Author: Carolyn Gard
I had a sweatshirt with a similar picture on it. I enjoyed wearing it, and got a lot of smiles. Except for once. A man came up to me and told me it was heresy and that I was going to Hell. I simply walked away. I wonder, though, what bothered him so much. Just because I had something funny on a sweatshirt didn’t mean it happened that way. And why can’t we speculate on what would have happened if it were true? Of course, at that time God couldn’t have sent a daughter–no one was listening to women then. I like to think that even God might have smiled at such a thought.
Much of religion is serious stuff, but we often take religion and the Bible too seriously. Some years ago, Bruce McKenzie preached a sermon on ‘Humor in the Old Testament’ followed the next week by ‘Humor in the New Testament.’ (There wasn’t as much humor in the New Testament.) I didn’t save the sermons, but I’m sure they’re somewhere in the church archives.
For instance, why in the world did Eve talk to a snake? Wouldn’t a rabbit, or a squirrel, or a bird, or a deer have been more fun? In Exodus, Aaron took gold from the people and made a golden calf for them to worship. When Moses confronted him, Aaron said that he had thrown the gold into the fire and it came out as a calf. Come on, Aaron, that’s a lame excuse on the order of ‘the dog ate my homework.’ Sarah laughed when the angel told her she would have a baby; I doubt that I would have been that calm when visited by an angel.
Let’s take the New Testament. When the wise men arrived twelve days after Jesus’s birth the family was still in the stable. Surely the census was finished and there was room in the inn. Did the family choose to stay in the stable so that future painters would have a photo op for their masterpieces to depict? Take the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man whose friends had lowered him through a hole in the roof. As our youth pointed out in one of their plays, this could have led to a lot of litigation. If Jesus could make a man walk again, surely he could have repaired a roof.
We take our religion very seriously when it comes to inclusive language in our hymns, and we have many hymns that we no longer sing because of the negative connotations. But even then we can take some things lightly. A friend of mine does music therapy with Alzheimer’s patients. She told me about one wonderful afternoon with a client as they danced around the room singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ (which you won’t find in the hymnals any more).
What I’m trying to say is that we need to keep our sense of humor, especially during the pandemic. Let’s not yell at people who forget to put on their masks (I’ve forgotten many times myself) but, with a smile that they can’t see, remind them. And when a young man races ahead of you to the credit union door and you’re sure he’s doing it to get ahead of you in line, lighten up when you find out he did that to hold the door for you.
I’ll just leave you with one more example of Biblical humor. You might not be aware that there is evidence in the Bible that baseball was played in the Garden of Eden.
In the big inning Eve took one, and Adam took one, and God threw them both out.
So with apologies to Reinhold Neibuhr,
Lord, help me to know when to be serious, and when to lighten up, and the wisdom to know the difference.