Thinking Out Loud

November 24, 2017

The Place for Christian Satire and Humor

When a comment popped up on an earlier look at this topic — originally posted seven years ago — I thought I might revisit this. I quickly realized that most of the references in the original article were to blogs and websites which no longer exist, so this is greatly revised.

For readers today, it’s hard to imagine a future world without, for example, The Babylon Bee — or its Roman Catholic equivalent, Eye of the Tiber — but I suppose it will happen eventually. Sometimes the humor is topical references to things currently on our minds. Other times the jokes are somewhat timeless…

The original article began with a comment from a reader who found the rather humorous graphic, Fundy Preacher Bingo, not so funny. (Click the link to see it full size, or perhaps even print a few!)

Actually, “Christian hate” is the term she used. “Hate?” Really? Not surprising though. I have in the past encountered Christians who don’t get religious humor or satire. “Foolish talk and course jesting;” is the verse usually quoted.

And then she asked the question that I think is key to all this:

What kind of hardened heart finds delight in making fun of your brothers and sisters in Christ, as if you weren’t flawed and saved by Grace – same as them?

Well, the answer is, many people. One of the items in our personal book collection is Games Christians Play which was published in the 1940s by Harper & Row. I’m sure it was not the first example of literature in which Christians take some potshots at their own foibles. And space does not permit us to list the many examples of Jesus using wordplay with both his disciples and his critics. (See this book review.)

And the phrase “at their own” is also key. When non-believers want to lampoon and ridicule Christianity that’s one thing. But even there, I wouldn’t want to be too dismissive, because I think it’s important for us to be able to see ourselves as others see us. Some of the attacks by atheists are unwarranted, but at other times, it’s like holding a mirror up to The Church.

But it’s always better when the barbs come from within, ergo the long-time popularity of the now not-in-print Christian magazine, The Wittenburg Door. One of my earliest mentors was a musician who said, “The Wittenburg Door is my conscience.”

Humor is a powerful force and it can be abused for sure, but it can also be a force for keeping us all honest and accountable. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Many a truth is spoken in jest. [Add your own cliché here.]

So while I could criticize fellow Evangelicals, I wouldn’t criticize Lutherans. For that we have Garrison Keillor, although he has spent enough time among Baptists and Pentecostals that increasingly a larger group of people are swept up in his humor and storytelling.

So rule number one would be that you criticize your own. You might even need to quantify that, as one writer did at the time:

I’m a conservative evangelical Christian. Very, very conservative by most standards and I’ve got the Wide-Margin Old Scofield King James Bible to prove it.. [comment at Stuff Fundies Like, Sept 10, 2010]

Over the years, spoofers have included Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like (now a motivational and business writer) and Joel Kilpatrick and the author of the blog Jesus or Squirrel or Matthew Paul Turner at Jesus Needs New PR or the host of cartoonists including many different ones at Baptist Press (who years ago stopped allowing us to use them). And let’s not forget years and years of cartoon and satire books published by Zondervan and InterVarsity (the latter having returned to the genre with two books each in the Coffee With Jesus and Theologygrams series) and the cartoons that were printed in each issue of Leadership Journal.

The enemy of The Church today is not those who poke fun at our sacred cows, but the people who simply walk away. I responded to the woman who left the comment:

…For what it’s worth, “hardened hearts” don’t engage. They walk away. They are apathetic. Most of us read something like this and it’s very easy to resonate with the spirit of it, and that is fully compatible — to me at least — with being indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.

Sadly, the person who wrote to me said I had “lost another reader.” In other words, she chose to walk away rather than engage.

As to “hardened hearts,” I think if anything, reading satire from different denominational tribes has softened my heart in terms of understanding and relating to people who are from faith families different to my own.

So what’s your take on Christian comics, Christian cartoons, Christian satire, Christian humor, etc.? Is there a place for this genre? Is it helpful? Is it hurtful?

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February 1, 2015

Weekend Link List

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama makes his annual appearance

Once a year the List Lynx gets bumped. If the llama sees his shadow…

  • From Worship Leader to Lead Pastor – Of course they don’t use that terminology in the Church of England, but Tim Hughes is moving from the church that gave the world The Alpha Course to be “Priest in Charge” of a church in downtown London. “While a significant change for the worship leader, he’s keen to point out he won’t be putting his guitar down anytime soon. Inspired by a book called Chasing Francis he says he wants to become an ‘artist pastor’ who leads in creative ways. He said: ‘You lead out of who you are. I don’t want to think the leader who works in a church is someone who does x,y,z. It’s what are my gifts? What are my strengths? The big thing is leading with a team, and a community. I’m not gifted in everything so I need people who can help supplement that.'”
  • David and Goliath is Next in a line of Religious Epics – The film’s director: “‘Well first off, I’m not only a director, but also an evangelist,’ says [Tim] Chey who has spoken at some of the largest churches in the U.S. and abroad. ‘So obviously I’m not going to make a film that’s Biblically not correct or does not give honor to the Lord.’ David and Goliath is considered one of the big three Bible movies hitting theaters after Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings. The film wrapped principal photography in North Africa and in studios in London and opens as a platform release nationwide on April 3. Chey refers to the backlash of the film ‘Noah’ which many Christian pastors and leaders shunned. The film still was a box office hit at $120 million, but Christians stayed away in droves.”
  • An Open Letter to High-Profile Pastors – “Famous pastor, your actions and words (written and preached) have ripple effects which reach into the churches whose pastors do not carry your clout. It’s not because they are less gifted or less faithful. It’s because the famous man’s words carry more weight, even in our churches. So when you mess up and preach things that fail to square with God’s Word or you appear alongside false teachers it leaves the rest of us to deal with it in our own churches. These are people we love and pray for and visit in the hospital. You don’t know them. You’ll never meet them. But they listen to your teaching and read your books. Because they never see your own faults they tend to place you on a pedestal.”
  • The Theology of Afterlife – Even within Evangelicalism, there are differences as to what happens when we die, or more particularly, what happens to the unbelieving, unregenerate upon death. Views range from annihilation of the soul to eternal conscious torment. Scot McKnight has assembled a number of texts from the period of Second Temple Judaism that show an equal diversity of teaching. He presents them raw and without comment, except to note that, “Into this kind of diversity Jesus and the apostles stepped and spoke of judgment.”
  • Ultimately, the Kids Don’t Want the Y-Min to be Cool – “I think there is a reason youth ministers on average only last 18 months before they move on to a new church. Teenagers are stress machines with enough emotional baggage to sink a ship. You can be great at playing games, planning outings, and writing jokes into lesson plans, but if at the end of the day if you don’t love your kids I don’t know how you are going to make it…In spite of what people might tell you, teenagers don’t really want a youth minister who is “cool.” …What youth really want is the freedom to be who they are, and to be loved for who they are.”
  • Church Staffing: Smaller is Better – You’d expect a pastor on the frontlines of multi-site to be all about growth and numbers, but when it comes to staff size, Craig Groeschel leans toward the idea that a few too few is better than a few too many. Sample: “In ministries, a bigger staff often means a smaller volunteer base. When you start to hire people to do what volunteers once did (or could do), you rob your church members of the blessing of using their gifts in ministry. When you stop empowering volunteer leaders, you lose a great source of future staff members and ultimately weaken the strength of your church or non-profit.”
  • NYC Too Pricey for this Non-Profit – The American Bible Society is moving to Philadelphia:  “‘New York has become so extraordinarily expensive that nonprofit staff cannot afford to live in proximity to headquarters,’ said Roy Peterson, the society’s president and CEO. ‘We don’t have a cohesive, synergistic global headquarters staff right now. And that’s why we wanted to find a city that was diverse, rich with culture and churches and language, but yet affordable.'” The new home is just a block from the Liberty Bell.
  • Preaching to the Crowd You Wish Was Present – Some fairly standard advice is that if you’re a church of 50 and you’d like to grow to 250, start preaching like there are 250 people in the room. But an expert on small(er) church ministry rejects that: “That’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever received in ministry. And I’m not the only one who’s received it. Many of you have heard it too. Some of you may have repeated it. If so, stop. It’s not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very bad idea. The only time we should preach like the room is full is when the room is actually full.”
  • Not Enough Links for Ya? – You can always check out our weekend competition at Internet Monk. If you prefer story leads more related to pastors and church leaders, check out Dash House.

We end with Mark Gungor’s 9-minute rant on the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings.

July 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

John McPherson of Close to Home fame kicks off and ends this week’s link list.  Click the images to view more.  I wonder if Rob Bell bought the print or t-shirt of the one above?

  • Is the term ‘Evangelical’ losing its meaning or become too broad a term?  Randy Alcorn digs deep into that question.
  • A year too late, as it turned out, I discovered Lance, who made some of the best fan videos for Christian music songs I’ve ever seen.  Check out God of this City.  Anybody know if he’s making these under another user name?
  • And speaking of music, Dan Kimball returns — I think he’s covered this before — to question the whole notion of “worship equals music” which can cloud our thinking about true worship.
  • How could I not link to an article titled, “Oral Tradition of the Gospels and Justin Bieber”? Actually, Dan Rodger makes a good point about the reliability of scripture.
  • Can I still use the word “missional” without sounding dated?  Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi has a great video embed titled Church Without a Wall.
  • You’d be forgiven for not knowing this, but the Roman Catholic Church has done some serious thinking about the use of worship music in its services.  Read about this at Internet Monk.
  • Anyone who has ever dealt with foreign language issues knows the absurdity of some of our Bible translation debates, as Dana illustrates with a couple of Spanish examples.
  • As her book Not Afraid of Life is published, Bristol Palin talks about abstinence with Christianity Today.
  • Brad Lomenick gets Jon Acuff to say funny things.  BTW, Jon guested at Cross Point Church at all the weekend services; audio/video is at iTunes.
  • As promised we end with another John McPherson.  If I’m remembering correctly, back in the day John had a book or two of his religious-flavored panels published by Zondervan.

December 30, 2010

Banned from Stuff Christians Like

I have always been a fan of Jon Acuff.   We started our blogs around the same time, though I suspect his daily readership is just a tiny bit larger than this one.    (He also backdated his early posts, so early visitors ended up seeing what appeared to be a work already in progress.)

I reviewed his book not once, not twice, but three times on blogs I write or administrate.   I’ve linked to him many, many times here.  Plus, I created a sidebar advertisement for the book which appeared on those same three blogs.

But I couldn’t help but notice several months ago that the recent comments I was leaving on the blog were not appearing.

Then, last week, Jon wrote about the fact that sometimes his wife sees some rather hurtful comments online before he does.    He then went on to talk about how sometimes these comments are simply intended to wound or discourage.

I figured that was as good a time as any to both (a) suggest that it is equally hurtful when valid, positive comments are excluded; and (b) to thereby test the waters to see if that comment might actually appear.   I didn’t copy and paste the comment before sending it, but I think I ended up by saying that no matter what else, I have always been and will always be supportive.

I think Jon Acuff is a brilliant writer who is genuinely funny and yet, at the same time has a real heart for people, a phrase he would probably have some fun with.    I have been thrilled to introduce his book and his blog to a number of people this year.

But I am currently being blocked from participating in that particular blog community.

Without knowing why.

Mystery.

Do you have any Christian blogs where your comments have been blocked without any particular provocation on your part?   Did you stop reading those blogs, or are you still a fan nonetheless?

Graphic:  Today’s graphic is actually from Facebook (which I’m not on) not any blogging network.    I fully empathize with anyone who has been so blocked without reasonable justification.

Elsewhere on this blog:

December 5, 2010

Sex Education With Dr. Phil

Phil as in Phil Callaway.   Don’t know him?  Here’s his official autobiography…

Phil Callaway is an award-winning author, speaker, and daddy of three. The best-selling author of twenty-four books, Phil has been called “the funniest Canadian alive,” but never by his school teachers. He is a frequent guest on national radio and TV, and his humorous stories on family life have been featured in hundreds of magazines worldwide. But he insists that his greatest achievement was convincing his wife to marry him. Phil lives in Alberta, Canada with his high school sweetheart. They are married.

His books include, Wonders Never Cease, Laughing Matters, The Edge of the World, Golfing with the Master, Making Life Rich Without Any Money, Family Squeeze and Parenting: Don’t Try This at Home.

You can learn more about Phil — who isn’t really a doctor and cannot be called Dr. Phil — at LaughAgain.org

The Age of Enlightenment

I was in fourth grade when I first heard about sex. For all I know, it may not have existed before that point in history (October 16, 1969, a Wednesday, I believe). In a rather memorable moment, a neighbor boy whom we shall call Bobby (because that is his name), told me all about it. As I recall, Bobby had the whole thing embarrassingly backwards, and I trust that he has been informed of this, particularly now that he has his own counseling ministry.

When I was 12, my mother interrupted a perfectly good baseball game for a straightforward discussion of the birds, the bees, and other assorted insects. Although some of the details are a little sketchy now, I do remember sitting upon our plaid couch, baseball mitt in hand, thoroughly amazed at Mom’s frankness. In less than 20 minutes, my normally reserved mother told me:

a. Where I came from.

b. How I got there.

c. That it was all a part of God’s marvelous plan, carrying with it rules that, when followed, would lead to a lifetime of freedom and fulfillment.

d. To, for goodness’ sake, stop picking my nose.

Let me assure you: coming from a Presbyterian, the first three points were well worth listening to.

“Philip,” she said in conclusion, “sex is a beautiful gift that God has set aside for husbands and wives. Don’t you ever forget that.”

I sat, wide-eyed, staring at the baseball glove. I was sure I wouldn’t forget it.

“Do you have any questions?”

I did have a question. In fact, for about 20 minutes I had been overcome with a desire to ask something of great importance. Finally I voiced it: “Um…may I go play baseball now?”

Moments later I was heading back to the diamond, smacking my glove and thinking: There must be a better way to reproduce. If ever I have children, I’m sure I shall have found it.

I called Mom today to remind her of The Talk. Like Mr. Kowalksi, she laughed until it wasn’t so funny anymore. Then she reminded me that they didn’t have 100 zillion child-rearing books available to tell them how to pass on all the delicate details. And she added, “You live in a very different world, Son. We pray for your children every day.”

It’s a different world alright. And sometimes it’s a scary one. Wherever our kids turn–the Net, school, television, the video or convenience store – they are inundated with flashy signs pointing them in the wrong direction. Christian parents can no longer afford to remain silent. Nor can we limit sex education to The Talk.

At our house, opportunities to discuss the topic arrive unexpectedly. Just yesterday Jeffrey and I were out in the yard when two flies came by, cruising at rather low altitude and in startlingly close formation. “Daddy,” said Jeff, “They’re getting married.” We laughed together and had a brief chat. It was nothing new. From the time he was four or five, we’ve had many such impromptu conversations.

Of course, this whole thing can be carried too far:

SON: “Dad, would you pass the sunflower seeds, please?”

DAD: “You know, Billy, you were once a seed.”

SON: “Well then, please pass the chips.”

It’s important for all of us to remember that the dispersement of information is a small part of education. You see, you can have all the knowledge in the world, but without wisdom it can be dangerous.

When I think back to the night my mother interrupted the baseball game, it amazes me that this is the only time I can remember talking with my parents about sex. Yet somehow they managed to raise responsible, reasonably well-adjusted adults.

How? I believe the reason is simple: Dad and Mom cared for each other. They provided us a lifelong demonstration of morality in action. By their tenderness and commitment, they showed us that the best sex education in the world is a mom and dad who love each other.

Believe me, you don’t take such things lightly. Especially when all you started out with was a fourth grade education.

~Phil Callaway

October 15, 2010

The Place for Christian Humor and Satire

Okay, let’s have at this issue.

Earlier this week, in the Wednesday Link List, I posted another link to a blog I have really come to appreciate over the last year, Stuff Fundies Like.   Fundies as in Fundamentalists, though referring more to a conservative culture than a specific set of doctrines.   It’s important to make that distinction, though some people can’t.

Anyway, I got a comment from a reader who found the rather humorous graphic, Fundy Preacher Bingo, not so funny.   Actually, “Christian hate” is the term she used.

And then she asked the question that I think is key to all this:

What kind of hardened heart finds delight in making fun of your brothers and sisters in Christ, as if you weren’t flawed and saved by Grace – same as them?

Well, the answer is, many people.    One of the items in our personal book collection is Games Christians Play which was published in the 1940s by Harper & Row.   I’m sure it was not the first example of literature in which Christians take some potshots at their own foibles.

And the phrase “at their own” is also key.   When non-believers want to lampoon and ridicule Christianity that’s one thing.   But even there, I wouldn’t want to be too dismissive, because I think it’s important for us to be able to see ourselves as others see us.   Some of the attacks by atheists are unwarranted, but at other times, it’s like holding a mirror up to The Church.

But it’s always better when the barbs come from within, ergo the long-time popularity of the now not-in-print Christian magazine, The Wittenburg Door.   So while I could criticize fellow Evangelicals, I wouldn’t criticize Lutherans.   For that we have Garrison Keillor, although he has spent enough time among Baptists and Pentecostals that increasingly a larger group of people are swept up in his humor and storytelling.

So rule number one would be that you criticize your own.   And Darrell, the author of SFL spent enough time among the group he is highlighting:

I’m a conservative evangelical Christian. Very, very conservative by most standards and I’ve got the Wide-Margin Old Scofield King James Bible to prove it..  [comment Sept 10]

But he has been able to step back and see the forest for the trees, as has Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like, and Joel Kilpatrick and the author of the blog Jesus or Squirrel or Matthew Paul Turner at Jesus Needs New PR or the host of cartoonists mentioned in the blogroll down the right side here, including the seven different ones at Baptist Press.    And let’s not forget years and years of cartoon and satire books published by Zondervan and InterVarsity, and the cartoons printed in each issue of Leadership Journal.

I remember years ago a Christian musician saying, “The Wittenburg Door is my conscience.”    Humor is a powerful force and it can be abused for sure, but it can also be a force for keeping us all honest and accountable.

The enemy of The Church today is not those who poke fun at our sacred cows, but the people who simply walk away.    I responded this week…

…For what it’s worth, “hardened hearts” don’t engage. They walk away. They are apathetic. Most of us read something like this and it’s very easy to resonate with the spirit of it, and that is fully compatible — to me at least — with being indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.

Sadly, the person who wrote to me said I had “lost another reader.”  In other words, she chose to walk away rather than engage.

As to “hardened hearts,” I think if anything, reading blogs like Darrell’s at SFL has softened my heart in terms of understanding and relating to people who are from faith families different to my own.

So what’s your take on Christian comics, Christian cartoons, Christian satire, Christian humor, etc.?  Is there a place for this genre?   Is it helpful?   Is it hurtful?

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