The Babylon Bee and Elon Musk
The Babylon Bee recently did a wide-ranging interview with Elon Musk that stretched over the better part of two hours. For any who don’t know, The Babylon Bee is a right-of-center satirical Christian website, founded in 2016, whose audience has exploded over the last three years. Most of what they do is satirical “reporting” on news, religion, culture and other topics. The interview with Musk was published just before Christmas of 2021 and, while generously sprinkled with wit, was generally a quite serious affair. Topics included taxation, wokeness, the metaverse, artificial intelligence and – yes – religion.
The interview was fascinating at multiple levels and revealed interesting things about who Elon Musk is, how he thinks about the world, and what drives him. But most interesting for me, by far, were the last six minutes of the interview, in which the topic turned to religion. Apparently when The Babylon Bee does interviews, the interviewers (three of them, in this case) always ask the same series of ten “rapid-fire” questions at the end. Here’s how the tenth question went (following is not an exact transcript of the last few minutes, but it’s close):
The Babylon Bee (TBB): “The Babylon Bee is a Christian organization. We’re a ministry….”
Musk (good naturedly): “So why are you doing this show on a Sunday? Why aren’t you heathens in church?”
TBB: “So we have to make it church right now. So this is church. We’re wondering if you could do us a quick solid and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
TBB: “Personal Lord and Savior – it’s a quick prayer”
(laughter in the background)
Musk (quite seriously, thoughtfully): “I agree with the principles that Jesus advocated.… There’s great wisdom in the teaching of Jesus, and I agree with those teachings. Things like ‘turn the other cheek’ are very important, because ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everyone blind…. So forgiveness is important. ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ is important.”
TBB: “So, like a 60-70%?”
Musk: “I would say, I believe in the god of Spinoza. But hey, if Jesus is saving people, I wouldn’t stand in his way. I will be saved. Why not?”
TBB: “We did it. I think he just said ‘yes.’”
(Musk goes on to muse – again thoughtfully – about the Communion elements and ends up saying that Communion is “kind of weird.”)
TBB (jokingly): “Just cut it off where he said, ‘yes.’”
But Musk continues to muse – not with humor and not with antagonism. He wonders, “Is it some sort of metaphor for cannibalism? …. Even as a metaphor, it’s kind of odd.” And then he begins to recall experiencing Communion as a child and listening to Bible stories in Sunday school. He says that he had lots of questions as a child, and “they were really upset that I was asking questions,” such as about “the feeding of the crowd” and “where did the bread and fish come from?”
This whole last segment of the interview felt to me rather like the world turned upside down. Here was Elon Musk, with stories from the Gospels still in his head, still doing their work. Here was Elon Musk musing about the symbolism in Christian Communion, wondering what it meant. Here was Elon Musk, by all appearances at least, taking sacred things seriously. And here was The Babylon Bee, trivializing.
I don’t mean this criticism to be over the top. I don’t know what it’s like to interview Elon Musk. I don’t know what it’s like to do what The Babylon Bee does. I am not questioning the Christian credentials of any of the interviewers. And my hope is that this interview was the beginning of a relationship between Elon Musk and people at The Babylon Bee that will ultimately lead to real spiritual understanding and true Christian faith. But this is no way to show that Christians are really serious about what we say we believe. A word to the wise at The Babylon Bee: Don’t let the people you interview be more serious about the things that really matter than you are. And maybe it’s time to change that tenth question.