It really bothers me when my God, like any of my friends, is the butt of a mean spirited joke. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to disbelief in my book. It’s not my job to make anyone believe anything. It’s also not my job to police what people say. It’s not even my job to defend my faith or the one I worship. What it really comes down to is that it bothers me when people disrespect the ones I love. It seems reasonable, then, to ask people nicely to stop. Find something else to joke about. You can be perfectly funny without being offensive.
Last night my dad and I were up late watching movies. Our second movie ended around 2:00 in the morning, but before we went to bed my dad thought it would be a good idea to flip channels. The general consensus was that there is garbage on at 2:00 in the morning. I was playing with my phone, but my dad decided to watch a few minutes of Comedy Central. Some guy was on there doing a roast. In some cases, roasts can be hilarious, as long as you don’t go too far and you are actually funny.
This guy was not funny. On top of that, he was really offensive. Making people uncomfortable is the laziest and most tasteless form of humor. A couple of his jokes were vaguely funny; enough to keep at least my dad’s attention for a few minutes. This was unfortunate because before we turned the TV off, he managed to get out a really offensive joke about God. I don’t really even remember what it was, but it made me so mad last night.
I thought about writing something to Comedy Central, but decided against it for a few reasons. First of all, the point of featuring that guy (whoever he was) and not editing out that joke or asking him not to tell it in the first place was probably that they intended to offend people. Secondly–and this is much more important–if God really wanted to, he could just fry that guy on the spot, but he doesn’t. When Jesus was on the cross he said “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” That kind of capacity to forgive is unfathomable. Jesus tells us to be perfect as God is perfect. That’s not actually possible. What I think he means is to strive for that perfection. Two things that are often very difficult for people to do are to not judge, and to forgive offense.
I decided to forgive the Comedy Central guy, but it wasn’t easy. It was actually a physical effort. However, I think people don’t necessarily understand the offensiveness of it if they don’t believe in God. If you don’t believe that God exists or that he is more than just an obscure, existential being, then it wouldn’t necessarily occur to you that making fun of him is really offensive to some people. Then again, Christianity is still pretty prominent in America. It seems likely that he knew what he was doing. Even my best friend used to make some nasty Jesus jokes, and I put up with it for a while because she wasn’t intending to offend me, but I eventually had to tell her to stop. It just made me too uncomfortable.
I’m not saying that there should be some kind of rule about not joking about religion or faith or what have you. I’m just asking people to be a little more considerate. Obviously the easiest solution would be to not watch Comedy Central, which I normally don’t anyway. I am a product of a liberal education in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I was practically force-fed tolerance and acceptance of everyone. I am also a product of the Catholic Church. It seems that our culture is becoming more and more tolerant of change and less and less tolerant of tradition. We need both.
I listened to an interview with Christian Wiman about his poetry, and he briefly touched on the concept of Christianity without religion. He said–and I agree with this–that it isn’t necessarily the traditional structure of Christianity that we need for it to continue thriving: all we need is some kind of community of believers. That was what the early church was like anyway. They didn’t really have a structured service or anything. They just had each other.
The church has historically been just as offensive, if not more so to secular culture, and people of other religions. some people would like to hold fast to the idea that homosexuality by default is a sin, and that all LGBT people are just a bunch of immoral sex fiends, or that all atheists are out to eradicate the Church. It’s not true. What is equally untrue is that all Christians are a bunch of Bible beating, judgmental, conservative traditionalists. We’re not. Many of us are very open-minded and willing to admit that we’re probably wrong about a great many things.
What this all comes down to is that I’m asking people to just be nice. I’ve said it a million times before in a million different ways. Nice and funny are certainly not mutually exclusive. It’s okay to poke fun. It’s okay to point out faults. Don’t be offensive just because you can.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!