Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ethics of humor: Fellowship, division, and derision

Q. Why did the crank cross the road?
A. He didn't want to be on the same side as the chicken.

When at its best, humor builds fellowship. It restores perspective, keeps us humble, helps us think more clearly, and allows us to share goodwill. It bases fellowship on our weakness and foolishness, at the same time inviting us to leave behind the foolishness but keep the fellowship. If human foolishness is being pointed out, the one doing the pointing includes herself in the group that the joke is on. There's a willingness to share foolishness and disgrace for each others' sake and in each others' company.

At its worst, humor is an attack. Mockery and scorn are the voice of bitterness and rage. These are forbidden to Christians, though in practice we do not seem to have noticed. At times like that, "humor" expressses a hatred in our hearts for our brother and both invites and incites further hatred. The Bible has a lot to say about derision and scorn, and about mockers. None of it is good.

Q. How many critics does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. It's "light bulb," not "lightbulb."

How often do we hide under technicalities to miss the other person's point, or use a minor mistake from the other side as a pretext to ignore a larger problem while jockeying for position?

Q. How many people on your side of the street does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Oh yeah? Well the light bulb is out on your side of the street too!

Time for the crank to cross the road again. We all have to be on the same side of the street. Nobody gets to stay at a safe distance and act as if there are no problems on that side.

P.S. Let me know if you can think of any more "light bulb" or "cross-the-street" jokes that pertain to our own foolishness, especially when it comes to inter-Christian divisions.

Request: please target your own side only til all things be restored.

Meme: If you want to take this as a Meme and run with it, and see if you can add a joke to the collection, I'll link you back when I find you. I'm guaranteed to find you if you leave a comment.


LoieJ said...

I'll give you one my son made up when he was little. You can add the meaning. The only meaning I can think of targets the other side, but I won't let on which side I'm on.

Why did the duck cross the road?

He was stapled to the chicken.

Kevin Knox said...

How many Calvinists does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. God has predestined when the lights will be on. (Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be one that has been chosen to be changed.)

(From through google search - I just wanted to play.)


In Stranger in a Strange Land the hero is Spock-like. He was raised by Martians, so he has no emotions, even though he has the biology for them. Slowly, he learns them throughout the book.

He learns about laughter one day on a trip to the zoo. He sees a monkey about to enjoy a banana, and another monkey comes along and takes it from him. In frustration, the first monkey goes and beats up on another, smaller monkey (or at least that's how I remember it - I cannot find the passage.) Whatever happens, exactly, the upshot is that the hero begins laughing uncontrollably.

He finally knows what it is to be human.

Laughter is the only possible human response to tragedy. Much of our laughter at each other is our response to putting another human into a position that we could not bear to occupy ourselves.

Reading that passage really put me off humor for a long while. It made a huge impression. I had to go out and learn again that there was supportive humor as well. Thanks for pointing both out.

Great post.

LoieJ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LoieJ said...

Why did the Lutheran cross the road?

Ahhh, hmmmm, I don't know exactly. He certainly didn't make a "decision" to do so.

Kevin Knox said...

Here we go with an original (and therefore probably not funny?) lightbulb joke.