A teacher in a conservative Christian school asks, "What's grey and has a bushy tale and runs up trees?" and the one of the students puts up her hand and says "I know the answer is Jesus but it still sounds like a squirrel to me."
There is a common conception that humour and religion do not mix. Christians are seen as serious. This tradition of associating laughter with sacrilege goes all the way back to the time of St Chrysostom, around 390CE. Laughter was usually associated with the devil."This world is not a theatre in which we can laugh; and we are not assembled together in order to burst into peals of laughter, but to weep for our sins...It is not God who gives us the chance to play but the devil"
St John Chrysostom"Christ never laughed"
St John Chrysostom
But more recently many scholars and anthropologists have looked at humorous aspects of religion. This does not mean that humour is used to undermine religion. There is a growing acknowledgement that faith and humour can coexist. Humour can be found within faith, and faith can be found using humour.
In fact, one author, Conrad Hyers (who has written many books on Christianity and humour) looks at the entire bible through a comic lens: he describes the creation of Eve as the creation of laughter; Sarah's son was called Isaac which means laughter.
Hyers sees laughter as a gift from God. Throughout the bible he finds many traditional mechanisms of humor such as incongruence, reversal, collapsing of social order."Humor is a prelude to faith and Laughter is the beginning of prayer "
Reinhold Niebuhr, American Theologian"Laughing at ourselves can help us remember our humanity"
Rev. William H. Joyner, Jr.Many thanks:
- N.J. Vasantkumar's review in the journal 'Humor' of Conrad Hyers' And God Created Laughter:The Bible as Divine Comedy.