Why I Want You to Stop Laughing

Three writers walk into a bar.
The first writer tries to order a drink. He’s a poet and the bartender listens to him
but he has no idea what the writer’s trying to say.
The second writer places his order, it’s a long one. He’s a serious writer with a message and the skill to deliver it artfully.
The bartender is weeping by the time he pours the writer’s drink and thanks him for his beautiful tale.
When the writer drains his glass, he asks for another but the bartender won’t come back near him and eventually a bouncer asks him to leave before he upsets everyone else in the bar.
The third writer not only gets his drink, he draws a crowd, who set him up with drinks all night long. The bartender offers him a permanent stool at the bar.
He writes comedy.
I love to laugh.
I love stand-up comics, sitcoms, and funny movies.
The blog posts of which I’m most proud are the ones that have made people laugh AND think.
I love slick, smart, clever, witty, intelligent humor.
I cut my teeth on Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, and Bill Cosby. Forged a relationship with my dad in adolescence over Barney Miller, Taxi, and Cheers. SNL provided the laugh track for my college years along with a new breed of Christian comics who made the Christian college circuit.
The soundtrack of my life is laughter.
Which is why it’s horrifying for me to confess that if you can get me to laugh, you can get me to sin.
I admit it.
I am embarrassed to say I often listen to funny people say things that I wouldn’t tolerate hearing if
they weren’t being funny.
There are reasons for that.
For one, my Christian identity was forged in the age of the relevant believer.
We were no Sunday morning sad-sacks dressed in starched collars and long skirts greeting the world with frowns and messages about hell.
We wore jeans on the altar, played rockin’ guitars, and most of all, we got it. We were in on the joke. We winked at the world as if to say, “Look. We’re not judging you, man. We are you. We get it. We love a good party, too, but the party’s over here, with Jesus.”
That’s right. Our Jesus loves a party. He’s no sourpuss Pharisee. He rocks the house. Look for the villa with the lamplight glowing until dawn and laughter pouring out the door and that’s where you’d find our Jesus, eating and drinking with those He came to save.
That’s not all bad. I don’t reject the truth that Jesus supped with sinners and I’m not going to give up wearing Wranglers to worship service
but  Satan is onto our strategy
and like everything else, he’s twisted it and hijacked it and is trying to snare us with our own cool reflection
so that now, we are so afraid of appearing like the judgmental Puritans who came before us, we’ll laugh at almost anything – even that which dishonors the One we love and serve.
A second reason unlimited funny can be risky is that
comedy is disarming.
That is absolutely true and if you spend any time with marketing execs or Hollywood people, they’ll explain to you the absolute power of comedy for “shocking broca” – in other words, getting a message past the initial filter in people’s brains.
As soldiers in a spiritual battle, we should instantly be wary of anything with the power to disarm.
Last night, I invested an hour watching a PBS special about a BBC comedy I have loved watching.
It’s witty, it strikes chords in me about my faith, my hometown, the people I know. There is truth in it and it is funny.
But, I’ve always known that some of the messages – many, if I am completely transparent – are at odds with a Biblical world-view.
Still, I considered myself savvy, capable of filtering the wheat from the chaff and sat in the front row for each episode.
But, when, last night,  the writers pulled back the curtain on their agenda, their understanding of the power of comedy to disarm the audience and change their thinking, their unveiled intent to convert fans to their worldview
I wasn’t laughing.
God used that interview to wake me up to the unguarded  space in my spiritual armor – my funny bone – and my fear of being seen as someone who doesn’t get the joke.
And while, I don’t think we should stop using humor to communicate with the world or walk around throwing wet blankets over everyone’s party
I do think that more of us need to wake up to the danger of the laughing gas being pumped into our living space, delivered neatly through electronic boxes – and the power it has to  deplete the pure oxygen we need to stay clear-headed in this age.
We would be wise to heed the writer of Ecclesiastes who said there is a time for everything.
There is a time to weep and a time to laugh.
I hate writing this post.
I want to make you laugh.
I don’t want to think about what makes me laugh.
I don’t want to be the one who sucks the air from the room when everyone else is having a good time.
But what I watched last night was frightening.
Laughter is a weapon in spiritual warfare.
Be absolutely sure you’re on the right end of the funny gun.

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    The Conversation

  1. An excellent post and very relevant.

    Nothing in life should be done unthinkingly. Nothing.

    We are even told to count the cost of accepting Christ before we take that step because the life is NOT an easy one.

    You made the comment that Jesus was “no sourpuss Pharisee”. I would posit the thought that he wasn’t a “party animal Sadducee” either. He castigated both of them equally.

    The Christian Life is a thoughtful process. Thoughtful for individuals. Thoughtful for the church as a body. A lot of us fall into the trap of thinking that if something is good for us, then it’s good for everybody else and/or if something is good for appropriate occasions, then it’s good all the time.

    Neither is true.

    There is time and a place for gravity and for being certain enough of what’s right and wrong to be able – in love – to warn someone when you see them heading in the wrong direction.

    But there is also a time and a place for laughter and celebration.

    The key to understanding the Christian worldview is to put ourselves aside well enough to see what is non-negotiable in the Christian faith and to learn to accept with mercy and grace the things that are negotiable.

    I’m delighted to find your post, because there are a whole lot of us who think the only way is our way and who see absolutely no harm in anything we personally believe to be correct, without stopping to consider that those very things might be tools in the hands of the enemy.

    • I like your observation about Jesus, Carrie Lynn. While I know He was loving and welcome in sinner’s homes, I don’t believe He was engaging in bawdy humor or getting tipsy with the host. Thoughtful is a great descriptive word for a wise approach to the Christian life.

  2. Wish you could elaborate more, just what did you see that pulled back the curtain to expose the agenda. I love watching George Conlin in many ways I think he was right on politically, but, he hated and or was angry at God. South Park and Family Guy I can’t stand as being right from hell’s kitchen feeding poison to our kids and anyone who takes it in.

    • They were very comfortable with the power of comedy and the art of using it for mind-change. Discussed techniques like having the “dumbest” or “most endearing” character spout the most offensive lines and then having the “smart” character clean it up a little, nuance it – so they could get the point out there without anyone blinking an eye. Or knowing they could say just about anything as long as the next laugh came quickly and moved the audience on so fast they didn’t realize they’d been “hit.”

  3. Amen, sister. Thank you for this. I have basically quit watching TV for this very reason. I found so many things troubling to me and dishonoring to God that were in the form of “entertainment.” I am concerned and troubled at how many within the church avidly watch and discuss some shows that have many elements that I am not comfortable with. We have blurred the line so much. And yes, make no mistake: Hollywood does indeed have an agenda. Because Satan has one.

    I did laugh when your opening line was “Three writers walk into a bar.” I thought you were leading into 3 men walk into a blog. 🙂

    • We all have different abilities to tolerate things. Some of us don’t even pick up on some elements of what we watch (I can walk into a room full of people and have no idea how anyone was dressed but I will tell you what they were feeling – I tend to only see faces). I wrestle with this issue regularly.

  4. Thank you for setting a magnifying glass over the comedy found in the media. I’ve abandoned several dramatic series for the same reason; scripts designed to manipulate my thinking. I pray the alert reaches many effectively.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have watched new shows that seemed innocuous but as the weeks went by, they became blatantly sexual (devaluing the gift God gave humans), smutty, or promoted actions or beliefs that are abominations according to scripture. Your take on today’s humor is right on. Laughter cannot be equated with joy. MOMMA

  6. Yet another way Satan masquerades as the prince of light. Thank you, Lori!

  7. I think Christians and conservatives in general have missed and misunderestimated our secular and atheist adversaries.

    We have not understood how much of what they do has been planned to disarm us, to take our children away from the faith, to blast us out of the water. Yes, they’ve actually sat around a strategy table and planned the movie, the marketing of a book, the book itself, the magazine article, the TV show, the fashion magazine spread, the grade school curriculum (as well as middle school and high school). We’ve totally underestimated them. They’ve been planning to destroy us for years.

  8. OUCH. That hurt. …Thank you.

  9. Awesome jab in the gut 🙂

    I’m pretty picky about what I watch for this very reason, though I’ve never been able to articulate it to myself in this way. Your thoughts feel dead on to what I’ve been noticing without identifying yet. Thank you! Going to be more careful though, because my hang up right now in this area is one sitcom I’m sad to give up. Going to pray about it!