Stephen Colbert, Tolkien, & the Pope

My context for my existence,” said well-known comedian Stephen Colbert, “is that I am here to know God, love God, serve God, that we might be happy with each other in this world and with Him in the next.” Colbert, who took over David Letterman’s post on the Late Show starting in 2015, is a devout Catholic. In an interview with Huffington Post, he talked about his faith and his desire to meet Pope Francis.

A more serious question Colbert would like to discuss with the Pope is how “the Holy Spirit forms one’s conscience.” For a gifted comedian known for a quick wit and an unpredictable stream of consciousness, this would be a fascinating conversation to overhear. While I’m not sure if Colbert was ever able to meet the Pope, one thing seems certain, Colbert sees life as a gift from God and he isn’t afraid to be considered a “fool for Christ.”

In an interview with Joel Lovell, editor for This American Life, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien as formative to his outlook. Tolkien held the  conviction that suffering, even death, should be seen as a gift from God. For Colbert, whose father and two older brothers died in a plane crash when Colbert was only ten-years-old, this is no theoretical topic. For Colbert, both comedy and tragedy are central to gratitude. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude,” he said, “It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”