When discussing Christianity and comedy, it’s usually not long before someone brings up G.K. Chesterton, who was renowned for his wit, playfulness, and love of paradox. (Even the great man’s physique—he was very tall and very plump—lent him a comedic air.) It is no surprise, then, that Steve Wilkens’s book What’s So Funny About God?: A Theological Look at Humor quotes Chesterton to make the point that “funny” and “serious” are not polar opposites.
Yet Chesterton, in his rhetorical masterpiece Orthodoxy, makes a somewhat out-of-character comment about Jesus Christ: “There was one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” The Bible, of course, teaches that God will not be mocked or taken for a fool (Gal. 6:7), and that he laughs at our rebellious rage (Ps. 2:4). Even so, it seems odd for Chesterton to suppose that Almighty God coming to earth as a helpless baby lacks something of a comic touch.
Christians, especially Protestants and evangelicals, are not renowned for their sense of humor. In medieval England (and across Europe), guilds would get together to stage stories from the Bible, which were often funny. These were casualties of the (otherwise much-needed) Reformation. As it took full effect in England, mystery plays disappeared, church walls were whitewashed, and Oliver Cromwell, despite a close friendship with master poet John Milton, shuttered every theater in the land.
Centuries later, it’s not just Christians suffering a humor deficit. It’s everyone. We live in strange times in which Snopes insists on fact-checking Babylon Bee headlines and presidential ...1
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