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If what I’m about to say has been said a million times, so be it.
Religion shouldn’t close doors to Comedy, or more accurately-one’s enjoyment of it.
Now to lay down some quick facts before we get to theory: I’m a Christian-not devout (by any stretch of the imagination). I, like most believers in free will, have my moments (days/weeks) of doubt. My Grandfather’s a more liberal pastor than most and my parent’s are (to my knowledge) secure in their belief. My Mom tends to worry about me, particularly when I question some of the basics of faith, “Why do we praise god for the good but not blame him for the bad? Shouldn’t an omnipresent being with control over the cosmos be responsible for both sides of the spectrum?” These aren’t questions I ask to be humorous, edgy, or educated. It’s a legitimate issue I struggle with. It’s also not the topic of this post-but I feel it helps that you (the reader) know where I stand spiritually before I say what I’m about to say.
I tend to approach religion in my own humor with more sensitivity than most topics because of the conflicts within my own beliefs. I think a little more on the subject before I speak-how many lines will I cross? Are this logical lines? is there some basis in fact behind them? One can debate the fact behind every religion, but in this case, per the fact relayed within the respective religion, is it portrayed accurately? Some of the best and sharpest religious humor comes from those well versed in the source material. For this I indicate Stephen Colbert who frequently will jab at the church, but is not only a devout Catholic but a Sunday School teacher. Good humor can easily open doors to new ideas or find something laughable in an undeniable flaw. I think this makes people much more hesitant when it comes to humor pointed at religion because for many religion sits comfortably at their core.
When The Otter Club was gearing up to shoot The Eastburg Radio Church (doomsday) sketch, we were short on members who were able to come out and improvise around the school proclaiming the end of days. I had attempted to rally one of our members to come down and join in, but he protested “I won’t do anything to mock the J-man” The problem was, at no point from the conception of the sketch to it’s execution was it mocking Christ, or even Christianity. The focus of the sketch was religious fanaticism, those who reach out to foresee the end of the world, those who find a weird joy in death of civilization because the chosen will be flown away to Heaven. The group was based around a Christian church because there frankly aren’t many Jews buying up billboards to proclaim the end of the world. I think the combination of humor and religion lead to the refusal to participate in the sketch-for by the transitive property, if you’re lampooning the believers you’re lampooning the faith. Still I respected his decision not to join in, that said-he missed out on a fun experience and the chance to work on a solid sketch.
More recently (and when I say recently, I mean tonight) two events occured.
Such events were brought to light through facebook, as I was not in Virginia to debate any of the issues in person and thus prevent my urge to write on the topic. I pre-apologize to my family for making them into examples, but they are the examples.
The first (and least personal) comes from my Aunt who has decided to pass on GCB (a new show for which GCB is an acronym for Good Christian Bitches). My aunt admits to judging a book by it’s cover, still my father (former leader of our churches praise team for 10+ years) recommends it to her regardless, as he is sure the person who condemned it earlier during the day’s festivities has never actually watched the show. Good Christian Bitches is based of a book by Kim Gatlin, who, surprise: is a Christian and based her book of her own personal experiences. The description for the book is as follows:
The GCBs of Hillside Park Presbyterian are praying for Amanda Vaughn—or so they claim. Will their evil gossip destroy her reputation, or will she show them exactly how to turn the other cheek.
Now of course there’s more to the book than the log line. I haven’t read it (or watched the show), but were that the book, it’d be a short book. What appears to be the case, is that the show is poking fun at the the followers, which for some may tie back to my previous mention of the transitive property. The problem, is that mocking the followers is to mocking their faith as mocking me is to mocking my mother. There is a connection, but if you were to make fun me for writing this none of that would fall to my mother who is currently blissfully unaware that any of this is being written. So should a show that takes place in what may likely be a very relatable environment be shunned because it places “Christian” and “Bitches” next to each other in the title? Were the show simply titled “Good Christians” with the same content be more readily watched?
The second (and final) example the comes courtesy of my own Grandmother.
Earlier today I posted the following to facebook:
“And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” -Luke 24:41 (NIV)
Christ died for our sins, but came back for our food.
Now, to be fair-this pokes more fun at Christ than his followers, but we’ll get to that shortly. My Grandmother left the classic comment “I know you may trying to joke but I don’t find it funny.” which is exactly how I prefer my constructive criticism, blunt and none to helpful. I get it, not all jokes are funny, or at least not everyone finds them to be. That’s the wonder of Comedy, not everyone is amused by it and if my own Grandmother doesn’t find a joke to be humorous that’s absolutely fine. I can’t stress that enough. People have every right not to find me funny, comedy is alienating. Not everyone gets it, not everyone likes it. Fair enough. The problem is… The BIG problem is-she DID find it funny… just not on facebook. This is nature of the internet and would be acceptable had I not known she found it funny. However, my dad who was at the day’s Easter festivities relayed the joke to her (and I presume the rest of the room). A joke to which she laughed at, and lets be clear-my Grandmother has a very distinct laugh. Still she protested “No laughing here.” Sensing some inconsistency, I put out a call to other family members who might have witnessed it and sure enough both my Mom and Sister stood by my Father’s accusation.
Why blatantly change a position like this? Perhaps it was because my father had told it at Easter dinner, and jokes about food are probably funnier in the context of an empty stomach than after a full meal. Perhaps my father had affected his voice, told the joke as Daffy Duck-though I doubt it. Perhaps it was funny at first, but then something clicked: “Wait a minute, we’re laughing about something JESUS said.” And that’s when it stopped being funny. But why? It’s in scripture, Jesus died, Jesus came back, and all he had to say was “Hey, you guys got any Bagel Bites?”
There was something funny about that joke, and my Grandma knew it, because only the clinically insane laugh for no reason.
Now if I may theorize, I think the problem in these cases is that someone is making light of religion to some small degree. And for these reasons, people will steer clear of the issue in it’s entirety. But, shouldn’t a strong religion be able to stand up to a good ribbing? If Jesus survived a crucifixion, shouldn’t he be able to survive a few jokes? And frankly, if you’re worried a joke, a sketch, some televised satire may shake your faith, or the faith of others-maybe you ought to rethink your own faith.