This past week, I tried to tell a joke. It wasn’t a bad joke; in fact, it might have been a good joke, but it was, above all, insensitive. Upon being informed of my cousin’s aunt’s stroke, I thought a joke would be the best way to rid the ensuing awkward expression of condolence. In the moment, I thought a Willis/Gary Coleman/Julian Casablancas reference would lighten the mood. Unfortunately, the only moods brought about were hurt, anger and finally more hurt, as the bruise on my shoulder can testify. I realized, in that instant, as I clutched my arm and said “ow,” that humor can be be painful, and, well … I don’t want to hurt anyone.
Looking back at my Goshen College experience, I was reminded of my Mennonites in America class with Steve Nolt. Apart from learning about timelines and the art of avoiding war, we also learned about “vigorous thinker … powerful preacher and evangelist,” John M. Brenneman. He was all of those things, writing for the Herald of Truth and penning Christianity and War, but his magnum opus is a rather short chapter in his longer book, Plain Teaching.
“Why a Christian Ought Not Laugh” lays out the variety and ubiquity of biblical edicts against laughter, most notably the complete lack of evidence that Jesus ever laughed. Jesus may have wept, but he definitely never laughed, writes Brenneman. Ecclesiastes 2:2 demands that “we must squelch laughter.” A personal favorite of mine, Luke 6:25, warns “woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” Message received, loud and clear, Luke! I don’t buy any of that crap from Ted & Co. anyway. Christianity isn’t funny and neither is real life.
In conclusion, as co-editor of the funnies page, I was able to convince our previously comical co-editor, Nate Day, to cut out the funny and paste in the serious. So page 7 is no longer the funnies, but the seriouses. A bit awkward perhaps, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.