First, our apologies for the huge mess around here. I swear all this dust is from sheetrock, not pet coke.
The Christian Right Weekly Round-Up is in the middle of major construction the next few weeks.
We’ve taken the lead of Prosperity Gospel moguls Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland and have decided to make a few minor architectural additions to our formerly humble chapel–nothing serious, just cosmetic.
Let me take you on a tour. Here, put on a hardhat.
Over there will be the Wolfgang Puck Grand Gospel Café. Can’t wait to try the Fruits of the Spirit White Bean Salad. And over here’s the new jai alai court, where the soup kitchen used to be. Don’t worry, we haven’t kicked out the homeless folks; they’re in the back weaving xisteras. Gotta get what we can out of them before the minimum wage hike sets in!
Careful!! Don’t trip over Kirk Cameron lying prostrate before the altar. Sigh. Too late. Clean up near the baptismal!
Here’s my favorite! A Goliath-sized waterbed with a bubinga wood frame modeled after Bernini’s St. Peter’s Baldachin. Just imagine what it will be like for me delivering Sunday morning messages with my head supported by 2,000 threat count Icelandic Eiderdown pillows.
Hey, before I forget, it’s Palm Sunday. Here’s an origami palm branch.
Okay, gotta go now. The service is about to start!
Don’t forget we take Visa and MasterCard. And Diners Club!
Please turn in your hymnals to No. 33.
Comedy seems to be at the heart of the religio-political news world the past few weeks. First, there’s Darren Aronofsky’s slapstick comedy, Noah, starring Gene Wilder as the curmudgeonly biblical prophet. Number one at the box office! Can’t argue with diluvian yucks.
Next there were the nine previously unopened Dead Sea scrolls discovered in an Israeli antiquities storeroom. Scroll 8, from Qumran Cave 4, is reported to contain the original “my son, the doctor” joke.
Finally, there was Stephen #CancelColbert’s confusing comedic smorgasbord of ethnic panning, which raised the centuries-old question: is it okay to defend Native Americans by poking fun at Asians? (Okay, not really a religious subject, but it was either that or a Wisconsin Christian News reader’s claim that 80% of babies born in Milwaukee are born to godless single mothers.)
All this got us to thinking. (I say “us,” yet unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of blaming “a web editor I’ve never met” when a joke turns south. So I guess this is a rare usage of the ‘ignoble we’):
What are the boundaries of theological humor (or religious humours, as Nicholas Culpeper might have preferred)?
We spend every Sunday morning roasting bloviating Evangelicals in Maccabean frying pans, thinking up Balaam’s ass and Onan’s seed jokes, and Ken Hamming it up with Creationists. However, would our time be better spent donning monastic garb and chanting whilst banging our heads with wood planks?
Seriously, what’s the point of Divine comedy (apologies to Dante)?
Hey, Pastor Pillow, that’s not appropriate! After all, today is Palm Sunday!
Actually, Palm Sunday is the ultimate Christological prank.
Jesus, an avid student of even the most minor of prophets, enters Jerusalem on a donkey, in keeping with Zechariah’s declaration:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Then, when he reaches the Temple a few Hosannas later, he pulls the rug out from under everyone’s messianic expectations. The masses expect Jesus to get off his burro and incite them to revolution against Rome. Instead, according to Mark, Jesus reaches the Temple and hightails it to Bethany. Reservations at Olive Garden, I imagine.
“Triumphal Entry on you!”
Actually, though, Matthew and Luke take the joke even further and note that this is where the butt-kicking of the moneychangers takes place.
“Ha! You thought I was going to declare war on Rome? Why bother, when the entire Jerusalem priesthood is in cahoots with the Capital One usurers! Laugh it up, fuzzballs! Welcome to the Messianic Cage Match!”
It’s hard to play dueling whoopee cushions with Jesus, but let’s give it a whirl:
If Christ slipped on a banana peel, would the Holy Spirit laugh?
Nah, pretty dull. How about:
If Jesus slipped on a grape leaf in the Garden of Gethsemane, and all the disciples were asleep, would Moses and Elijah laugh?
Let’s up the ante:
Franklin Graham and the entire World Vision administration walk into a gay bar. “Bartender, a round of flaming volcanoes. By the way, you’re all going to hell, and we hope tons of starving children in Africa die because of you.”
Hmm. Definitely not funny.
And that’s the point—or “a” point. Rancorous political religiosity has become a daily standard in the United States of America. There are so many hate-filled, antichrist Christians in positions of political and media influence, that humor—or irreverent response to the absurdity of their behavior—is about the only thing that tides level-headed believers, and non-believers, between major elections. That is, when we’re not loving our neighbors as ourselves, feeding the hungry, caretaking the widows and orphans, and generally trying to make the world a better place. Right? Right. Ahem.
That’s the raison d’être for recurring columns like yours truly and The Bachmann Diaries. At least I think it is. I can’t speak for Erin Nanasi, but I write this column because laughter is about the only thing that keeps me from sending Franklin Graham envelopes stuffed with cat poop.
By the way, the Bible is pretty funny if you know where to look. There’s Jonah and the Whale. Solomon and his 900 wives. (A Mel Brooks musical just waiting to happen.) And of course the Rape of Dinah and the subsequent murder of the roiling circumcised Hivites—always leaves audiences in stitches.
The essence of Christianity was summed up by Jesus (whether Son of God or not) as such: “Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love of money turns everyone into an asshole.”
Yet Christianity as it is played out in the American political arena has become a besoiled punchline a la The Aristocrats.
You’d think the Sermon on the Mount was an announcement by Jesus for an upcoming Sunday afternoon potluck, where congregants are asked to bring the heads of same sex married couples on silver platters, Trayvon Martin lookalikes on spits, and Asinine End Times Ambrosia. Oh, and don’t forget to buy raffle tickets for the semiautomatic rifle raffle giveaway! You never know when you’re going to need to defend your compound from a universal health care stethoscope!
How does one derive such blasphemy from the Golden Rule?
So, to answer my own question:
What are the boundaries of theological humor?
As long as biblical buffoons continue to blow the balloon of conservative hypocrisy, someone has to expand them even further into caricatures that reveal their true identity. Then pop them like a rabid Jack Russell Terrier.
As for me and my house, we are compelled to engage in full-frontal Edenic comedy and rise above the din of asshats like Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck. (Pardon my Assamese.) Either that, or I’m going to call it quits and spend the rest of my days playing cribbage with the shepherds of Mt. Athos.
Okay, gotta fly. I have an appointment with our new tapestries consultant, ousted R.C. Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. I’ve got my eyes on this 15th-century falconry panel with mille-fleurs background. It’s going to make the Pastor Pillow Crystal Cathedral the real talk of the town.
Please turn in your hymnals to No. 1991.
You want to rule some sovereign state?
You want to smother in all that hate?
Strip it off
And lose yourself
And don’t forget! The November 2014 Election is only this many days away.
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