I loved watching ventriloquists when I was a kid. They seemed to be every where. I saw them at school, at church, at parties, and on television. I don’t see them much any more but I know they are still out there because I found a list of some at the International Ventriloquists’ Association. There have been some good ventriloquists and some bad ventriloquists, but the king of them all had to be Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy.
I can remember my parents and grandparents stories about listening to these two (actually one). You know how good Bergen was because the programs were on radio. Not only did Bergen get you to imagine the dummy was speaking but he got you to imagine the dummy!
My understanding is that modern ventriloquism using a dummy got its start in the 1800s. However, I suspect its origins were much earlier. I found one website called Dumbstruck that traced the art of throwing the voice to another object back to ancient Semitic people. This doesn’t surprise because we have several instances of it throughout the Bible. It started out as a communal activity. People would make an idol (often out of wood) and then throw their communal voice into the idol. They were so good at it that they actually believed their own dummy.
When the nation of Israel rebelled, God sent them prophets. What did the people do? They tried to play ventriloquist, using the prophets as their dummies.
Isaiah 30:9-11 NRSV
9 For they are a rebellious people,
children who will not hear
the instruction of the LORD;
10 who say to the seers, "Do not see";
and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel."
It didn’t stop there. There have been ventriloquists throughout the ages. I take a stab at it every now and then. I pick up a Bible, I read it, and then I try to make it say something that sounds more appealing to me. I suspect we all do. In fact, entire movements do it. I wonder if maybe we need to establish a Charlie McCarthy Theology Award. Hollywood has Oscars. We could have the Charlies.
Such an award would likely require a number of different categories. For instance, Life Time Achievement Awards could be given to Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, and Mary Baker Eddy. An award for political movements like the Spanish Inquisition or the ideas of Manifest Destiny and Slavery in the United States might be good. The Ku Klux Klan would surely merit consideration. There could be cultural accommodation awards like the “Health and Wealth Gospel” folks or the “Justice Love” advocates preaching consensual sex between two or more persons of any age race or creed is just what God is telling us in Scripture. You get the idea.
Yes, the Charlie McCarthy Theology Awards. The possibilities are endless. I am thinking I could probably nominate myself for one or two.
Any way, the floor is now open for nominations. Nominations anyone? Anyone?