A few weeks ago, Christian comedian Sherri Shepherd posted a message on her web site.
To those of you who prayed... let me tell you ... PRAYERS WORK! Because it is a miracle of God that I am now a co-host on The View... Now just keep praying, that every morning I don't put my foot in my mouth...
Guess her fans weren't praying hard enough, 'cause in a discussion on evolution, Shepherd left open the possibility that the world might be flat, saying she "never thought about it" (and apparently wasn't about to begin now).
I met Shepherd and saw her perform while researching my chapter on Christian comedy. I liked her quite a bit. First of all, her stand-up is amazingly good. I mean, way better than most comedians you see on the cable TV. She has a confessional, storytelling style that forgoes punchlines in favor of a steadily building yet totally unpredictable wave of hilarity. I don't watch The View, so I have no idea if this comes through in that format (and I can't find any clips online, not even on GodTube, the fastest growing site on the internets), but you'll have to trust me. (Or perhaps my friend, regular commenter and anti-Christian bigot Jake can back me up. He accompanied me to the show with great trepidation and came out totally won over).
More than that, Shepherd struck me as pretty bright. Not the kind of person who would entertain the idea that the earth is flat. So I think there are a couple of possibilities as to what happened here.
The most likely one is that she suspected (not entirely incorrectly) that Whoopi Goldberg was attempting to lead her into a trap. Sensing that it might be hard to get out of, she opted instead not to step inside at all, even if that meant dodging a question that she would have been quite comfortable answering in other circumstances.
Alternately, or perhaps as a contributing factor, Shepherd must be keenly aware, in her new position as a celebrity, of Corinthians 10:32, "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God." Perhaps, not being steeped in the finer points of "creation science," she had a moment of panic: Maybe the Bible does say something about the earth being flat. Even if it were just the smallest doubt, she might prefer to dodge the question rather than say something potentially unbiblical to an audience of millions. Apparently Shepherd apologized today for having a "brain fart" (
clip anyone? clip), but that could just be because she consulted her pastor who told her that, yes, the earth is round and creationists have no problem with that.
It should be noted, in case anyone is concerned, that Shepherd's open-mindeness about the shape of the planet does not represent even the fringiest strain of evangelical thought or Bible science. There are no flat-earthers anymore, Christian or otherwise (I looked hard). There's a minute fringe that... well, I'd better save something for the book tour. Suffice it to say that a flat earth is not a creationist belief, and no doubt creationists are cringing at being made to "look stupid" (I know, I know.)
On the other hand, Shepherd's hesitation to reject the notion outright does speak to the profound antipathy to natural science that is the bedrock of creationism and to the anti-intellectualism that infuses much (though not all) evangelicalism in general. So while it would be incorrect to say creationists "think the world is flat," it is perfectly accurate to say that instilling creationism in people seriously degrades their ability to think rationally (or at least scientifically) at all.
Having come to like and admire many evangelicals in the pop culture scene, I had hoped that Shepherd would be a kind of antitode to Elisabeth Hasselbeck � a woman who could show the world that not all evangelicals are humorless, uptight scolds. But I'm afraid that she's now going to be permanently known for something even worse.