Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Comedy and the Bible

Sometimes some things come together that give me cause to wonder. Two of Peter's readers had taken exception to my post last year on "Quantum Apples, Cider and the Origin of the Universe". Someone thought I had downplayed and demeaned the book of Genesis. However, the debate happened last October, and the World of Blog moved on,as it does, and I only noticed it again through a stray visitor stat last week, having thought nothing of it really, previously. I just assumed that the readers weren't into quantum theological philosophy - as who is? - and went on my way, wishing them well. The rest of this post isn't about Peter's visitors, but the thought was sparked by them maybe not getting my site's humour - and the thought that many people don't like comedy in religious matters.

Then last week we had that scientific announcement that the Higgs Boson may be just the mass to cause the Universe to randomly regenerate into a new one. As well as fitting in with my "Quantum Apple" theory, it also backs up Douglas Adams's idea that, every time the Ultimate Answer and Ultimate Question are known at the same time, the Universe is replaced with one that is even less likely.

Indeed, without contradicting the Bible, and in line with this latest Higgs Boson Catastrophe theory, there is a line of thinking which could say that there were repeated new worlds in which Adam and Steve were in the Garden together, living in peace and maybe not even eating the apple, until eventually a creation came along in which the inhabitants could both go forth, and multiply. And then go off and start thinking of exciting ways to kill each other. And why's it always "Adam and Steve" when people are trying to tell us that God doesn't like gay people - or, at least, that God doesn't like gay - ahem - activities? Why does nobody ever say "he never created Saffron and Eve"? Maybe because that sounds less threatening to them, I guess.

I'd never mock the Bible. But it's a text that lives in today's world. This blog always tries to exist on the fringes of science and religion - in the borderlands of two human activities that both, in their different ways, attempt to find explanations to the world as it is. But borderlands are strange places, with their own odd ways of doing things - just look at Belgium. Or, in the case of the Basques, you even get your own language. If you put two thought-worlds up against each other, and do so with the hope of illuminating both through the medium of humour, you're probably going to upset someone who doesn't get the local language.

There's a whole host of humorous Christian websites out there. There's the inimitable Ship of Fools, of course, with its vast forums of user-contributed wisdom and questions. There's blogs such as Eccles and Bosco (now observing Lenten posting rules) or Mad Priest - which use comedy against things the authors don't agree with - and I think it's fair to say they don't normally end up bracketed together. Then there's the occasional, effective humour that is found in blogs such as Peter Kirk's, or Valle Adurni - being used as part of an argument, where appropriate, rather than being the lifeblood of the conversation.

Now everybody knows that Christian humour is supposed to be gentle, raising mild and possibly even sympathetic chuckles rather than belly-laughs. Everybody knows that Jesus only ever told that one joke about the camel and the eye of a needle - and enough people have tried to prove that he was actually being serious and talking about a local gateway (he wasn't). Everybody knows that Christian humour is to be used gently to raise a smile, the light comedy that reassures us that everything's as it should be and nobody's questioning anything too much.

But I can see why comedy can seem dangerous to some in respect to faith. Everybody knows that the trouble with comedy is that  it's sharper than a two-edged sword, capable of piercing between human self-delusion and pomposity. Comedy is subversive. It throws things together that shouldn't go, draws unlikely conclusions, turns appearances on their head and shows us a whole new way of seeing things. It laughs at the powerful and gives power to the weak.

Sorry. Did I say "comedy" in that last sentence? I'm sure I meant something else.


  1. Thanks for the plug (yes, I'm blogging on Sundays only right now).

    I can think of one more of Jesus's jokes off-hand, the one about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. In the original Aramaic this is a pun (gamla/gamel), but it loses something in translation.

  2. Saffron and Eve? this sounds like ingredients for a pudding........Whereas Adam and Steve sounds like a cue for the Lumberjack Song.........

  3. Thanks for the link and the appreciation. I'll draw this post to my commenters' attention, although I doubt if they will appreciate it.

  4. More laughs needed all round I feel. So thanks for your blog.


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