Every Time a Christian Laughs, an Angel's Wings Fall Off
John ShoreBesides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
- 2009 Jan 14
As many of you know, I am a very famous Christian humorist. As many of you who speak and/or read English also know, "humorist" is the least funny word in the language---but never mind. The point is that I, for one, am a regular laugh riot in church. Just last Sunday, for instance, I really loudly asked for some cheese with my communion wafer. How the reverends laughed and laughed until one of them brained me with a thurible.
But I jest. In reality, I busted out a can of Cheez Whiz.
See? Funny! Have to roast in hell forever---but funny!
No, but seriously. The other day most excellent Steve McGarvey, editor of Crosswalk.com, sent me some questions relative to a (serious) magazine article he was writing on the relationship between Christianity and humor.
"You're a pretty funny guy," he said. "And you're a Christian, right?"
Steve is funny. He's about the funniest person in the history of spewing out your food at the table. I hate him.
Anyway, Steve said I could share with you what I wrote in response to his questions. So below are his first two questions, along with my answers to them, on the subject of Christianity and humor.
Q. How do you think the Christian worldview should inform the way we think about humor and comedy as they occur in popular culture?
A. I’m afraid the sheer density of that question is threatening to collapse my head. But I can definitely say this: If you insist on “informing” your response to comedy with your "Christian world view," then practically nothing will ever seem funny to you. Constantly screening for religious acceptability goes together with funny like a needle goes together with a balloon. Nothing kills humor like the application to it of what amounts, in this context, to dogma. That’s why the Church Lady is so funny: she doesn’t think ANYTHING is funny. Which, in real life, isn’t funny at all.
Q. It seems like humor is a difficult thing to define, especially for Christians. Is there any way we can cut through the subjectivity of what people find funny?
A. The reason humor is difficult for Christians to define is because humor is virtually impossible for anyone to define. What happens with a person when they're suddenly moved to genuine, loud laughter is as rich and magical a mystery as we have. It's much easier to understand why we cry, even, than why we laugh. A true, spontaneous laugh is simply a freak occurrence that's in no way subject to definition or understanding. As for "cutting through the subjectivity of what people find funny," that, too, is virtually impossible. Ultimately all humor must remain subjective (he said, looking forward to another day being funny enough in print to in large part contribute to his living as a writer). By definition, that means that the only real measure any of us have of what's funny is whether or not we personally laugh at it. If we do, it’s funny! If we don’t, it’s completely unfunny. You can’t “cut through” that any more than you can chew through a car.
Tomorrow: I answer the questions, "As a whole Christians, at
least evangelicals generally, seem to be a humorless lot. Would you
agree? Why is that?" and, "Most attempts by Christians to be
professionally funny are usually dismissed as lame. Why do you think
Share your own thoughts on the matter here.
Related post o' mine:Was Jesus Funny?, and Pastors and Other Christian Leaders: Loosen Up, Before It's Too Late!
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