“Please don’t do that, Jim!” I said out loud in my car as I listened to my favorite stand-up comedian resort to four letter words to entertain his audience. Considered by many to be a “clean stand-up comedian”, he gave into vulgarity and coarseness. And I found it sad.
I have a vested interest in stand-up comedy. My son and I actually took stand-up comedy lessons together a few years ago and I know how hard it is to write a good sketch. He and I (and maybe one other guy) were the only clean students in the class. Effective comedy needn’t be abusive or demeaning or gross, especially for the one who believes that God gave us a sense of humor.
I have unsaved friends who have a great sense of humor, but for others they have no boundaries. For that reason, I thank God for laughter but regret that many of my lost friends —
24. THEY DON’T POSSESS A HEALTHY SENSE OF HUMOR!
In his excellent book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis talks about four types of humor. Some advance “the Enemy’s (Christ’s) cause”; some advance the cause of the demons. Those four types are: JOY. This is the one most detested by the demons. One blogger writes: “This type of humor is rare. I daresay that in some homes it may be non-existent. Joy of this type is a gift of the Father and is a tool in His hand, not the tempter’s. Humor of this sort makes others feel warm and wanted, never cut down and ashamed. Joy leads to deeper intimacy and foreshadows [all] the joys that await us in heaven.”
The second type is FUN. Screwtape defines fun as “a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct.” We in America, I’m afraid, are guilty of “amusing ourselves to death” (Neil Postman). “It can also be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy (Christ) would like them to be feeling or doing.” Fun is great, but it can also be distracting.
The third type of humor is THE JOKE PROPER. This is usually why we laugh at things. Something takes us by surprise or “turns on a sudden perception of incongruity.” The problem is that the joke can become a kind of armor that keeps us from admitting a fault or facing possible shame. We can use this type of humor as a weapon which allows us to cover our malice.
The fourth type of humor is FLIPPANCY. The blogger Matson writes, “Flippancy builds up a callus against a topic so that no serious conversation or dialogue can be had. Purity before marriage, male leadership in the home, a biblical definition of marriage, a biblical worldview—these no longer need a joke in order to be a punchline. They’re a joke all by themselves. Our society thrives on flippancy.” Hollywood and the internet thrive on flippancy and we become inoculated to it.
So how do I pray for my lost friend? I pray that my sense of humor will be alive and real and reflective of the God who created us to laugh and experience life. And I pray for my friend to get serious with the Lord so he can experience real joy.
(to be continued)