A bouncy quiz-master bounces in from the left and bounces away in front of the audience. Behind him are a couple of chairs put side to side facing the audience. Further along are five chairs facing across the stage.
B.Q: Hello, good evening and welcome to another exciting, bouncy, fun-filled and pointless edition of the quiz game you all can’t abide, The Conversion Game. Here is a brief summary of the rules, and if that was too brief here they are again. Every week we go out onto the streets and select an atheist.
(Boos and hisses from “plants” in the audience)
We then bring him here so that we may show him the TRUTH. So, now let us meet and greet our pet atheist and to bring him on is the lovely Delilah.
(Enter Delilah who, to all intents and purposes looks like a bowler hatted city gent with umbrella tucked under arm. “She” brings in the atheist on a leash. The latter is quite ordinarily dressed. Delilah pushes the atheist onto one of the two chairs facing the audience to loud jeers and boos from the “plants”.)
And now our four competitors who are going to try and convert the covetous, sanctify the sacriligeous and win vast sums of money doing so.
(From the left come four people. The first has a halo, the second has a bible, the third is dressed scruffily like a hippy and the fourth is rather desperately looking through a mass of little bits of paper. They sit in the four chairs.)
Now remember each of you has to try and convert the atheist avoiding cliches. If any form of cliche is used or the atheist makes any form of protest, a buzzer will go like this.
And for our lucky winners we have £300,000!! Yaaaay!! (bouncing up and down excitedly) £300,000 isn’t that exciting? (Nobody reacts, the quizmaster stops bouncing) Er…. sorry. Anyway, let’s get these commercialised conversions under way. Would our first contestant step forward please.
(The hippy swaggers up to the atheist.)
O.k, and away you go!!!
(Hippy walks off stage right)
(Quizmaster follows hippy off stage right. For five or ten seconds nothing happens. Then the quizmaster comes back dragging the hapless hippy behind him. Points to atheist.)
There you are!!!
(Hippy walks over to atheist. Puts hand on shoulder)
Hippy: Hey brother…
(Atheist looks uncertainly at the hand on his shoulder)
Atheist: Er …yes.
Hippy: Have you been washed in the blood of the lamb?
B.Q. (walking across applauding) Well, well isn’t that a shame? He used a cliche. Still, didn’t he do well?
B.Q: Ha ha. I just used a cliche too. Still that’s the name of the game.
B.Q: Ha ha. Can we have our next contestant please?
(Man with halo steps forward, sits down next to atheist)
Right, off you go.
Oh, shut up. (Exits stage right.)
( The atheist and the guy with the halo sit quietly for a while. Both uncertain what to say. Suddenly the GWH decides to break the ice)
G.W.H: Good evening.
Atheist: Er, good evening.
G.W.H: Rather a fun game isn’t it?
Atheist: Er… yes.
(Awkward pause. Both looking around.)
M.W.H: So er… what do you do for a living?
Atheist: Er.. I’m a chartered accountant.
M.W.H: Oh really? How very boring.
(Awkward pause. Both looking around.)
M.W.H: Ok, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Atheist: Ok, what’s that?
M.W.H: (Sudden american evangelist accent) Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own personal saviour?
(Quizmaster bounces back in. MWH is oblivious)
M.W.H: Repent and you’ll be saved.
B.Q: Ok, thank you.
M.W.H: He died that we may live!!
B.Q: Er… could you go back to your seat now please?
M.W.H: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…
B.Q: Ha ha yes. Thank you very much now if you could….. (during the following B.Q walks off stage).
M.W.H: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish….
(B.Q comes back with a pistol.)
M.W.H: but have everlasting life. (He is shot by the Bouncy quizmaster) Aaargh!!
B.Q: Ha ha ha. There you have it folks. Delilah could you escort this contestant home please?
(Delilah come is and drags M.W.H off stage by his feet)
B.Q : Ha ha, what a lot of fun eh? Can we have our next contestant please?
(Man with bits of paper stuffs them into his back trouser pockets and goes and sits next to atheist)
B.Q: Right, carry on. And it is a right carry one too.
B.Q: Thank you.
(B.Q walks offstage. Pause.)
B.Q: (offstage) And don’t think I didn’t hear that, either.
(MWP and atheist sit looking around awkwardly. MWP waits for the atheist to look away and starts desperatly ferreting through his pockets. Atheist turns around. MWP stops suddenly)
Atheist: Anything wrong?
MWP: Er…no. My leg was itching, I was just scratching it.
(Atheist turns away. MWP shoves his hand into his back pocket. Pulls out bits of paper and starts unscrewing them. Atheist turns round. MWP hurredly sits on papers.)
Atheist: Are you sure your ok?
MWP: Er… yes. No problem. The seat’s a bit damp. Just thought I’d put some paper down. Don’t want to catch cold you know.
Atheist: So there’s nothing wrong?
MWP: No, no, no.
(Atheist looks away. MWP makes a frantic attempt to retrieve the papers. He tears them in the process. Looks heavenwards and mutters something. Atheist turns around. MWP stuffs paper in his mouth.)
Atheist: Did you just say something?
(MWP shakes head furiously. Atheist turns away again. MWP takes paper out of mouth and unfurls it.)
MWP: It’s the wrong bit!!
Atheist: (turning round) Sorry?
MWP: Er…. nice day wasn’t it?
Atheist: Yes. It was.
MWP: (now forced into conversation) Er….. oh…erm…..Yes, the sun was quite hot today wasn’t it?
Atheist: No hotter than it was yesterday. In fact its been that hot for billions of years.
MWP: Oh really?
Atheist: Yes. You see the sun doesn’t actually get any cooler at all. It’s the earth’s atmosphere that determines what sort of day it’s going to be.
MWP: (getting a little bored) Is that so?
Atheist: It certainly is.
MWP: (looking at ground rather frustrated at this patronising) I dreaded as much.
Atheist: (getting into his stride with this “primitive”) You see , the amount of pressure there is in the air determines the sort of weather we have…..
MWP: (to buzzer operator offstage) I can’t surrender can I? No? Oh dear.
Atheist: If the pressure in the atmosphere is high then we generally get good weather, if it is low then we get bad weather, you see? If you want I could tell you all about equinoxes and the effect of the moon’s gravitationla pull on the tides and…..
MWP: (at his wits end) Have you been saved, brother?
F.X: Buzzzzzz (B.Q comes back in)
MWP: Phew, thank heavens for that.
B.Q: Ha ha ha. Well bad luck there.
MWP: (walking offstage) There was nothing bad about that, believe me.
B.Q: Ha ha. Our final contestant please.
(Man with bible walks over to atheist and starts to read 1 John 5 out loud ignoring everything and everybody around him. Atheist and B.Q. both look a little non-plussed.)
Atheist (at about verse 5): Yeah that’s all very impressive I’m sure but what does it mean.
MWB: (caught offguard) Oh, er er um where is it? Ah yes Verse 13 (reads verse 13).
Atheist: And that means?
MWB: Repent and be saved.
B.Q: Well ha ha. It seems nobody this week has managed to sanctify the scrofulous. Never mind. Tune in again next week when it could be your turn to play “The Conversion Game”.
“Crusaders” were an evangelical christian youth group I belonged to as a teen, even at one point making it to position of junior leader. However I was becoming increasingly disenchanted by the ethos and the sketches I was writing for the classes were starting to betray my increasing cynicism. I tended to keep these a secret however and wrote stuff to suit my audience.
My interest was trying to present biblical ideas in Pythonesque ways on the grounds that people who laugh are more open to thinking about what they are laughing at. To this end I wrote sketches involving a mad professor (complete in bloodstained white coat) talking about how he had got around the camel/eye of needle issue (“Ve found zat if you liquidize ze camel it becomes much easier to pass through ze eye of ze needle” “I see, was that easy?” “No, of course not. Have you ever tried to fit a whopping great camel into ze Kenwood Mixer?”), a reconciliation sketch between Jacob and Esau set at a dinner party where the topic of the stolen birthright kept cropping up subliminally causing endless “cups of sherry” to be dropped on both sides and one which got me into a lot of trouble (a conflation of the two men/ house on sand and house on stone parable with the “Three Little Pigs” a la Disney- opening sung line “We are two little men, we won’t sing that line again. With a chin chin chinny chin. Chinny chinny chin. Chinny chinny chinny chin chin chin.”) with the hierarchy over its being “infantile” and finally led me and the guys I was on the same level as to stop writing altogether. I left soon afterwards.
Looking back at this sketch I can see that I found my hackles were already raised over the seeming falseness of the ethos, the pat phrases, the tendency to fall into predigested statements about faith rather than individual perspectives on the notion. There was nothing remotely personal or individual in any of this. You might just as well have been advertising washing powder. It seems more like a corporate PR exercise in which the converted could be plugged into the latest christian market commodities than having any serious purpose in exploring the nature of what divinity means and should mean.
By this time too I was starting to question the exclusive nature of Christocentrism and became convinced that the divine could be found in other faiths as well. I explored Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi teachings and became very excited over the similarities. (A passage in the translation I had of the “Bagavadgita” where Krishna, (the human embodiment of “Brahma”) tells his companion to know that “I AM” particularly excited me.) The links between these branches of thinking and what I was also reading in the “Nag Hammadi Library” convinced me that Evangelicalism merely dealt with the surface and could not sustain or further aid my particular journey along this road.
This is actually rather a tame sketch on the topic. I wrote one later that depicted baptism by total immersion as a sheep dip where one person after another in an endless line gets “deloused” by people saying exactly the same meaningless formulaic thing to them. Needless to say it was never performed.