AlongTheWay

“The Post Modern Pilgrim’s Progress” Joel Berry AlongTheWay Special Edition

June 21, 2022 John Matarazzo / Joel Berry
AlongTheWay
“The Post Modern Pilgrim’s Progress” Joel Berry AlongTheWay Special Edition
Show Notes Transcript

Best known for their satirical work for the Babylon Bee, Kyle Mann and Joel Berry have teamed up to write the story that they have dreamed about writing... a post-modern retelling of John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress".

For this special edition of AlongTheWay John Matarazzo talks with Babylon Bee Managing Editor, Joel Berry,  about the recent buzz at the Bee still in Twitter jail as they wait for Elon Musk to release them, Prophetic Satirical headlines, and the book that they really want to write. The Post Modern Pilgrim's Progress is an updated telling of the classic tale.

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John Matarazzo:

Welcome to along the way. I'm John Matarazzo. Your host and fellow traveler, thank you for joining me along my way is I try to become more like Jesus every day. The goal of along the way is to identify the moments in life that Jesus really is walking with us and trying to get our attention. But just like the disciples along the way to a madness, we are missing those moments that our hearts are burning within us. I want us to identify these moments, learn from others and apply those lessons to our lives so that we don't miss the blessings God has for us along the way in our life's journey. Since I started working at charisma media, I've had the opportunity to do podcast interviews that I wouldn't normally consider an along the way episode, because I was doing the interview for charisma news or some other format. And I've also been interviewed on other people's podcast to those have been great opportunities as well as interesting conversations, and I want to make sure that I share them with you as well. Pilgrims Progress is one of my favorite stories from when I was growing up. The cartoon version of John Bunyan's allegory still plays in my mind. In this modern world, the message is still the same, but sometimes the way that the story is told can benefit from an update. In this episode, I'm pulling from an interview that I did for charisma news, I talked with Joel Berry, the managing editor for the Babylon be satirical website. He and Kyle man co wrote the post modern Pilgrims Progress. And we talk about that Elon Musk and the prophetic Babylon be headlines. After my interview with Joe, I downloaded the postmodern Pilgrims Progress on Audible and really enjoyed the story. I'll get to our conversation in just a moment. But I want to thank you for listening to along the way. All of my episodes and social links are available at my website. Along the way dot media. You can also join my email list to get updates right in your inbox. All the links from this episode will be in the show notes. And now here's my conversation with Joel Berry. This is John Matarazzo. For charisma news back with a special guest here today. I've got Joel Berry from the Babylon bee. He's located in Ohio, although the rest of the team is in California. He's in Ohio. He and Kyle man, the editor in chief for the Babylon B, who is currently still in Twitter jail. They've put together a new book, a re a retelling of this, of this amazing story that I grew up with. So many people have the Pilgrims Progress, but you put a unique twist on that. So Joel, it's great to have you on the charisma news podcast to talk about this retelling of this, this wild love story.

Joel Berry:

Oh, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

John Matarazzo:

So the postmodern Pilgrims Progress, which it is a mouthful to say.

Joel Berry:

Tell us about how a Triple P for sure.

John Matarazzo:

The triple B Yeah. So I want to hear a little bit about like, what's the inspiration behind this because you guys are cranking out a bunch of content all the time for the Babylon B and all the different things that you guys touch, you're doing videos that are coming out on YouTube all the time. I mean, when you're when you're not in Twitter, jail, you know, things are getting out there. But you know, the articles are hilarious, more than just the headlines in the art. I mean, it's there's, there's so much cleverness and just gifting that God has given you guys to really be able to speak truth to power in a lot of different ways. And through. And it's not just talking about the cultural things, you're talking about things within the church. And so I appreciate that. There's no, there's nothing that's, that's too sacred for you guys to go out there. So I do want to talk about the book. But let's let's talk a little bit about your work with the bee. And just kind of like what that's like, because I know a lot of people like the Babylon bee, but not many people know what it's like to be on the other side of that.

Joel Berry:

Yeah, well, it's, it's a blast. I've been doing this full time for a little over two years now. When I came on as the managing editor kind of helping Kyle run the site, writing a lot of the satire, and it's it's a dream come true. I don't have a comedy background i i was in corporate sales, corporate supply chain sales before. So okay, usually when I tell people that they're like, oh my gosh, are you serious? Like, you know, how did this happen? Right? And I, I can't, I can't really explain it other than that, you know, God is a merciful God and he he mercifully placed me in a job where I could actually use my talents, you know, and I know how rare that is these days, you know, to find something that is really doesn't feel like work and that plays on your strengths and so it It's been a blast, you know, I think the one of the best things about it, you know, not just for me, but for for people who read the be is that with, with all of the just the, for lack of a better word awful things happening in our culture, you know, there's a lot of hand wringing, there's a lot of angst, there's a lot of worry, when we look about when we look at, where our culture is going, where, where our country is going. And to, to, to kind of start by like, kind of giving that to God, you know, in trusting it to God. And then changing your your mindset a little bit to where you're looking out at the world, you're looking at the corruption and the craziness, and you're trying to find what's funny about it. It's a really just, it's a really fun way to live in a really fun mindset. And so it's, it's made me a happier person, and I, you know, a lot of the feedback we get from people who read the BS that it's made them happier people to that, you know, you can't just have us a constant stream of, of this news. Bad news all the time. Yeah, without having a little levity, once in a while. And so, I think, especially with a lot of the places people used to go for comedy, you know, late night television, Saturday Night Live has kind of abandoned our, our tribe, you know, our the Christian, right, for lack of a better word. Yeah. We've We've kind of swept into, you know, to bring laughs to that segment of the population. So it's just fun. It's very gratifying. It's, it's enjoyable. I'm on the east coast, the rest of the teams in the west coast. So I kind of wake up with the news and kind of get a sense for what we're talking about each day. And then I'm kind of sending the marching orders out to our writers, I write a lot of stuff, I do Photoshops, as well. And we're kind of trying to figure out what's going to what's going to be the most important thing to talk about. And mix it up with some, you know, some family humor, some church humor, so that it's not all political news.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah. Because I mean, I think one of the things that has been the most interesting with the Babylon be is that you guys have been more prophetic than comedy writers in a lot of ways. I mean, here at the charisma media and charisma news, we deal a lot with with the prophecy and things that are coming around that way, but it's like, Okay, we have the Babylon b two. And it seems like you guys are ahead of what's happening in the world, too. Because whenever we think it can't get any crazier, and the Babylon B's just talking about this absurd thing. Wait a couple of weeks, and it's probably going to be true. How does that feel?

Joel Berry:

Well, you know, it's, it's gratifying, because it tells us that we're doing a good job at satire. I mean, you know, and we're not the only ones, you know, The Simpsons Southpark have also been very true, very good at predicting the future. And when you when you're when you have your finger on the pulse of the culture, and you have a good understanding of the world view of the other side, and people who don't think like you, it's, you'll find this, it's not that hard to predict what they're, what they're gonna do next. You know, so a lot of it is us just kind of waking up every morning and thinking, you know, what is the what, if I were, you know, if I were a leftist, if I were a politician, if I were a leader in the church, you know, what would I? What would I do in a couple of weeks short? And yeah, sure enough, a lot of them do come true.

John Matarazzo:

Which is, it is wild. And, you know, one of the things that's in the news right now, and I would, you know, I just, I hope it's okay to ask about this, you know, Elon Musk is in the process, or, you know, in the saga really, it's almost like its own Lord of the Rings in some way, you know, it's Willie won't, he will actually, you know, in what's going to be uncovered as he's in this process of buying Twitter. But, you know, I heard that he actually reached out to the Babylon bee to see if you guys were really in Twitter jail for something that you did. And that is, is that something that like, really helped him make that decision to pull that trigger and go for that purchase?

Joel Berry:

Yeah, you know, I suspect it was probably a contributing factor. You know, he is a fan. You know, when we were on Twitter, he was often replying to a lot of our articles or, you know, commenting on a lot of our articles, and so, I it may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, I'm not sure. But it is still kind of an open question as to whether or not that deal will go through and we hope that it will, because Twitter is such a, it's such a poorly run businesses run by ideologues that are really more interested in controlling the narrative for their ideological tribe than they are in making money. And so Elon is paying a high premium for kind of a poorly run business, and I can't think of anyone else who would be willing to do something like that. Other than someone like Elon, who's a little bit crazy and is not driven so much by money as he is these kind of grand, grand ideas about, you know, furthering human progress and free speech and things like that. And so I don't know if there's anyone crazy enough to buy Twitter besides Elon, which is why I hope it happens.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, me too. Me too. I just think it's a very interesting saga. Because, you know, more things are being uncovered about that. And, you know, I'm looking forward to seeing, you know, more Babylon be headlines about that saga as well. But, you know, we really, you know, we wanted to start this interview, just talking about some things that people were already aware of just to kind of give some updates on that. But the thing that you and Kyle have partnered together with, because I mean, let's face it, you're not doing enough work. You mean, you just kind of come up with these crazy ideas. And I'm just joking. You're, you're you guys do a ton of work. But you decided to write a book together. And, you know, this postmodern Pilgrims Progress. And this isn't the first book that the Babylon B has put together, the also the Babylon B guide to wokeness was, was pretty well received. And it's a it's pretty funny. I mean, some of the stuff in there, it's, it's satire, but again, it's also prophetic as well. But so you're taking kind of a little bit of a twist here, and taking a beloved story and putting a twist on it. So tell us about how you know we go from the the John Bunyan characters and now you you've updated it. Tell us about what you can about your postmodern Pilgrims Progress.

Joel Berry:

Yeah, well, I'll start by saying that this was the book that we wanted to write from the very beginning. I mean, the the Babylon be guide to wokeness that was just our foot in the door with the publisher. So that we could write a book that did well with them. But this postmodern Pilgrims Progress has been, it's been on Kyle's mind for many years since before he met me. It was a very important book, and in both of our lives growing up as young Christians, and, you know, he had always kind of wanted to do some sort of a modern retelling, because there is something kind of funny and a little bit satirical about Pilgrims Progress. I mean, it's for one, it's, it's one of the first, if not the first, you know, English novel, one of the most important English language books. And there's, there's something that Saturn has to do with analogies that are very similar to allegory. And so we saw it as kind of a way to, to do what we do with the Babylon be with our satire, and work it into a narrative. That's, that's kind of a commentary on the modern church. What it's like to be a Christian in, you know, in America, a modern Evangelical, and we had a lot of fun doing it. So we injected a lot of humor. We injected some tropes that we love, just in fiction, it's it is a sci fi book. So there's multiverses, there's aliens. It's narrated by this angelic creature who's kind of bemused and confused by human beings. And it's full of his

John Matarazzo:

aren't we? You know, I

Joel Berry:

just it was just really fun to write. And, and I think that I think that people who read it will get a lot out of it. It's there's, there's a lot of insight about our current culture, a lot of humor, it's a classic hero's journey. And, you know, the feedback so far, just from initial reviews has been overwhelmingly positive more than I could have dreamed, you know, you when you write something like this, you put it out there and you're kind of worried, like, is it good? Is it not? How is this going to be received? And so far, the reception has been really humbling to hear what what people are getting out of it.

John Matarazzo:

That's really good. You know, one of the things that I always thought was interesting about the original Pilgrims Progress was just the names of the characters that pilgrim you know, ran into, you know, and so, is there did you work in some of those unique names as well?

Joel Berry:

Oh, yeah, yeah, we'll have you'll run into the characters like the smiling preacher, Mr. Loved by the world. Mr. humanist, Pastor. Faith, you know, we have we have allegorical names very similar to Bunyan. I think one thing that we we did and kind of departing from bunion a little bit is that Bunyan in the original Pilgrims Progress, always very explicitly explained what each allegory meant, you know, there's like a scene at the beginning when Christian sees this man grasping at straws on the ground with a rake. And then he goes into the next room and the angel says, Okay, here's what that means that that thing that you just saw, here's what it means, and he explains it. Our book doesn't exist. Blaine everything. It has a lot of allegory in it. And what's been kind of fun to see in the initial reaction to it is how different people reading it or getting different things. So we're, we're more explicit in some areas were a little more. We're a little less explicit in others, which I think it makes the narrative a little more breezy to read through the narrative makes it a little less clunky, I think. And some things are open to interpretation, which is fun.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, what are some new spins on the different things that Christian the main character had? You know, as, as I think what you're naming this is Ryan Fleming, what are some of the things that he has to overcome that are unique to this?

Joel Berry:

Yeah, so ours has more of a backstory. It's centered around a character Ryan Fleming. And he's, he's kind of dealing with this tragic, horrific death of his younger brother. And kind of how the the church and church leaders have kind of failed him a little bit as he's he's struggled with this pain. He's, he's kind of reached this conclusion that, you know, there isn't a god, there's no there's no meaning or plan to the universe, it he's, he's kind of, essentially become a nihilist, you know, as a result of this tragedy, and as a result of seeing kind of the, the emptiness and hypocrisy sometimes of the, of the church and, and so that's kind of the starting starting point. You know, we gave them a little more backstory, and then he goes to this, this mega church, a projector falls on his head, from the from the ceiling and knocks him out. And he and he has a dream. And this, this, this book, is basically the retelling of this dream he has while he's knocked out on the floor of the, of the mega church. And so and it has the multiverse element is kind of fun. So the idea that we had for the book was, you know, what, if every time you dream, you're essentially traveling, traveling to another universe, and that's what's happening in this, it's when he when he when you fall asleep, you're going to another universe, and there's, it's another reality that's actually playing out. And God is kind of using that as a part of your story pushing you towards this reconciliation with the Creator that we were all made four. So this, this is the this book is basically a retelling of the of the first dream and a series of dreams that will eventually lead Ryan to, to faith in Christ.

John Matarazzo:

So this is actually something that will lead people to a decision point for their own life. Is that correct?

Joel Berry:

Well, it's no. So okay. I mean, what what you'll see, I mean, by the end of our book, Ryan is still not a Christian. He's he is he's on his way. But and God, you can see God is starting to work powerfully in his life, but he's not there yet. So I don't know if we're going to address that and sequels or not. But But yeah, this doesn't have a, this doesn't have kind of like a burden falling off the back moment that Sure. Pilgrims Progress did, it does have a scene that kind of evokes that a little bit. But we kind of wanted to, we wanted to, I guess, paint a picture of the slow process, that sometimes the the long process that that God leads people on that eventually ends in them reaching a saving faith in Christ and, and so we kept it open ended at the at the end of the book there a little bit, which I thought was a kind of a fun twist.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, definitely. You know, because most of the time, you're if you're calling this the postmodern Pilgrims Progress, people, we're going to be expecting some of those things to line up almost just like you're retelling it with with modern lenses. But it seems like you've just taken that that principle or that that concept, and you've really made it your own. But I'm sure as you've been writing this with Kyle, there's been some things in your own life that have caused you to either question or caused you to dig deeper into your own faith. Can you peel back the layers on some of that for your for us?

Joel Berry:

Yeah, you know, I think, and I suspect I'm not the only one. You know, I think a lot of Christians evangelicals in our country right now. Are you know, I think there's a lot of there's been a lot of upheaval in the church. There's been a lot of cultural division in the church lately. I think we've seen a lot of our, you know, our Christian leaders and even like, you know, Christian musicians who we, you know, adored in the 90s and early To 1000s, who have fallen away, or who have either lost the faith or have been embroiled in scandal and, and so I think one of the things that we really wanted to do in this book was kind of reflect what does the Christian journey look like, you know, our institutions in our churches and our leaders fail us, you know, what does that quiet, faithful, unseen obedience look like? You know, how do we how do we obey God? When so much seems unclear? And maybe a lot of things are left unanswered in our lives. And so you know, it, we have an atheist character, we have a humanist character, we, and we tried to we we parry to parody those characters a little bit, and we have some stereotypes of atheists, you know, like, the atheist wears a fedora and, you know, the, the humanist looks a little bit like Bill Gates, maybe, you know, but, but yeah, and, you know, but we didn't want to just parody them, we wanted to, we wanted to also present a fair representation of what they believe and why they believe it, you know, we we wanted to steal man, I'm a little bit, you know, not strongman them. And so we wanted to be fair to people who question people who don't believe, show how God God works, even even through those those times of questioning and darkness and confusion. So, I think for those reasons, it reflects a lot of what me and Kyle have went through, you know, in our, our Christian walk, and we hope that it'll speak to others as well who have gone through similar things.

John Matarazzo:

That's awesome. I like that you're bringing in some, really this postmodern world that we live in, there are new temptations, even though we know that, you know, there's, it's it's all there's nothing new under the sun, there's just different ways that it's presented. And, and so I appreciate that you're, you're taking some interesting, creative license to be able to communicate these these truths, and through through parody, and allegory. And a little bit of satire, I'm sure is still thrown in there, because that's your blood, you can probably can't get away from that, you know, I'm grateful that you're telling this this story. And, you know, I'm a big fan of audiobooks. And this is, you know, this is a podcast interview is, you know, is there, do you recommend the audio book, from what you've heard?

Joel Berry:

We're not finished with the audio book yet. We're working on that. So I think it would make a pretty fun audio book though. The narrator is kind of this weird, quirky person, you know, it's very similar to if you've read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there's, there's kind of a bit of a dry wit to it. There are

John Matarazzo:

a lot of I was going to ask if that if you would make that rep, if you would make that correlation there.

Joel Berry:

Yeah, there are a lot of footnotes, you know, where he'll he'll kind of like, stop the narrative. And then you know, what's up with, you know, what's up with meatloaf? Why do you why do you guys eat that? Like, that's weird, you know. And so, those, those add a little bit of fun to the, to the proceedings, which we enjoyed right? In the footnotes.

John Matarazzo:

Well, that's good. So just so you know, I am planning on getting the paperback, the Kindle and the audio version of it, because I like, you know, getting the media however we can and supporting thank you guys with his work that you're doing. Because it's not just, you know, it's you're not just about writing witty articles. But there's, there's a reason there's a purpose, there's, there's a goal to the bigger things that you're doing as well. And this is a way that you can do something that's not it's not the Babylon B, but it's related to it, because it's, it's who you guys are, but it's, you know, I'm excited to get my hands on a copy of it. Thank you. So how do people get it? How do people get a

Joel Berry:

hold on? Well, you know, we recommend pre ordering it, the last book that we published the guide to wokeness, it's sold out in two weeks, and it was several months before they could get more copies in. So if you want to guarantee, you know, getting a copy, I would recommend pre ordering it on, you know, Amazon, you can preorder Barnes and Noble, it's also on Christian books.com. If you don't want to, if you don't want to do business with Amazon, we've got a lot of feedback from people, I don't want to give them my money. So Christian books.com Has it. You know, and I think eventually, maybe two or three months after release, we'll probably have it in the Babylon B store as well, for people wanting to get it that way. You know, ultimately, I hope that it's just encouraging to people that's, I hope it's encouraging to to Christians. I think that no matter who reads it, there's going to be something that you'll be able to take away from it. And we hope that it just has that effect that that encouraging uplifting effect on our brothers and sisters in Christ.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. Amen. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it, as I said earlier, but you know, Joel, before I let you go here I just want to say I appreciate your time. But I got to ask like what is the next prophetic Babylon be headline that

Joel Berry:

Oh, do you want a sneak preview here? Let's see what we got here.

John Matarazzo:

Sure give me a sneak preview yeah

Joel Berry:

I don't know if these might these might see the light of day these might not see the light of day that the thing about what we do is you know usually takes about 300 pitches to get a couple good headlines and so we're waiting through a lot you know, but we have let's see the monkey the monkey pox outbreak is contained says head of CDC while peeling banana with their feet see local gun range overrun by conservative candidates making commercials about how much they love guns. Boy, I don't know we're a little thin today I'm going to have to come up with something.

John Matarazzo:

Oh my goodness. Well, I gotta let you get back to work to you know to put out some more great headlines for the Babylon bee. But I appreciate taking the time Joel to do a talk with us on the charisma news podcast. And to talk about this postmodern Pilgrims Progress book. I would encourage everybody to preorder it because as he said earlier, the the previous book that did the Babylon be guide to wokeness sold out and it took a while before people could actually get their hands on it. So make sure you preorder. It comes out June 7. And so I hope you get a copy of that and you can read it, enjoy it and then share it with a friend. This is John Matarazzo for the charisma news podcast. God bless. Thank you for listening to this episode of along the way. If you've enjoyed joining me along my way, please share this with a friend who you think will be encouraged by this podcast. Also, please rate and review along the way on iTunes that helps more people discover along the way. And please subscribe to this podcast wherever you're listening. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and through my website along the way dot media. On my website. You can sign up to receive newsletter updates whenever I put out a new episode, so you don't miss one. If you want to help support me in this podcast, I have a Patreon page. The link to become a supporter is also in my show notes. I hope that you've enjoyed this part of my journey and may you realize when Jesus is walking with you along your way. Along the way is honored to be part of the charisma Podcast Network. You can find tons of spirit filled content from our vast catalogue of podcasts, including my Monday through Friday news stories for the charisma news podcast. Go to CPN shows.com To see the full list and latest episodes