Familiarity Missing the Joke

“One reason for our failure to laugh [at the humor of Jesus] is our extreme familiarity with the received text. The words seem to us like old coins, in which the edges have been worn smooth and the engravings have become almost indistinguishable. . . . The main effort must be an effort on the part of the contemporary student to confront Christ as actually portrayed rather than as we have imagine Him to be. Only then will we feel the sharpness of His wit.”

-Elton Trueblood, The Humor of Christ, pp. 18-19

Happy, Happy, Happy

As Duck Dynasty forges into it’s fourth season opening with nearly 12 million viewers, many are weighing in on the show and what is called its “cultural Christianity.” I think I started tuning in during season two and really enjoyed it. I like rednecks and redneck humor, and with family from the south, I find it easy to laugh with and at these people. But there is more going on here, and we ought to be encouraged.

The show is entertaining, and that is its primary function: to humorously entertain. How does it do so? By following the hilarious life of the Robertson family, their business and family antics. This is how it should be evaluated. It is good entertainment? When we evaluate our entertainment, and we must, we don’t use the same criteria we use for evaluating, say, a sermon. At least we shouldn’t, for that would make sermons into primarily forms of entertainment, which contra your wanna be stand-up comedian pastor, they aren’t.

God is the ultimate Comedian, telling jokes all the time. When we imitate Him well, the humor can be clever, delightful, slapstick, layered, ironic, satiric, involve plays on words, etc. It’s not cheap like a standup comic using vulgarities and obscenities for the shock value. The comedy of Duck Dynasty is consistently funny and happens in an environment where life is enjoyed as a gift and brothers can make fun of each other because they love one another. I would not put Duck Dynasty on the level of Wodehouse, but the two inhabit the same moral universe.  Continue reading

How to (mostly) handle your silly sins

Although I know this, I am of a different mind ten times in the course of a day. But I resist the devil, and often it is with fart I chase him away. When he tempts me with silly sins I say, ‘Devil, yesterday I broke wind too. Have you written it down on your list? When I say to him, ‘You have been put to shame,’ he believes it, for he does not want to be despised. Afterward, if I engage him in further conversation, I upbraid him with the pope and say, ‘If you do the same as he does, who is your pope that I should celebrate him? Look at what an abomination he has prepared, and it continues to this day!’ Thus I remind myself of the forgiveness of sin and of Christ and I remind Satan of the abomination of the pope. This abomination is so great that I am of good cheer and rejoice, and I confess that the abomination of the papacy after the time of Christ is a great consolation to me. Consequently those who  say that one should not rebuke the pope are dreadful scolds. Go right ahead and inveigh against the pope, especially if the devil disturbs you about justification. He often troubles me with trivialities. I don’t notice this when I’m depressed, but when I feel better I recognize it easily.  

–Martin Luther, Table Talk

Blindly Prosaic

“Now he seemed to be able to see other homes, but not his own. That was merely a house. Prose had got hold of him: the sealing of the eyes and the closing of the ears.” G. K. Chesterton, Homesick at Home

Effemigate

Mark Driscoll, as usual, telling it like it is, recently posted on his Facebook page “So what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?” He did this as the result of a conversation he had with a non-Christian, blue collar man who asked him if the Bible allowed for effeminate worship leaders like the one he currently encountered at church. Actually, Driscoll replied, it doesn’t; David the warrior-king wrote the book of Psalms.

The post set off a storm of criticism which you can read about here and here. Brian McLaren and others take issue with Driscoll’s tone and message, which is why I think it was a good one. Throw a rock into a pack of dogs and the one that barks is the one that got hit. Shouldn’t all the people promoting effeminate worship leaders get their hackles up when they are made fun of?

One blogger called Driscoll a “bully”, a truly odd accusation. He didn’t name any particular leaders or encourage people to go smack the most effeminate worship leader they knew. He simply asked for stories. God writes comedy in the contemporary church, and you’re a bully for wanting to hear the jokes? Driscoll wrote a subsequent post describing his comments as flippant. His elders challenged him to say these things in an environment where people can be persuaded. I’m not close enough to the situation to understand all their rationale, and I’m thankful for faithful elders who are willing to call pastors out. But I do doubt whether many of Jesus’ offensive statements could be described as persuasive or made in a context where they could be persuasive. He makes fun of the Pharisees’ robes, prayers, tithes, oaths, devotion, and grooming. Did it get him anywhere? No where but up on that cross.

Not all prophetic speech is meant to be persuasive to all people. Sometimes it’s meant to offend the right people, and to encourage others. None of this excludes the motive of love, but it excludes a sentimental definition of it. We need more of these challenges.

Pants on Fire

You may not call the President a liar like that one bold chap who did. Click on that banned word to see the recent story on banned words.

I suggest that instead, when his majesty-who-may-not-be-named-a-non-truth-teller does, you know, lie, then the person in room who can still tell the difference between true and false simply yell out “Pants On Fire.” Or just “fire.” It might become a new F word, who knows. I also see that “sexual misconduct” is on the banned and naughty word list. At least this is a weak and tepid phrase. No one listens to me, but I think, delivered in high pitches, “philanderer” would do wonders.