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Religious Humor by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen 1 Religious Humor by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen 1

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WARNING ABOUT RELIGIOUS HUMOR, TABOOS, AND CENSORSHIP In selecting examples of religious humor we WARNING ABOUT RELIGIOUS HUMOR, TABOOS, AND CENSORSHIP In selecting examples of religious humor we have tried to be edgy, but not offensive, but consider the following: CENSORSHIP FROM THE RIGHT: Blasphemy, Obscenity, Profanity, Vulgarity, Body Parts, and Body Functions CENSORSHIP FROM THE LEFT (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS): Age, Disabilities, Gender, Ethnicity, Belief System, and all other marginalizations. Religious humor tends to be in the vernacular. It is colloquial, and ungrammatical and unpretentious, but it is also often “vulgar” because it is in the language of the common people (compare “Vulgar Latin”). We’ve tried not to use offensive examples, and we hope we have succeeded, but remember that what is not offensive to one person might be very offensive to another person. We apologize in advance if any of our examples are offensive. 3

John Morreall 4 John Morreall 4

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Laughter in the Bible • When laughter is mentioned in the Bible, it is Laughter in the Bible • When laughter is mentioned in the Bible, it is associated with one of three things. • In descending order, they are: – Hostility – Foolishness – Joy 6

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Laughter and Hostility • For laughter and hostility, consider Psalms 59: 4 -8 which Laughter and Hostility • For laughter and hostility, consider Psalms 59: 4 -8 which implores God to “have no mercy on villains and traitors…. But you, O Lord, laugh at them, and deride all the nations” Laughter and Foolishness • For laughter and foolishness, consider Genesis 17: 17 when God tells Abraham at age 99 that he and his aged wife Sarah will have a son: 8

 • Abraham “fell on his face and laughed. ” • On hearing the • Abraham “fell on his face and laughed. ” • On hearing the news, Sarah also laughed with disbelief, and “when God confronted her, she compounded her foolishness by denying that she had laughed. ” (Genesis 18: 12 -15) 9

 • Laughter is again associated with foolishness in a Bible passage which reads: • Laughter is again associated with foolishness in a Bible passage which reads: • “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. ” • “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. ” (Ecclesiastes 7: 3 -6) 10

Laughter and Joy • But laughter can also be associated with joy in the Laughter and Joy • But laughter can also be associated with joy in the Bible as in: • “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy” (Psalms 126: 2) • In the New Testament, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. ” (Luke 6: 21) 11

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Evangelism & Paradox • Evangelism is related to the “awakenings, ” and is associated Evangelism & Paradox • Evangelism is related to the “awakenings, ” and is associated with fundamentalist Christianity. The religious world used to be divided between the Catholics and the Protestants, but now the division is more between the Evangelicals and mainstream religion. • The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek “evangelion, ” and is composed of “eu” (meaning “well”) and “angelos” (meaning “messenger”). It translates directly into Old English “godspell” or “gospel” (meaning “good word”). 14

 • Evangelical television preaches “family values” in which a woman’s place is in • Evangelical television preaches “family values” in which a woman’s place is in the home. But at the same time it places women into very public roles. • Many Evangelicals simply refer to themselves as “Christians, ” meaning that they have been “born again” or “saved. ” This leaves mainstream Christian denominations puzzled or angered by the implication that they are not “Christians. ” 15

The First Senior Moment: 16 The First Senior Moment: 16

Spoiler Alert: 17 Spoiler Alert: 17

Be Right Back! 18 Be Right Back! 18

Conrad Hyers and Harvey Cox: The Bible as Satire and Festival • Conrad Hyers Conrad Hyers and Harvey Cox: The Bible as Satire and Festival • Conrad Hyers sees the Story of Jonah as a satire on a reluctant prophet. In many stories about Jesus, he also finds wit, imagination, and an openness to people characteristic of someone with a sense of humor. • In the Bible, Harvey Cox sees festivity in terms of conscious excess, and celebrative affirmation. Cox closes his book by asking Christians to think of Christ as a harlequin! 19

John the Evangelist: The Importance of Play • When people were scandalized at finding John the Evangelist: The Importance of Play • When people were scandalized at finding Jesus at play with his disciples, he requested one of his questioners who carried a bow to shoot an arrow. • When this had been done several times, the man, on being asked whether he could keep on doing so continuously, replied that the bow would break. • Whereupon the blessed John pointed the moral that so, too, would the human spirit snap were it never unbent. 20

Point of View: Earth from Heaven 21 Point of View: Earth from Heaven 21

MORMONISM Insider-Humor to Question Attitudes • A cartoon that appeared in the Brigham Young MORMONISM Insider-Humor to Question Attitudes • A cartoon that appeared in the Brigham Young University newspaper in Utah showed a bloodied and battered student rising from a pile of stones that had been thrown at him. • As a campus police officer comes up, the student explains, “All I said was ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. ’” 22

 • Another Mormon joke is a story about St. Peter taking visitors around • Another Mormon joke is a story about St. Peter taking visitors around Heaven and telling them to tiptoe past the room where the Mormons are…, • because they think they’re the only ones here. 23

Deseret Primer Early Mormons developed a special “Deseret” alphabet to distinguish Mormons from other Deseret Primer Early Mormons developed a special “Deseret” alphabet to distinguish Mormons from other groups. Also it was phonemic and easier for Mormon converts to read. 24

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Prayer 26 Prayer 26

Punishments for Laughter • The monastery of Columban in Ireland assigned the following punishments: Punishments for Laughter • The monastery of Columban in Ireland assigned the following punishments: “He who smiles in the service…six strokes; if he breaks out in the noise of laughter, a special fast unless it has happened pardonably. ” • The strongest condemnations of laughter came from monastic leaders. The Essenes, an early Jewish monastic group, had imposed a penance of thirty days for those who “guffawed foolishly. ” 27

Corporations as Belief Systems: 28 Corporations as Belief Systems: 28

TIBETAN BUDDHISM Laughter and Open Mindedness When John Cleese asked the Dalai Lama why TIBETAN BUDDHISM Laughter and Open Mindedness When John Cleese asked the Dalai Lama why in Tibetan Buddhism people laugh so much, he responded that laughter is very helpful to him in teaching and in political negotiations, because when people laugh, it is easier for them to accept new ideas into their minds. 29

Zen Buddhism • Zen masters use “koans” to break people’s attachments to incongruities like Zen Buddhism • Zen masters use “koans” to break people’s attachments to incongruities like “What is the sound of one hand clapping? ” • The most comic vision among traditional religions is in Zen Buddhism and Taoism. • The most tragic vision is in certain forms of Judaism and Calvinist Christianity. • Virtually all the New Religions of the past fifty years have embraced the comic vision. 30

YURI NIKULIN’S JOKE Trousers vs. The World • Yuri Nikulin was known as the YURI NIKULIN’S JOKE Trousers vs. The World • Yuri Nikulin was known as the “Russian Charlie Chaplin. ” When he died in 1997, his New York Times obituary recounted his favorite joke: 31

 • An American actor rails at his New York Tailor: • “God needed • An American actor rails at his New York Tailor: • “God needed only seven days to create the universe and it took you 30 days to make a pair of trousers? ” • “Yes, ” answered the tailor, “But look at the world, and then look at the trousers. ” 32

Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”: Hallelujah Chorus: Food Court Flash Mob http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=SXh Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”: Hallelujah Chorus: Food Court Flash Mob http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=SXh 7 JR 9 o. KVE 33

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A Wing-Suit Sky Jumper Meets His Maker: http: //safeshare. tv/w/k. Llmc. NCGBk 35 A Wing-Suit Sky Jumper Meets His Maker: http: //safeshare. tv/w/k. Llmc. NCGBk 35

Is there life after death? Keep stealing my ducks, and you’ll find out. 36 Is there life after death? Keep stealing my ducks, and you’ll find out. 36

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History of Five Religions: http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=x-s. IF 78 QYCI 38 History of Five Religions: http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=x-s. IF 78 QYCI 38