Wednesday, March 10, 2010
J-students quiz Christ
I feel it’s my duty to singlehandedly save journalism from boring the rest of us to death. I do so 15 students at a time at Point Park University in Pittsburgh where every other year it’s become my privilege to teach grad students creative non-fiction.
I realized the future of journalism was at stake several years ago when I asked the class to conduct Q&As with someone interesting in their lives, someone capable of drawing compelling interest from strangers
The results made me furious.
They asked self-centered friends what makes them cool, why their hair always looks so fabulous and how they overcome hangovers.
With the exception of the kid who asked detailed questions about hangover cures, I flunked them all (some of the kid’s tips actually worked).
Was this how they intended to entertain and enlighten busy news consumers? I needed to come up with way to get them to ask tough questions that will yield revealing answers.
So I decided to have them pose hypothetical questions with three celebrity subjects who’ve been relentlessly grilled about their personal lives and their thoughts about important issues.
Mick Jagger, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jesus Christ.
For Jagger, some asked what his grandchildren call him and if he ever makes fun of Keith Richard’s amplified mumblings behind his back.
They posed questions of Paltrow about her marriage to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, their daughter Apple, and if they had plans to name any subsequent children after tree fruit.
But it was the questions for Christ -- some playful, others seething -- that were so riveting I include a version of the drill every year. It serves an educational purpose that goes beyond where you're supposed to put all the commas.
Here are some of my favorites from a group I admire as a bright and creative bunch. I think they could right now could give the King of Kings a better grilling that the ones scandal-plagued celebs get from renown softballer Larry King.
Check ‘em out:
• When a bell rings does an angel really get its wings?
• What is your contact information and have you been getting your messages?
• Is there a basis of severity for fulfilling prayers? I mean, is there a keyword you’re looking for?
• What would Jesus do?
• What do you do for recreation in heaven?
• If you had a driver’s license printed, what variation of your name would you use? What about address?
• As a bastard son, do you resent that your birth father wasn’t around more?
• After your resurrection, how did you get past the stigma of, well, how do I put this gently . . . being a zombie? Is that the real reason you ascended to heaven?
• I’ve broken seven of the 10 commandments. What are my chances of getting into heaven?
• Will there be a time when Miss America contestants cannot use “world peace” as an answer?
• What does your business card say?
• What have you learned about choosing friends more carefully since that Judas situation?
• Who really killed Kennedy?
• Can you tell us what’s at the edge of the universe?
• How did Noah handle the woodpeckers on the ark?
• Mac or Windows?
• Loved that whole water into wine thing. Would you like to come to a party I’m having?
• If only those who believe that you are savior can get into Heaven, then technically wouldn’t Hitler go to heaven and Ghandi to hell?
• If you competed in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, what country would you represent?
• Why do you permit so much senseless killing in your name?
• Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
• Of all the well-known public figures from the past 200 years, who best exemplifies your ideal way of life?
• How do you justify all the tragedies/natural disasters/accidents that cause so many people to question your existence?
• What do souls look like?
I close with a recollection of what is still my favorite question to Jesus from an aspiring journalist in a professional setting.
“So, Jesus, how are things with your father?
I like how it establishes a nice, friendly rapport, while still offering the subject an opportunity to make real news.
And it’s friendly enough that it doesn’t put the subject on guard for all the really tough questions that are sure to come later.