Seriously enough

Probably the most common search terms that end up finding episcotheque are those related to “Episcopalian jokes,” or similar. (I just looked it up—I’m on the first page of search results. Make it “Episcopalian drinking jokes” and I’m the #1 hit. I’m not sure if I should be proud or somewhat disturbed.) I like jokes a lot, so I’m okay with having a prominent place on the Internet-Episcopal-jokes circuit.

Also, I realize I wrote a really similar post not too long ago. I don’t care. This is good stuff.

A week or so ago, @UnvirtuousAbbey (hilarious: definitely follow if you do the Twitter thing) tweeted, “If there’s anything we’ve learned from this Twitter account it’s that Christians take themselves way too seriously.” True that. I’m sure @UnvirtuousAbbey came to this conclusion through Twitter interactions with some Christians taking themselves very, very seriously. And it’s funny because while @UnvirtuousAbbey tweets a lot of funny, tongue-in-cheek things, they tweet some pretty serious things, too.

I’m really fond of religious kitsch. I think it’s hilarious and awesome. I have my apartment-mates to thank for a recent discovery: they brought home magnets proclaiming: “Dieting with Jesus: Because that ass needs a miracle!” The magnets themselves include slightly modified versions of vintage-y Jesus drawings, accompanied by captions like, “Your body is a temple. Fill it with salad.” These are some pretty sweet magnets.

Now, not everyone will think those magnets are cool. Somewhere, people are looking at them and thinking, Sacrilege! Kids these days have no reverence! What is this world coming to?! And they’d think the same about Jesus Bandages, Jeez-Its, Holy Toast, the lolcat Bible, and the like. There’s a Dutch (possibly Yankee Dutch) word that is said to mean something like treating flippantly what is sacred—spuyten/sputen/sputten, something like that. Its only use seems to be to keep people from such thought or action.

I’d argue, though, that a fondness for kitsch is far from a lack of reverence or solemnity. I am utterly serious about my faith—more serious than anything else in my life—and it is this gravity that grounds me enough to laugh, to delight in and at my faith. And I’m not alone—if I’ve found anyone as fond of kitschy/somewhat inappropriate/borderline sacrilegious humor as I am, it might be some of the clergy I hang out with (the sort of priests who rock out at a Garfunkel and Oates concert—you know who you are).

A few days ago, when my EfM group started for the year, we put together our list of group norms. One of the items on our list is “Have a sense of humor.” We found this important enough to make into one of the rules we all choose to abide by—and thank God for this one!

Humor is a teaching tool: opening us up to be touched more deeply than we might be otherwise, sometimes making difficult or painful issues easier to approach and/or defuse a defensive response in the face of healthy criticism. Humor can point out problems even as it celebrates positive points. And, well, let’s face it—funny stuff it funny, and we could all use a laugh now and then.


Do you find humor is a useful teaching/learning tool for you? Do you know Christians who take themselves too seriously? How far is too far with religious (or any) humor? Do you want a set of Dieting with Jesus magnets?


4 thoughts on “Seriously enough

    • Ha! And yet there is a too-far point. Some tragedy is not tragicomic, it’s just tragic. I realized after I’d finished this post that it would be going up on 9/11; if I’d thought ahead more, I probably wouldn’t have written a post about humor on the anniversary of a national tragedy. (It’s just as Michael says, “There are certain topics that are off-limits to comedians: JFK, AIDS, the Holocaust.”)

      • Yes, I remember his Holocaust disclaimer, so true. (Don’t beat yourself up over the 9 / 11 timing; you did not offend. And you can offer observations on 9 /11 at some other time when our focus has started to shift; you can remind us, lest we forget.

  1. Yes, I want a set of dieting with Jesus magnets. Maybe if I have the “salad” one hanging on my fridge I won’t be so tempted to write “ice cream. Lots and Lots.” on the grocery list. Also, I love the things that you laugh at. 🙂

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