Parodies of Power: Why Satire Is Needed Now More Than Ever

Andrew Bradley is the creator of the satirical character Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Betty is played by co-producer Deven Green in YouTube videos that have reached over ten million viewers. Bradley writes all of the content for Betty Bowers’ Facebook page, which has over 579,000 fans, and her Twitter feed, which has 200,000 followers and reached over nine million people during the first week of 2018. Bradley has also written or co-written three humor books: What Would Betty Do? (Simon & Schuster), White House Handbook (co-writer for Penguin), and Welcome to Jesusland!(co-writer for Hachette).

Green is an award-winning comedic performer based in Los Angeles via Canada. In addition to playing Betty Bowers she writes and voices the Welcome to My Home and Welcome to My White House parodies of Melania Trump, has appeared as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and performs live music shows across the US. She has been an outspoken ally and advocate for LGBTQ rights, The Trevor Project, The NO H8 campaign, HIV Equal, AIDS Ride, Southern California’s G&L Centre, San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative, and the LGBT Youth Center—San Diego. She’s headlined Pride festivals across the US, officiated same-sex marriages, and regularly speaks to LGBTQ alliances at colleges and universities.

The following is adapted from their remarks in acceptance of the American Humanist Association’s 2018 Humanist Arts Award, presented at the AHA annual conference on May 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

[Deven Green speaking] WELL, HELLO FRIENDS. As you can tell, when I talk I’m naturally insincere. So, I’m telling you right now, that I am actually sincere in thanking you very much for this arts award with Andrew Bradley. It is an honor to be recognized after more than a decade of working together.

I’m thankful that all of you here truly appreciate satire as 99 percent of the internet does. (The other 1 percent sends me death threats and marriage proposals daily.) This acknowledgement is certainly encouraging, so thank you to the American Humanist Association and, of course, Andrew Bradley.

[Andrew Bradley speaking]: Thank you very much for the award. It means a lot to us, and it’s exciting to meet all of you, but also to be together. Deven and I talk all the time on the phone, but we’re hardly ever together (I’m in Atlanta, and she’s in Hollywood—she’s so glamorous!). So knowing we’d be together, I wrote a piece for us to perform. I thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we’re in a room full atheists, or quasi-near-adjacent atheists, and do a spoof on the Bible. It’s called “The Whole Bible in One Minute.”

ANDREW BRADLEY: Let there be cosmic music. [Green hums Star Trek theme.]

God has always existed.

DEVEN GREEN: Just as well, because if he created himself, he’d be even more flawed.

AB: Which may be why he didn’t get around to creating anything until only three billion years ago.

DG: Six thousand years ago.

AB: Whatever, either way, trillions and billions of years ago, God sat around and did absolutely nothing.

DG: Except sit alone in the dark.

AB: Until God thought to turn on the light.

DG: By finally inventing one.

AB: God then created man.

DG: Humanity shipped without a female!

AB: Sloppy.

DG: This exhausted the Almighty.

AB: So he took a nap on the seventh day.

DG: God is not a full-time job.

AB: And it shows.

DG: The fun part of God’s job was over.

AB: Shouldn’t have rushed through all that creation.

DG: So the rest of his existence is basically doing customer support.

AB: “Your prayer is super important to us.”

DG: “Please. Stay on your knees.”

AB: “It will be answered in the order it was received.”

DG: “Current wait times are approximately—”

AB: “Four thousand years.”

DG: Prayers. Just a passive-aggressive way of telling God, we think he’s gotten a little lazy.

AB: God woke up and was shocked to find he didn’t even like man.

DG: Proving God can’t see into the future.

AB: Or he would have started with Noah instead of Adam.

DG: Or not given the Jews the only place in the Middle East without oil.

AB: But God never admits error.

DG: So God got mad at man instead.

AB: And decided to smite everyone who breaks his laws.

DG: Soon after he drowned everyone, even the unborn, in the world.

AB: Stoned everyone in Sodom.

DG: Frogged everyone in Egypt.

AB: God finally got around to telling Moses what those laws were.

DG: Men still ignored them.

AB: Because that’s how God made them.

DG: Which, again, made co-dependent God angry at man.

AB: So, God did the only sensible thing.

DG: He killed himself.

AB: But after three short days—

DG: Technically, two.

AB: Oh well, God realized, I just can’t commit to this death thing.

DG: Because God’s love is unconditional.

AB: But he’ll torture you if it’s unrequited.

DG: And he will bribe you to love him with—

AB: Heaven.

DG: An eternity with the people you avoided here on earth.

AB: Egh, so you know it’s going to be tedious.

DG: We will blame Satan.

AB: God will blame us.

DG: The end.

[Andrew Bradley]: So that was the Bible in about a minute, which is about as long as anybody should spend on it. And it’s also roughly about a millionth of the time that evangelicals spend talking about it. And twice the time they spend following it. Because evangelicals have this clever trick in pretending to follow a religion—they multitask. They don’t judge you…while they judge you. They love you…while they hate everything about you. And they follow Jesus…while they don’t listen 
to anything he ever said! Not even the easy things to remember, like don’t divorce.

Fun statistic: You are all less likely to get a divorce than an evangelical Christian, which, technically, makes all of you better 
Christians than Christians. Glory!

And Jesus said: don’t retaliate. You know how evangelicals get around that one? They attack first. Just ask Iraq.

Jesus also said, “Give all your money to the poor.” Now, honestly, if Jesus sat in a room trying to think, “How can I can get under the skin of conservative Christians?” telling them to give away all their money, especially to the poor, would be the thing to hit on. It’s almost like he’s intentionally trolling them. But, you know, evangelicals like to outsmart Jesus. It’s sort of like, “Okay, so I give all my money to the poor. Well, Jesus, wouldn’t that make them rich and me poor? So, Jesus, shouldn’t they, like, have to give it back to me? I just skip a step and keep it. Checkmate!”

People are acting as if evangelicals have changed in the past two years. They haven’t changed. They’ve just revealed themselves. Because evangelicals have never followed the Bible. They’ve always been too busy following the money. Which is why now they can either yawn or cheer that their favorite president slept with a porn star, and without a condom. Because the only Johnson evangelicals care about a president using is the Johnson Amendment. You know, never come between Jerry Falwell Jr. and a bucketful of cash.

“Fun statistic: you are all less likely to get a divorce than an evangelical Christian, which, technically, makes all of you better Christians than Christians.”

And do you know how to tell when evangelicals are no longer on speaking terms with the God they pretend to follow? It’s when they invoke the quintessentially American invention called the prosperity gospel. You’ve heard of the #MeToo movement. The prosperity gospel is the #MeFirst movement. I mean, is there any more obnoxious humble brag than “I am so blessed!”?

[Pretends to be on phone] “No, Jesus. I said I wanted the red Lexus for me, not the clean drinking water for them! 
[Listens to voice on other line] Well, if you felt that strongly about it, they’d already have it!” God sat out the Holocaust. Do you really think he’s going to lift a finger to get you that new Lexus?

Other than tax-free cash, the other things that evangelicals are absolutely obsessed with are abortion and homosexuality. Two things, not coincidentally, Jesus never ever mentioned—an appalling oversight that evangelicals have devoted their lives to correcting. Hence, the meaning of Christian, as in follower of Christ, has totally eroded through willful disregard. And the Bible study that teaches rich Americans when Jesus was being sarcastic? Totally flew over the meek’s heads!

So, conservative Christians really need to start calling themselves something other than Christians. I have a suggestion: if you take the word Christ out of Christianity, you’re basically left with something that sounds like inanity. And I think that’s more accurate. It’s certainly more honest. And please stop using the tagline “Jesus is love.” The only difference between the Family Research Council and the Westboro Baptist Church is that Tony Perkins wears clothes that you need to dry clean. And he uses focus groups. Like most evangelicals you see on TV, they’ve learned to speak in code. Their hate is pretty. And their latest pretty gimmick is called religious freedom, whereby “religious” is code for evangelical Christian. As usual, Muslims need not apply. And “freedom” is code for being awful to others, especially if they’re Muslim or one of those letters the gay folks are using now.

Remember the adorable stories we learned in grade school about the fabulous Puritans? They fled Europe to get away from religious persecution. That was America’s first fake news. Puritans 
weren’t against religious persecution, they just wanted to be the ones doing it. Which makes them exactly like their modern progeny, the evangelicals. Which is why I think it’s really important to push back against this con called “religious freedom.” It’s going to be the next important chapter in protecting secular constitutional America from the greedy encroachment of theocracy.


Question: There are two different kinds of Christians, nice ones and those who deserve the satirical treatment you give them. How do you position yourself in an effort to eventually get them to be decent Christians?

AB: I agree totally. And that’s why I take pains to not refer to Christians but evangelicals. I think there’s a huge difference. Betty has a lot of followers who are devout Christians. My impression is always if you leave other people alone, then you should be allowed to believe whatever you want to believe. That’s what is supposedly great about this country or what used to be great about it. There’s a huge difference. In the Betty Bowers videos, we’re spoofing these incredibly judgmental hypocritical people who don’t follow their own religion. We’ve got allies out there. There are a lot of people who are believers.

I sat next to this guy on the plane, and I could tell he was reading my script for the Bible bit. He asked, are you a pastor? I said, no, I’m an atheist. And he said, you know what? I’m good with that. And I said, well, I’m good with you being a Christian. I said that people need to give each other some space, whether it’s religion, politics, etcetera. Allow them to come to their own conclusions and don’t wag a finger in their face. You don’t make any friends that way. And anyway, that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be a country of pluralism—a vast, varied group of people who are trying to come together, trying to work together to solve some problems.

Q: I’m an officer of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. We have many gay people on our outreach committee who are committed to reaching out to communities of faith. And I’m wondering, what’s your take on that?

DG: Yes, carry on, continue to do so. I’m heavily involved in that particular community, so much so that I get asked everyday online what gender I am and how was I born. Every day. I simply say I was born with manners.

Q: I was so happy to see Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian back when I worked for Planned Parenthood. You were like the light in the darkness. One of the things I’ve appreciated about Mrs. Bowers is her devotion to fashion. I’d like to hear why you made that choice and how that fits into her character.

AB: Well, I created Betty about seventeen years ago. One of the things I wanted to do is not play into the cliché, the stereotype. I thought it might be more fun to turn it on its head and have Betty always be the smartest person in the room, not the rube. And also the most fashionable, so when we started she was always wearing Prada. She’s a formidable presence who’s hard to dismiss as a hick.

DG: I just make all the fashion choices by asking, what would my mom wear?

AB: We always know we’ve scored if Deven’s mom watches a video and asks, where did you get that outfit?

Q: I’m wondering, how do you select your sponsors? I assume you have to be funded some way.

DG: We’ve done almost seventy videos, and we do it all ourselves.

AB: It’s a labor of love. I write the script, then we Skype and go over it to decide what we think is working, what’s not. We’ll go to, like, draft twenty-five.

DG: Easily.

AB: Then Deven will shoot it in Los Angeles, send the green screens back to me in Atlanta, and I’ll put the video together. Nobody is paying us.

Q: With the current political climate, do you have more material that you can use?

AB: Well, you know, the problem with the current political climate is, yes, you do have more material. But how useful is it when you’re trying to parody somebody who’s really impossible to parody? I mean, how do you get more outrageous than Donald Trump? But there is a lot of material. It sounds quaint to me now, but a few years ago I thought, you know, maybe Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian has sort of run her course. I mean, we’ve got marriage equality now. People are becoming more open minded. It seems like the religious right is recessing.

Oh, no, no. Now it’s like they’ve tasted blood. Like I said, the next huge battle is this religious freedom bullshit, which is a total con job. And it’s just a way to shoehorn Christianity into public spaces and make it the de facto official religion of the United States.

The official public discourse has become so coarse and horrible, things that you would be surprised to hear people say in private are now said in microphones in front of twenty thousand people. People watch that and they take notes and it gives them license. Look at all these white supremacists. As stupid as they are, they knew better than to show their faces in the public square not so long ago. Not anymore. Which is why Deven and I are going to keep doing what we’re doing.