For my birthday, I was given a copy of “Does God LOL” – a collection of brief thoughts by various people working in the field of comedy about the subject of God and humour. I actually found it a fascinating read!
The book is, as you would expect from a compendium of different people’s thoughts, a mixed bag. But the sheer breadth and number of the people involved is – to my mind – pretty staggering: comedy is perceived as being a very ‘godless’ kind of place, and often Christianity is mocked (see my previous post on Comedy and Christianity, for example). But as I turned the pages, I kept seeing names I recognised – or at least, people involved with things I recognised. Tim Vine and Milton Jones have contributed, of course – both are well known Christian comedians. But there are also chapters by other familiar names who aren’t often associated with religious things – Jo Brand, for example. There were also people who were associated with (i.e. writers for or actors in) shows which you probably do know, such as Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow or Miranda. In general, I was pleasantly surprised by how many I recognised and how faith seems to be a really deep-seated thing and real for many of the writers.
Is comedy godless? Well, on the basis of this book – definitely not!
Some of the pieces were very thought provoking, though. (It got me thinking about whether it would be possible to do a Biblical Theology of laughter, although I suspect that any attempt might be a bit forced). One chapter got me thinking about Psalm 2, one of the times in the Bible where God is said to ‘laugh’.
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.’
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
‘I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.’
Admittedly this is not the kind of laughter the comedians were probably talking about! This is a dismissive, derisive kind of laughter. Now bear with me here, because I think this is actually touching on something fundamental about God’s laughter!
In Psalm 2, God laughs at the idea of kings and rulers – the nations – banding together against him and against ‘his anointed’ (i.e. Jesus). Which, if you think about it, is hilarious: it’s like a group of infants in a playpen banding together to try and get out of it!
But it’s more than that. I think the gospel is actually one of the funniest things the world has ever seen, if you like a certain kind of ironic humour: in my previous post I linked to before, I quoted 1 Corinthians 1.18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The irony is the world is searching for God and looking in all the wrong places – mysticism, philosophy, even technology – whatever you like. But God, in his wisdom, has designed things so that the truth can only be found in the place that the world considers there is no truth: in the message of a crucified Messiah.
Of course, there is a tragic note as well: I believe this is ultimately a matter of life and death – eternally.
Apparently one of the differences between a classical tragedy and comedy is that a comedy ends in a wedding, whereas a tragedy ends in a death. As such, whether the gospel is a comedy or a tragedy depends on your perspective: for those who do not know Christ, it is a tragedy – because it ends in death. But for those who do know Christ, it ends in a glorious wedding, the bridegroom Christ ‘marries’ his bride – the church, all those who trusted in him. This is the picture we find in Revelation 21, e.g. v2 “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” For Christians, the story ends with a wedding – a classical comedy.
Maybe there is some mileage in the Biblical Theology of laughter after all.