Friday, July 8, 2011

Mocking Christians

I'm the type of guy who likes to mock Christians. I'm not the only one, either. Just check out the website Stuff Christians Like and you'll see a huge webpage devoted to the mockery of Christianity. It's author, Jon Acuff, is a hero of mine, and someone I hope to meet soon. He's a more successful version of who I hope to one day be, and he got there by mocking Christians.

I feel I should point out that both he and I are Christians.

That's right, I enjoy mocking my people. And why shouldn't I? Someone has to keep us honest. One of my favorite comedians Lewis Black once posited that when religion loses its sense of humor, bad things happen. Things like 9-11 happen. I'd like to add one caveat. It's possible that religious extremists do have a sense of humor, as they are quite good at mocking others. However, show me a believer good at making fun of himself and his faith, and I'll show you someone far less likely to kill others in the name of his faith.

Mockery keeps us humble. It also can reveal truths that we might not want to confront, and Christianity (my faith) doesn't like to confront a whole lot of issues. We go way too overboard on this "War on Christmas" nonsense. (That's right, I said it.) We declare that "Christian Music" is so much better than that secular garbage, even though a huge chunk of Christian Rock is just a sad imitation of said secular garbage. And Kirk Cameron often makes terrible, terrible movies. Movies that make Lifetime movies seem Oscar-worthy.

We've got to make fun of that. It's funny. Laughter isn't terrible. God gave us laughter. It doesn't mean we have to be hateful, but how can we truly be in honest community with each other if we can't point to something with a "Christian" label and not call it like we see it? There is a way to lovingly mock, as one does family. In fact, why do you think many families never let you forget the time you jumped off the roof in nothing but your underwear and a cape? To keep you humble.

Of course, I feel like I'm handing people a double-edged sword. While mocking Christians for the silly (and stupid) things we do may be fun, aren't I also giving people license to mock us Christians because we believe in a God who became a man, died on a cross, came back to life, and that we get to go to heaven because of that? Well, I hate it break it to you, but anyone who's going to make fun of us for that didn't get the idea from me. (Where do you think the name Christian came from, anyway? Mockery.)

But here's the thing. Everyone gets mocked, and we Christians ought not take ourselves so seriously, and roll with it. We can use it as an opportunity to mend bridges that we've immolated. (And we do like a good bridge immolation.) And if we are honest about our ridiculousness, it might open the doors to an opportunity for real conversation.

I can't trust anyone who isn't good at self-effacing humor. If you're too serious, if you can't tell one joke at your own expense, then I'm afraid I have to keep you at arm's length. But if you can confront the fact that, like me, you are also a ridiculous human, then we might get along. And if you and I can make fun of each other, then we're going to get along famously. And if you can't find anything about me to make fun of, clearly you aren't paying attention.

For me, getting married was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. If anyone knows how to keep me humble through precision-targeted mockery (in a loving, supportive-spouse kind of way) it's my wife. I am a silly person. I'm also arrogant and can be a big jerk at times. Fortunately, God gave me someone who can take the wind out of my sails, and I'm better for it. I'm just doing the same for my people.

So that's why I do what I do. (Consider this a bit of an apologia.) I don't hate Christians, as I am one of those ridiculous people who believes in a 2000 year-old Jewish carpenter who came back to life. I think that a sense of humor is holy, and if we truly value truth, then sometimes there is nothing more truthful than a joke at our expense.

On a final note: one of my favorite series of all time is Vicar of Dibley, and it demonstrates how to properly make fun of Christians. It's about a female vicar (it's set in England, so over here it would be pastor) who takes over a church in a small town not too keen on having a female vicar. The show is ultimately about the ridiculous human beings who happen to be Christians, but it is quite clear that if they weren't Christian, they would still be ridiculous human beings.

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