Some initial thoughts on Comedy and Christianity

This began as a response to Codepoke.  These are just thoughts off the top of my head.  Love to hear the thoughts of others. 

Comedy does not necessarily equal ‘deride’ or ‘make light of’.  Often it does – and perhaps sitcoms and funniest home video shows could be brought in as evidence. 

But even if comedy was simply that, there are many things in this world that need deriding – idols and idolaters for instance (1 Kings 18:27ff; Is 44:15; Gal 5:12).  And many things we can take the wind out of by making light of them – ourselves and our own pomposity for instance. (Jonah 4 springs to mind, as do many descriptions of the disciples.  Perhaps James and John asking for glory right after Jesus speaks of going to the cross – Mark 10:35ff)

Sarcasm can admittedly strike a sour note.  But if the LORD Himself in Job 38-40 isn’t an arch example of sarcasm I don’t know what is.  And clearly sarcasm has apostolic warrant – out of many Pauline examples perhaps his defence of his apostolic ministry in 2 Corinthians 10-12 is the most sustained piece of irony in the bible (corrections gladly received).  The benefits of sarcasm are many but essentially it functions as a reductio ad absurdum and can be devastatingly effective as such.

But comedy is more than ‘making fun of’ – it also works by simple shock value.  Now, absolutely, a programme like South Park utilises this aspect in terms of a base shock value.  But it can be used for great good.  It can shock us out of wrong understandings.  E.g. ‘You think others have a speck in their eye – you’ve got a plank of 4 by 2 my friend!’  Or ‘You think the rich have an easy road to heaven – it’s camels through eye-needles my friend!’  Or ‘You think the Pharisees are in and the tax collectors are out – let me tell you a story about two men going up to pray…’  Shock is an absolute theological necessity.  We must be shaken from our ‘common sense’ and worldly flesh.  Humour provides just this service.

Comedy also works via surprising but pleasing juxtapositions.  Puns are an example of this.  So Jesus says the Pharisees strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.  This is a pun – Camel = gamal, gnat = gamla.  It’s also a shocking juxtaposition.  Double comedy.  Good one Jesus.

But perhaps most foundational of all.  Comedy is technically the opposite of tragedy.  It’s the moment of eucatastrophe where the hero wins through against the odds.  It’s the exultant shout to the defeated enemy ‘Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?’ (1 Cor 15:55).  It’s saying ‘Ner, ner, ner, ner, ner’ to the Big Ol’ Baddy – and ending the show on a song. 

Apparently in Eastern Orthodox churches (I’ll have to confirm this) they have a tradition of telling jokes on Easter Sunday.  You see Easter is the best joke ever pulled.  Satan thought he was killing Jesus, but actually it was the death of Satan.  Hoisted on his own petard.  The shock!  The irony!  The pleasing juxtaposition!  The triumphant jubilation!

Christians ought to laugh.  Loud!

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Posted on by Glen in comedy

About Glen

I’m a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Some initial thoughts on Comedy and Christianity

  1. Gav

    “This morning on the Frankston freeway, I looked over to my left and there was a Woman In a brand new Holden Calais Doing 110 kms per hr With her Face up next to her
    Rear view mirror Putting on her eyeliner.

    I looked away For a couple seconds! And when I looked back she was Halfway over in my lane, Still working on that makeup.

    As a man, I don’t scare easily.

    But she scared me so much; I dropped My electric shaver,
    Which knocked The bacon and egg Mcmuffin Out of my other hand. In all The confusion of trying To straighten out the car Using my knees against The steering wheel, It knocked My Mobile phone Away from my ear Which fell Into the coffee Between my legs, Splashed, And burned Big Jim and the Twins, Ruined the darn phone, Soaked my trousers, And disconnected an Important call.

    Women drivers!!”

    WHAT DO YOU MEAN PLANK? WHAT PLANK?

  2. Gav

    Oh by the way. If there are any woman out there who are offended, I apologise now.

  3. bobby grow

    Yes, the salvation story (the whole bible) climaxing in the Evangel of Jesus’ life is indeed a comedy . . . which only ironically appears as tragedy, that is until Emmaus.

    I think, though shocking things, like South Park might be, that “schock value” in and of itself is not justification for all things comedic; and it seems that some folks, on that basis alone, seem to justify that genre of satire, on that basis alone. To me it has more to do with “what” and “who” is being communicated vs. the media or rhetorical posture that is being used.

  4. glenscriv

    Ah yes, that shadowy figure – the “”merrie theologiane””. Hiding behind his risible ruminations to insinuate liberalizing ambi-umbilicism… Why if I ever found out his true identity there’d be trouble.

    Know what I mean?

    Hames?

  5. Dan Hames

    I have utterly no idea what you’re talking about, Glen.

    I heard the Merrie Theologiane isn’t a monad.

  6. glenscriv

    :) Indeed. How could a monad be merrie?

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