Is It Biblical to Be Funny?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
QUESTION 8: HUMOR Why do you make jokes in sermons about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trench coat wearers, single men, vegans, and emo kids, and then expect these groups to come to know God through those sermons?
I am on a mission to both put people in heaven and put the “fun” back in “fundamentalism.” I believe Christianity should be more fun than a trip to the dentist and that evangelicalism needs a better patron saint than Ned Flanders of The Simpsons fame.
As a result, one of the most controversial aspects of my ministry has been my tone, sense of humor, and propensity to make fun of every conceivable group of people. This includes rappers with grills and rims and indie rockers who wear all black, smoking American Spirit cigs and pretending not to care about what other people think; men who can’t find their pants and women who work near poles and earn their income in one-dollar bills; gays and straights; publick skewlers and home schoolers where mom wears a denim jumper and dad churns butter in preparation for Armageddon; mullet-wearing, one-tooth NASCAR fans and people who drive hybrid vehicles and promote justification by recycling; and any other groups that come to mind impromptu as I preach and write.
My favorite targets tend to be action-figure-loving single guys who play World of Warcraft at their mom’s house while downloading porn and blogging about how the world should be, in between long sessions of sleep in their Star Wars sheets. Vegans are also funny because they get upset every time I promote bacon, and they often tell me that I will die if I eat bacon, to which I reply, “Yes, praise God, I will die and go to heaven . . . full of bacon.”
The question on which this chapter is based also mentions Mormons, because in one sermon I referred to two nice, young, clean-shaven men wearing pressed white shirts, riding their bikes to hell. Still, far and away my favorite target (other than myself and my Shrek-sized head) is religious types, particularly those who have their own end-times chart drawn in crayon on an ammo box, anyone who has ever held a praise flag in church, and new Calvinists who get drunk on dead authors and want to tell everyone else what to do while conveniently overlooking the fact that they have never done anything and don’t know what they are doing. But the real question is whether it is biblical to be funny.
IS HUMOR BIBLICAL?
The guys with more degrees than Fahrenheit tell us that the Bible does have the occasional funny. They say:
The Bible is predominantly a serious rather than a funny book. Yet it would distort the Bible to suppress the humor that is present. Arranged on a continuum that ranges from the least intellectual (slapstick comedy) to the most intellectual (irony and wordplay), we can say that the humor of the Bible tends toward the subtle.1
They go on to say that the Bible is, in fact, arranged as a comedy:
A full-fledged comedic plot is a U-shaped story that descends into potential tragedy and then rises to a happy ending as obstacles to fulfillment are gradually overcome. Some comic plots record only the upward movement from bondage to freedom. The progression of a comic plot is from problem to solution, from less than ideal experience to prosperity and wish fulfillment. The comic plot is the story of the happy ending par excellence. The plot consists of a series of obstacles that must be overcome en route to the happy ending . . . The truth is that comedy is the dominant narrative form in the Bible. There are relatively few full-fledged tragedies in the Bible. The materials for tragedy are everywhere in the stories of sin and disobedience, but the Bible is almost completely an anthology of tragedies averted through characters’ repentance and God’s forgiveness. The comic plot is the deep structure of biblical narrative . . . The overall plot of the Bible is a U-shaped comic plot. The action begins with a perfect world inhabited by perfect people. It descends into the misery of fallen history and ends with a new world of total happiness and the conquest of evil. The book of Revelation is the story of the happy ending par excellence, as a conquering hero defeats evil, marries a bride and lives happily ever after in a palace glittering with jewels.2
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