I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Ain't Religion Funny?

A past president of my seminary is reputed to have once claimed that ministers have a limited (or non-existent) sense of humor. Certainly it can seem that way. My encounters with fellow clergy can often be downright dull and uninspiring. Even when I am moved in a positive way, it is rarely to laugh! This tendency toward seriousness has, of course, invaded and saturated virtually all of the theological discourse in our nation, professional or otherwise.

There are some good reasons, too. Obviously, there is a great deal that is not funny about religion. When God is used as an excuse for violence and intolerance, that is not funny. The good that God does and that Jesus does in people's lives may also not be an obvious laugh-riot all the time. Our faith effects us in profound ways that are both public and deeply private. Yet, a good sense of humor is a must for anyone who truly tries to make sense of this world and of the Divine.

Yes, there are many places in magazines, newspapers and the web where you can find "religious humor." Often, however, it is merely offensive or, even worse, so inoffensive as to be what most people would term "not funny." Hopefully, this is changing. Many of my newer colleagues are, in fact, funny people. Also, both the ordained and, especially, the laity are learning to see the humor in what can sometimes be a serious and lonely spiritual journey.

One place that addresses serious issues with humor is The Open Door Magazine. Published by the Trinity Foundation of Dallas, Texas (careful, there is more than one Trinity Foundation), it is available both online and in print form. Sometimes they are...well...not funny and probably not for everyone, but they are definitely worth checking out if you haven't already. Partly this is because they are (according to themselves) "The world's pretty much only religious satire magazine," partly it is because they write from a Christian perspective, and partly because it gives me an excuse to try the "link" function on blogspot.