Sacrilegious Laughter

I wanted so badly to like Dogma.

If you haven’t seen it before, the movie is a comedy about a Catholic abortion clinic worker who is chosen by God to stop two fallen angels from exploiting a loophole and reentering heaven. If I could be a fan of this thing, I would be the hip Christian who thinks the movie that makes fun of his faith actually brings up some interesting and helpful points. But, try as I might, I just couldn’t like it.

For me, the movie failed not because it was sacrilegious, but because it was poorly executed. Sure, there were some bright spots (the Buddy Christ scene is both hilarious and very telling of parts of the church today, even in a movie over 10 years old) but those were outweighed by bad acting and unimaginative lowbrow humor.

The fact of the matter is “sacrilegious” humor doesn’t really bother me. In the past few years, I’ve even found myself drawn to humor that pokes fun at Christians. While we’ve been getting better and better about this recently, I think there’s still a tendency among Christians to instantly recoil any time someone starts telling a joke and we find ourselves at the punchline.

Maybe I’m just trying too hard to laugh with the people poking fun of me, but there’s a part of me that thinks this sort of humor can even be beneficial. In many cases, humor is able to provide us with an unfiltered, exaggerated view of things. So when Christianity is joked about by people from outside the church, we’re able to see this perspective blown up on a projector screen with no attempt to be nice or hide flaws or anything. At this point we can look closely and ask ourselves, “How much of this is valid? How much of this is something I can fix? How much of this is something I should fix?”

I do realize it’s possible to go overboard trying to maintain the public image of Christianity. There are things about this faith that, no matter how we dress them up, are going to be unattractive to lots of people today. Obsessing over how those things look to outsiders is ultimately a practice that accomplishes very little. But I do think it’s a little irresponsible not to stop every now and then and do a little image maintenance.

Question of the Week
How do you usually respond when you hear jokes about Christians and Christianity?


3 thoughts on “Sacrilegious Laughter

  1. First time I heard this joke I bristled with my self righteousness, 25 years later it is one of my favorite jokes: Peter escorting new person into heaven pass the mansions naming them with their dedominational names. Passes one going shhhh. Peter is asked why they were quiet passing that mansion. Peter responds: “that’s because they are the (insert your church) they think they are the only ones up here. Laughter is like good medicine, or et least God thinks so.

    • You’ve given us some things to think about, Taylor. I find some ‘religious’ humor very funny and ‘right on’, and there is another kind (hard to define, and yet I have an immediate negative response to it) that I simply cannot laugh at. I’ll probably be thinking more about this… always challenge me.

      • There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do religious humor, and it’s something that we as Christians need to pay a lot of attention to and think about what we’re laughing at and if that laughter is causing us to make light of our faith and to take it casually.

        I almost included a paragraph to that effect, but I thought if I left it out, I’d get a chance at seeing some of that discussion show up in comments :p

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