Now this is a departure from the usual Edinburgh Fringe staple diet of straight plays and stand-up comedy sets: An Introduction to Joy, presented by a former Free Church clergyman. There are more verses from the Bible read out than there would be at a typical church service, all of which are from Ecclesiastes. In an arguably radical (re)interpretation of the selected verses, it would appear that the relative fleetingness of life means that life is to be lived and appreciated. Bell goes on to quote the Talmud, a major source of Jewish theology, “A person will be called to account on Judgement Day for every permissible thing he might have enjoyed but did not.”
If this goes against the ideals of organised religion, which has a habit of eschewing anything remotely fun or entertaining, so be it – Bell draws his audience back to the essence of the holy texts themselves, and at the same time (and I’d say this is crucial) nobody is asked to convert to anything. It’s all about the practicalities of increasing the amount of joy in people’s lives, small steps that people can actually take. And this is a very slick presentation, complete with photographs and images projected onto a large screen, which demonstrate the points being made very well.
Amusing social media posts are shown and chortled at, and the repeated mantra is to “lower the bar”, to the point where one is able to lighten up at smile at things that others may find infantile or unfunny. There are road signs showing distances to oddly named destinations, cute pictures of cats and dogs, that sort of thing. I can see why some adherents of religion absolutely hate the guy – God forbid people should actually have “life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). In the end, whatever one’s stance on faith, whatever one’s sexual orientation, whatever one’s stage of life, there’s joy to be found wherever we are, if we just look closely enough.
Rob Bell: An Introduction To Joy
The Stand’s New Town Theatre (Grand Hall)
17, 18 and 19 August 2019
21:00 (1 hour)
Former pastor Rob Bell is the New York Times bestselling author of Love Wins, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, The Zimzum of Love, How To Be Here and What is the Bible?. His podcast, RobCast, is the number one spirituality podcast. He’s been profiled in the New Yorker, toured with Oprah, and Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He has a regular show at Largo, the legendary LA club, and now brings his brilliant new show to the 2019 Fringe.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.