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Faith isn’t a joking matter!” I can remember being told by a rather stern faced old gentleman, when I once threw a funny line into one of my homilies! Laughing, smiles and enjoyment I would argue are rather essential, especially in the current times that we find ourselves. So I’ve found myself thinking of that gentleman on numerous occasions recently, when I’ve smiled or laughed at the increasing amount of cartoons that are popping up on social media. With Easter just gone by there were no end of cartoons depicting the Last Supper as a ‘Zoom’ meeting, Jesus being warned by the police not to come out of the tomb, or be fined for breaking the lock-down, and I can only begin to imagine what Pentecost will bring!
From my point of view, the mixture of faith and fun only becomes unacceptable when it is used to undermine, distort, is disrespectful, or generally abuses someone because of what they believe. Being able to smile at our faith, being able to appreciate the funny side of some of the things we say or do, that makes faith real, it is how it blends into the everyday life of our society. It also affords us a great opportunity to engage with others who have no, or little, faith background. Starting from the viewpoint of a joke couldn’t be any more non-threatening. Humour opens doors and breaks down barriers. There are limits and boundaries, but aren’t there in any conversation or relationship?
I also find it interesting, in a possibly obscure way, that the majority of cartoons with a faith theme that I see, tend to originate from people with no, or little, church affiliation. Yet the themes that make them smile are the same one’s that make me smile. Joy is one of the resulting emotions of fun and laughter, perhaps it is no coincidence that joy is also one of the overriding emotions when we think of the resurrection. Happiness and joy is where we are ultimately heading, a promised place of laughter and rejoicing – I’ve never seen or heard heaven described as dull, boring and devoid of joy?
When I overheard the other day someone say that there’s not much to laugh about these days, it made me think about all the smiles that I’ve experienced because of my faith. It is only, I’m sure, a foretaste of what is to come, but the combination of joy and faith can’t be divided.
There is a time to balance serious with laughter, there is a time to have quiet, still and undivided devotion, and there is a time for us to contemplate in awe the sublime majesty of God. But being able to appreciate and share our faith in different ways, that is where the joy is.
(PS. Q: Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark?
A: Because Noah was standing on the deck!)
Deacon Ian Black