibiotics.” 

Bada-bing! went the feather-winged angel with the snare drum and cymbal. And the holy horde convulsed in laughter, and the Pope laughed with them.

And so it went, with lesson after lesson about the great ones, with more and more mirth. Until at last, the Pope awoke, laughing still.

The Vatican said his Holiness publicly wanted to share the dream in the interest of inter-faith relations and ecumenical outreach.

J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religion since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic journals and the LA Times, Huffington...