To some people, humor in the church is controversial. This tendency often manifests itself in a spirit of condemnation. If you’ve never seen this, consider Jeff Dyer’s Christian humor website. I used to look there regularly, when I needed a smile. Then one day I went there and saw a stagnant page. I blogged about it over two years ago:
I am tired of trying to explain myself to the self-appointed, self-righteous guardians of ethics and morality. I have been accused of everything from intentional plagiarism, copyright infringement to un-Christ like attitudes and behavior. I just do not want to fight those battles anymore.
In spite of its controversial nature, or perhaps because of it, I’ve given a lot of thought to this issue of humor, and I’ve decided I am for it. I’ve studied it from a scholarly perspective, as I noted last year, reading Elton Trueblood’s book, The Humor of Christ. If Trueblood is right about Jesus’ regular use of humor, and I think he is, then why does humor bring out such ugliness in some people?
I think one reason is our tendency to compartmentalize. People tend to separate parts of their lives, thinking their Church time is their “holy reverent time” and the rest of their time is for whatever they like. So they never permit the presence of significant humor in their “church time” but they allow garbage that my kids are smart enough to turn off in their “own time.” I think that false separation of “the holy” from “the daily” causes many problems in our lives. I think it was a major problem for Jesus’ contemporaries — the Pharisees. And I think it keeps people from enjoying a good laugh when looking into God’s heart in worship, Bible study, or hearing a sermon.
But this past week I discovered what may be a more common reason. I was sitting with some good friends watching a Ken Davis video. In the midst of this intensely funny evening, Davis said something that helped me understand those who decry humor. He said that much of what we think of as humor is nothing more than gently poking fun at human frailty. While Davis was careful to say this is not always the case, he did say that sometimes people who don’t appreciate humor are those who cannot laugh at themselves and their frailties.
That got me to thinking — if only we could really believe that God accepts us in our weaknesses, would we not be better able to accept them ourselves? And would we not find much of life more joyful?