In 2012, I had great intentions of starting a regular blog series based on conversations I had with my friend, who is an atheist. I kinda overwhelmed myself that year; only two posts were actually shared and there are still four almost-ideas in draft form.
My friend, who I refer to as Favourite Atheist (FA) on the blog, and I still have regular conversations about God, religion, and philosophy in between talks about books, movies, and food. Many of our discussions (more his questions) make me stop and think "hey, I should blog that." I've had the thought often enough that I've decided to actually write them. It won't be weekly but hopefully shorter wait that seasons of Sherlock and definitely better than once every three years. I even made the little "TWA graphic" to keep me inspired. So here goes:
The Topic: Can Christians Be Funny?
I got a text from FA this morning saying,
"I was reading an article about comedy, suggesting that there are no or almost no good conservative comedians. Do you think there are good Christian comedians? What about Christian satire?"My Immediate Response:
I was still in a waking-up fog when I read the message and sent a very helpful, "There are and there was" back. Then hit snooze on my alarm.
My Reasoned Response:
I am more awake now and able expand on my answer. FA is also reading these for the first time (Hi Friend *waves* what do you think of the graphic?) so there won't be his response to my thoughts. He'll either leave a comment or I'll write a follow up later.
My answer part 1 "there are" -There are Christian comedians. I immediately thought of Tim Hawkins. He's caused me to laugh uncontrollably before.
There is also Michael Jr. (who I saw at the Gathering) and Mark Lowery (who I enjoyed in high school). I expected there were more than three so I googled "Christian Comedian" and found a list on Christian Comedy Acts. Not sure how funny any of them are but the list is 7 page list so Christian comedians aren't unicorns.
My answer part 2 "and there was" -The only Christian satire I could think of in the morning was the Wittenburg Door. My college library had a subscription when it was still a printed magazine. Today it only exists online as an archive. I found a Christianity Today article from 2002, Close the Door, about the history and evolution of the Wittenburg Door. It was an interesting read.
I appreciated Door's creators motivation. They loved Jesus and his followers but were willing to poke fun at the things that happen in Christian circles that contradicted the actions and beliefs involved with following Christ. Their goal was bring reformation through humour. I found a quote by the 1979 Door's editor that I thought was good, so I am going to quote a quote,
"We're trying to shoot down sacred cows that maybe shouldn't be sacred cows in the church," the editors explained in their fifth-anniversary issue (June/July 1976). "We're trying to get the church to look at issues that maybe they've just skimmed over in the past because 'everyone else is doing it.' We're trying to ask questions, perhaps, that some people aren't asking. We're trying to give frustrated people a platform from which to speak. And we're trying to do it all with a sense of humor."On the drive to church I remember another satire Stuff Christians Like. The sites author, Jon Acuff, wrote an article for Relevant magazine Three Rules of Christian Satire, it shares the reality and struggles for those who use satire as Christians. What he said was worth reading. I was tempted just quote huge chunks in the conclusion but then it wouldn't have been my conclusion.
I think God has a scene of humour, have you seen a platypus? I also believe we were made to laugh. Humour can be "clean" and still funny. There are things that can be laughed over for the simple joy of joy and being a comedian who follows Jesus doesn't hinder a person. There are good/funny Christian comedians and satiricalists*. There are also bad/not funny Christian comedians. Just like there are funny and unfunny comedians who don't like Jesus.
Humour can also be the trigger for change. Satire by its nature is subversive. Church culture needs that every now and then. We call church circles in a "Christian bubble" for a reason. Those who have spent time in or around Christian culture know how much emphasis is placed on conforming and behaviour. My experience is within evangelical culture; we are proud of our conservatism and ability to support the status quo. Only the "status is not quo*" -and has nothing to do with following Jesus.
Jesus' teachings are counter cultural, they were counter-intuitive and subversive. There are actions and beliefs that church-going culture cling to that have nothing to do with following Jesus. Christian satire shines a light on behaviours and beliefs match those of the Jesus we claim to follow. When it targets religious things that we've made idols of satire can be a prophetic voice that leads to repentance and reform.
I think church culture needs a good dose of satire every now and then. We take ourselves too seriously sometimes. However, using satire isn't without risks and challenges, again read Acuff's article Three Rules of Christian Satire. Those who use satire walk a thin line between funny and mocking. And even when comedians and modern day prophets successfully walk that line there are people who don't (or can't) get the joke.
What do you think?
Please join the discussion. Do you agree? Disagree? Have a completely different view on the subject? Is there a comedian or satire I should check out? Add your thoughts, arguments or counter arguments in the comments. My only request, whatever your thoughts or views respect those who write. We can disagree without attacking people or their character.
* Satiricalist -my spellcheck keeps telling me this is not a word with giving me any "did you mean options". So, if doesn't exist it should be and if it does but my spelling is too horrible that the spelling algorithms can't figure out what I am trying to say I am sorry.
*"The status is not quo" is a phrase used by Dr. Horrible in Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible Sing-A-Long Blog it is not a Christian comedy but I do enjoy it muchly.