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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August 14, 2017

Of Bees, and Larks, and Doors

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Humor, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:08 am

For authors and readers alike, the use of satire in Christian writing can be a touchy subject. As someone who grew up with Christian humor books consisting of about 100 pages of single panel comics, I found them to be helpful on a number of levels.

First, I learned there were other people who thought like me. Second, they broke through the tension of thorny issues. Third, they pointed out the various foibles of Evangelicalism.

Today, Christian satire has moved beyond single-panel or even 4-panel cartoons. Baptist Press is one of the greatest distributors (or hoarders) of those, but their rather mean-spirited copyright statement prevents us from including a sample at this point. Elsewhere, Adam Ford’s Adam4d.com is a good example of the comic format.

Rather, today we have the sophistication of longer form pieces which mimic news satire site The Onion. The Wittenburg Door somewhat owned this form for many years, first in print and later online. Growing up, a Christian musician and leader who greatly influenced me said, “That magazine is my conscience.”

With the internet came Lark News, which still has an online lot caster if you’re facing a tough decision.

Mission recruiters may be disappointed if everyone gets the same outcome as I did

Since 2012, Roman Catholics have had the artificial news site Eye of the Tiber. Lutheran’s have Lutheran Satire as well as its popular YouTube channel. Baptists have Landover Baptist. Megachurch members have the videos of John Crist. The homeschool crowd has the insanity of Matthew Pierce.

Then we have the most recent arrival, The Babylon Bee, which turned out to also be the brainchild of Adam Ford, though it uses multiple authors.

Some of the things you might stumble into online are written by outsiders. Often these people have an axe to grind. The best and funniest though usually are produced by people within the particular movement. The best satirists on Baptist life are Baptists; the best person to poke fun at The Salvation Army is an Army soldier or officer. You need to know the nuances of spiritual life within any given faith tribe in order to best deal with its idiosyncrasies. You also need the sensitivity of an insider to avoid crossing the line into mockery or ridicule. But if the given tribe has no sense of humor, then sometimes it takes an outsider to step up.

While not everyone is gifted at writing what is essentially fake news, sarcasm and satire can easily creep into our emails and online writing. Twitter makes it possible to be especially pithy, as do various meme sites. One blogger, Matt Marino at The Gospel Side includes a “snark meter” for most of his posts, so you can tell toward which side of his cheek is tongue is pointing.

Readers should check the meter before reading the article

Does all this have a place in God’s Kingdom? Do Christians have the ability to laugh at themselves? Can we be funny without offending people?

It’s a tough row to hoe.

In one church I attended as a twenty-something, there were two twenty-something women who felt they needed to address my penchant for humor, both in a general sense and also in terms of being able to point out the various elephants in our ecclesiastical room. Their admonitions were based on an application of Ephesians 5:4 which speaks of “foolish talk or coarse joking.” The type of silly talk or crude jesting in view has to be seen in the context of the verses before and after, which are dealing with sexual immorality and impurity. I think we all know what it’s like to be in a room where that’s going on, and there is clearly a difference.

They also would bring in I Peter 5:8 about being “sober minded,” though again, contextually this is speaking of an undistracted spiritual alertness; it’s not saying, ‘Never tell jokes; never point out the humor of anything.’  I think they just wanted to impose a rather Puritanical standard on their Christianity, and mine, and everyone else’s.

At the end of the day, each of our local churches and each of our denominations have some unique characteristics which are simply funny. Lacking the ability to see the rather odd distinctives we possess is to take a high-minded, scriptural view of our group’s perfection. No group has the right to claim that. We see as though through greasy glasses [ref], we know in part, we prophesy in part [ref], we stumble in various ways [ref]. We’re fallible.

The Bible contains humor (think of the kids calling Elisha ‘Baldy’) and certainly also irony (Haman’s demise on the gallows built for Mordecai) and also hyperbole (Paul suggests a group of legalists simply castrate themselves) but not specifically satire. So we give ourselves permission that a story can be humorous, but if something written parallels life in the modern church, certain people stand up and declare that unacceptable. They don’t allow us to find humor in speaking in tongues (which is a rather unusual gift) by Pentecostals or the wearing of bonnets (the Bible does speak about head coverings) by Amish women; or any of the distinctives of Baptists, Catholics or anyone else.

That’s unfortunate. Laughter is a gift from God. Where would the modern church be without the practical observations of Phil Callaway, the church drama of Adrian Plass, the resilience of the late Barbara Johnson, etc. The dry wit of Plass is an especially good example of what we’re discussing here with both the Plymouth Brethren and Charismatics in his sights. And after several decades, how can we can forget Garrison Keillor’s hilarious weekly look at life among the Lutherans.

Like my musician friend taught me all those years ago, satire can address something in our church culture which is ripe for reconsideration.

 

 

 

December 31, 2016

More from the Church Curmudgeon

I thought we’d end the year the way we did in 2013 with some 4th-Quarter highlights from everyone’s favorite (well, 93,000 people anyway*) anon account on Twitter,  Church Curmudgeon:

Church Curmudgeon

 

  • Between Pentecostal and Baptist worship styles, I prefer Baptist, hands down.
  • If the complementarians are right, Santa’s wife is a subordinate Claus.
  • The youth pastor just got back from 40 days in the wilderness.
    By “days,” I mean minutes. By “wilderness,” not looking at his phone.
  • Pastor’s on a prayer retreat this week. The secretary has been telling everyone, “He went to be with the Lord Monday.”
  • Asked the worship leader if he knew any hymns more than 20 years old.
    He started singing, “If you like to talk to tomatoes…”
  • Our auctioneer, Mr. Long, perused the last known flannel-graph showing the cosmic effects of the fall as he ascertained its value. Long weighed the world, in sin and error pining, till he appraised what the sole felt was worth.
  • Why did the worship leader cross the river alone?
    He was the only one who knew the bridge.
  • You can make anything sound grave and important by adding the phrase, “for such a time as this.”
  • Looking back, Linus must have converted from pagan pumpkin worship after Halloween, and began spreading the gospel by Christmas.
  • The worship leader was complaining about how our church hates change.
    To help him understand, we changed worship leaders. 
  • The difference between the Holy Spirit and the church wifi is that everybody screams if the wifi is gone.
  • Our pastor is now nearing his lifelong goal of alliterating his sermon points twice through the alphabet in one year.
  • What do you call it when someone gets saved just before the end of a Baptist’s sermon?
    A two-point conversion.
  • Our church is split between antinomians and legalists. Today’s closing song was “Trust or Obey.”
  • My Monday’s built on nothing less
    Than coffee pouring from the press
  • Made a Liszt.
    Went Chopin.
    Be Bach soon.
    Hope you can Handel it.
  • At the beginning of the year, pastor set a goal of funding one new church plant. If the Christmas tree counts, we did it.
  • There was an ascetic named Arius
    Whose view of the Son was precarious.
    They met at Nicea
    To mull this idea
    duly pronounced it nefarious.
  • Every head was bowed, and every eye was closed, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see you at the prayer meeting.

* And now 41,000 on Facebook, too.

May 8, 2015

Missing the Point

Social Media version of Phil 4 8

Church History

great-commission-revisted

Rescued

 

December 9, 2014

More from Church Curmudgeon

He’s now closing in on 75,000 followers on Twitter. On the other hand, not everybody is on Twitter and this deserves a wider readership, not to mention preservation since Twitter offers little in terms of accessible archives. Welcome back to more from my favorite presence in the Twitterverse, Church Curmudgeon:

Church Curmudgeon

  • Any shop clerk wishes me “Happy Holidays” and I’m going to sing “‘Twas the Birthday of a King” at the top of my lungs.
  • The candlelight chili supper was an explosive success.
  • The shepherds washed their socks by night / By day they let them dry / They wore them with their sandals / And made the Baby cry
  • Pastor’s in his study, quietly hermeneutering the passage.
  • Red and yellow, black and white / We just pick our sides and fight / Jesus, save the little children of the world
  • You know it’s going to be a good cantata when the Homeschool Separatist Handbell Choir shows up with a fog machine.
  • That rise in humidity is church guitarists sweating because of Sunday’s Christmas music with weird chords and no rehearsal.
  • Interesting how energy drinks didn’t become a thing until people did nothing but use their thumbs.
  • The worst part about music piracy for me is how much the postage costs to send out the bootleg Gaither tapes.
  • Our pastor needs a hip replacement. He’s just not cool enough for our deacon board.
  • If you’re going to offer a long prayer to open the men’s breakfast, please pray that the eggs get hot again.
  • Please tell the secretary not to abbreviate the Worship Team Fellowship Bible Study in the bulletin.

For more, look for
@ChrchCurmudgeon

on Twitter.com

October 8, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Okay, so this was everywhere online this past week, but if you missed it here’s an explanation of the Biblical phrase Gird Your Loins. (click image to link)

Gird-Up-Your-Loins-2

Here are the news and opinion pieces from the past week that stood out. You can also read today’s links at PARSE by clicking here.

Because this is Blogger Appreciation Month, you can catch Paul Wilkinson at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, or @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter.

Hotline to God

 

September 26, 2014

The Rise of the Anons

Twitter page

Let me begin today by saying you don’t have to be on Twitter to read Twitter feeds. I did this for the longest time before jumping in myself.  (If you’re familiar with these, be sure to read the last paragraph.)

One thing Twitter has brought us is the creation of accounts that either are pretending to be someone well known, or simply represent broad categories, in our case perhaps youth pastors or church secretaries. These anonymous accounts are sometimes called anons.  While anonymous blogs also exist, Twitter seems a medium most suited to this.

We don’t have space today, but in addition to what follows there’s a Fake Mark Driscoll (@NotDriscoll, somewhat dormant the last two weeks) and I couldn’t find the one purporting to be Steven Furtick’s $1.75M house (yes, a house Tweeting) but there is Not Steven Furtick (@FakeFurtick) but again, some of these arise during a period of headlines and then go quiet for awhile.

One such account is Chet Churchpain (@Churchpain) who for some reason uses Rainn Wilson (from The Office) as his image; interesting only because of Rainn’s strong religious views.  Sample:

  • I don’t know if I’d ever have become a Christian if not for that “God Answers Knee-Mail” church sign. So inspirational.
  • So, Hillsong United is not an Australian soccer team?

We devoted a whole article here last year to Church Curmudgeon (@ChrchCurmudgeon), though he’s now gone from 63,000 followers to 72,000. Some of his best pieces lately transform his love for coffee into hymn parodies:

  • Drink up, drink up your coffee Ye soldiers of the bean! Each drop will wake and keep you Sustained by your caffeine!
  • Coffee, coffee, how I’ve drunk you How I’ve brewed you o’er and o’er Coffee, coffee, precious coffee O for beans to brew you more.

though I liked this one, too:

  • As a measure of thanks, I sent Bono some free Gaither tapes.

Bad Church Secretary (@ChurchSecretary) is what its name implies.  Today:

  • When pastors do it all day its called Outreach and Discipleship but when I do it they say its “Slacking on Facebook & making personal calls”
  • You can cover up errors in tweets after they are posted, but as soon as you scroll they show up under the White-Out.

Youth Group Boy (@YouthGroupBoy) is also self-evident, though much of the premise seems to be the boy missing youth group.

  • Don’t tell my ymin “I’m not coming tonight,” instead say “I’m going to try and make it, but I’m not sure.” Give some hope to be crushed later.
  • If there’s one thing I want my youth minister to know it’s how the old youth minister did things.

The other side of this coin is Then My Youth Said (@thenmyyouthsaid):

  • Me: I’m excited, our interns start working on Sunday. #ThenMyYouthSaid: Good, you can finally get back to sleeping in your office all day.
  • Youth praise band paying worship music before Bible study tonight #ThenMyYouthSaid: “We need backup dancers.”

Which brings us to Bible Student Say (@BibleStdntsSay), a Twitter account that remains anonymous by necessity (though we think we know the college in question). These are actual quotations from remarks or essays:

  • “Society tries to integrate science into the Bible, saying that the universe couldn’t be created in 6 days. Genesis turns it on its head.”
  • “Contrary to these beliefs, an atheist believes that the future is controlled by our human people.”

(We need to devote an entire column to this one, and the author really needs to write a book.)

Then last night we met Yael (@YaelHeber), who was taking shots at our Calvinist friends. Actually, I’m not entirely sure she’s anonymous, it could be her real name but the Tweets had the feel of an anon:

  • I tried to be Reformed, but I apparently don’t like to argue enough. My application was rejected.
  • When people tell me they are reformed, I want to ask which prison they were in.

But wait…there’s more.  Part of the fun of playing this game is that many of the anons follow each other, which leads many new discoveries. Click following at the top of their page and… you’ll know what to do…

August 2, 2014

A House is Known by the Company it Keeps

Our Big American God - Matthew Paul TurnerWith all the buzz on Twitter, I would love for this space to contain a review of Matthew Paul Turner’s Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever Growing Deity but alas, getting review books from Hachette Book Group is like pulling teeth and only once — with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book which, by the way, is coming out in paperback in September — have I been successful. (I really wanted to review Rob Strong’s The Big Guy Upstairs so I could present my conspiracy theory that Strong is really Rob Bell; a theory I maintain despite the lack of physical resemblance…)

But I found it interesting who is on the list of review citations appearing at Ingram Book Company, the world’s largest book distributor.  It’s certainly A-list, but it’s also a list of progressive writers who would be unlikely to say anything negative. (Not that they would; from what I hear the book is a must-read.)

Here’s a sample:

  • Ed Cyzewski author, The Good News of Revelation and A Christian Survival Guide
  • Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of Start
  • Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer
  • Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World
  • Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, Billy! 
  • Peter Rollins
  • A. J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
  • Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
  • Timothy Kurek, author of the bestselling book, The Cross in the Closet

Okay, so maybe I’m not quite in their league, but I’m not asking to be part of the print edition, I just want to review the book on the blog. Jericho Books, are you listening? Still, it’s interesting to see the omission of endorsements by Max Lucado, Jerry Jenkins or even Bill Gaither. (Does Bill read?)

Oh and by the way book marketing people, Peter Rollins looks really lame on this list, so I will say what the online product detail didn’t: Peter is the author of at least seven books and an unpublished PhD thesis that “offers a survey of religious thinking in the aftermath of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. It engages directly with Martin Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology and explores the religious significance of Jacques Derrida’s post-structural theory and Jean-Luc Marion’s saturated phenomenology…” (Wikipedia) Hence the doctorate in “Post-Structural Theory.” But onto-theology is out of my league also.

And that’s just a sample of what my research department would provide Matthew Paul Turner if Hachette/Faithwords/Jericho wants to ante up with a print copy, mailed to my lavish executive offices (see yesterday’s post) in the next 72 hours. 

#unreview

#ainttoproudtobeg

 

December 30, 2013

Latest from the Church Curmudgeon

On the one hand, he has 63,300 followers on Twitter. On the other hand, not everybody is on Twitter and this deserves a wider readership, not to mention preservation since Twitter offers little in terms of accessible archives.  Welcome back to more from my favorite presence in the Twitterverse,  Church Curmudgeon:

Church Curmudgeon

  • Our drummer hasn’t seen many dangers or toils, but he’s sure gone through a lot of snares.
  • Who among you, if his son asked for a donut, would give him a scone?
  • Worship leader found the old choir music closet. I told him they’re Greek manuscripts. Doesn’t know the difference.
  • When Noah realized how long he was going to be on the ark with those animals, he felt like he’d been hit with a 2 by 2.
  • A guy got caught stealing an idol from our local museum in hopes of auctioning it off. Baal has been set at $50,000.
  • The church cut the Senior’s group budget to 20 bucks per event. So tonight we’re going to party like it’s $19.99.
  • Please pray for the children’s director, who fell off a ladder and suffered injuries to her head and shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes.
  • I tried to cancel my meeting with Hank from the King-James-Only church, but he didn’t receptus my textus.
  • Headed over to the seminary barbecue this afternoon. Otherwise known as casting a pig into a herd of D. Mins
  • They kicked the guitarist off the worship team, and won’t let him come back until he finds Gsus.
  • It would be easier for the congregation to lip-sync if they’d put the right words up.
  • It’s one thing to be at a loss for words in worship. It’s another to write a song called “Jesus, I’m All, Like, Dude”.
  • When my pastor’s discouraged, I’ve always found that a note reminding him how to do his job helps me feel better.
  • If you leave your Bible at church, we highlight all the really weird passages to make your children wonder about you when you die.
  • Blowout deals on hymns at How Great Thou Mart.
  • You can’t debunk someone who had nowhere to bunk in the first place.
  • Today, in an effort to be more accurate, the tech team is just going to type in what they think we’re singing as we go.
  • Changing our vision statement from “Excellence in All Things” to “Somebody Has to Be Below Average”.
  • Joel Holstein – Your Best Life Cow
  • People don’t care about how much you grumble unless you grumble about how much they care.
  • I love how people who mock the Bible for having food laws change their whole diet on the basis of a Facebook link.
  • Pastor’s “attending” a webinar today. I’m assuming this will lead to a degree from a webinary.
  • If our creepy puppet ministry saves one creepy kid, it will be worth it all.
  • What’s the SleepNumber® on your pew?
  • In a better world, there would also be a theologian named OT Wong.
  • If you don’t think God is patient, forgiving, and long-suffering, consider that He has read ALL of Twitter.

Well that covers about a 90-day window, but is just a small part of the 4,600+ Tweets on the curmudgeon’s feed.

So is it just me, or is Church Curmudgeon a Christian publishing deal waiting to happen?

Church Curmudgeon eschatology

October 8, 2013

Edgy Christian Comic: Insert Image

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:16 am

Insert Image by Wes Molebash - Prayer Soap

Insert Image is the continuing story of Miles and JP from Paper City Church, as created by Wes Molebash. There’s a new comic panel every Monday.

having trouble viewing the complete image? Click here.

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