Humor in the Church…

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?

2 thoughts on “Humor in the Church…

  1. I agree.

    What scares me is people who otherwise have a really good sense of humor who see someone like Ken or Mark Lowrey and are so offended by them. I’ve seen people walk out of a Mark Lowrey concert/presentation because of this. (I have to ask, when told he was a Christian commedian, what exactly did they expect?)

    If God didn’t have a sense of humor, than Jesus wouldn’t have said things that, if you think about them, are kind of funny.

  2. Well, IMHO, I believe in one of the tenets of the Reformed tradition. What people want do naturally in worship is not what God wants us to do. And that’s actually a rebuke to some of the people who are first to grab at it. Long faced solemnity, austereness, pious shushing, and morbid introspection seem spiritual and holy, but they are not. Wendy is exactly right: God’s Word is full of jokes and laughing, so our worship services should be also. God laughs at the wicked and the foolish (Psalm 2), and it is no good to tsk tsk Him. Did you hear the one about Baal having to get off the toilet to come rebuke Elijah? Or the one about how God had to kneel down to see the mighty tower of Babel?

    So that’s the long way of saying that I agree with everybody. Too.

Comments are closed.