Carne Levare

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On Humor

Posted by Remy on May 20, 2009

Humor is a dangerous, yet valuable thing, indispensable really. Valuable because it teaches submission and humility and dangerous because even foolish laughter feels good. If you do not train yourself to laugh wisely you must either live as a pessimist in the face of all jokes or be blown about by every wind of comedy.

The problem of treating all jokes skeptically before laughing, doing the moral calculus after each delivery, is that it treats humor as a pathogen rather than good for you. Humor is healthy. The Christian life should be characterized by joy and not a “pietistic” frown. We’ve been designed to be happy, something we can clearly see in how our memories work. Nobody breaks into tears upon remembering pain, but we still laugh when we remember the funny things, we sometimes laugh when remembering certain injuries.

All jokes come embedded in a particular view of the world that must be embraced before one can enjoy the joke. My constant example is the Prayer of Bart Simpson: “Dear Lord, we paid for this food ourselves so thanks for nothing.” You might not think this is very funny, but only Christians can laugh at this joke because it assumes a Christian world, it assumes that there is a God, that He provides you with all things and that you owe Him gratitude for it. To laugh at this acknowledges that this isn’t the right response to God. 

Humor is communal and, if properly understood, humor is good practice in humility. This is because the Christian hope is to laugh with people and not at people. We are called to see ourselves in the absurdities of caricatures, to identify with the deficiencies of others, and to think of ourselves lightly.  

As the joyful people we should be quick to laugh and slow to sombreness, fast to smile and slow to scowl.

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2 Responses to “On Humor”

  1. angiebee said

    So glad to have discovered this other blog of yours, Remy.

    I like this quote by Spurgeon:

    [BOQ]It is a sort of tradition of the fathers that it is wrong to laugh on Sundays. The eleventh commandment is, that we are to love one another; and then according to some people, the twelfth is, “Thou shalt pull a long face on Sunday.” I must confess that I would rather hear people laugh than I would see them asleep in the house of God; and I would rather get the truth into them through the medium of ridicule than I would have it neglected, or leave people to perish through the lack of reception of the message. I do believe, in my heart, that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry; and that sometimes, to laugh is the better of the two, for I may weep, and be murmuring, and repining, and thinking all sorts of bitter thoughts against God; while, at another time, I may laugh the laugh of sarcasm against sin, and so evince a holy earnestness in the defence of the truth. I do not know why ridicule is to be given up to Satan as a weapon to be used against us, and not to be employed as a weapon against him…I know no reason why we should not on suitable occasions, try the same style of reasoning. “It is a dangerous weapon,” it will be said, “and many men will cut their fingers with it.” Well, that is their own lookout; But I do not know why we should be so particular about their cutting their fingers if they can, at the same time, cut the throat of sin, and do serious damage to the great adversary of souls. [EOQ] –from “The Soul Winner”

    Of course, in this quote humor is assumed to be legitimate because it is used as a tool for thwarting wickedness. I also think we can enjoy humor for the same reason we enjoy flower gardens or wine or jazz–namely, just because.

  2. Remy said

    It is true that to think of flower gardens and wine as tools for thwarting wickedness alone would be too small an appreciation of those things.

    To be honest, I think I’d take to rolled cigarettes and berets before I take to jazz.

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