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Here’s a repost about the vital importance of not being too earnest…

Comedy and Christianity

First of all, taking yourself lightly needs to be held together with the other half of the truth: we must take God seriously.  Once I take God seriously – and by that I mean the trinitarian God of the Gospel – only then am I freed to get my eyes off myself.

Every human religion has humanity working before a watching God.  The true God works before a watching humanity – Isaiah 64:4.  In fact, as Isaiah says, that is the distinctive of the living God – He is the God of the gospel.  And this gospel is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit take salvation entirely into their own hands and leave not one calorie of effort to be done by us.

Once we see the Son taking our humanity, empowered by the Spirit to live our life before the Father and then die the death we should die – all in our place and on our behalf – then we see that it’s out of our hands.  Completely out of our hands.

Hence the punchline of so many of Paul’s gospel explanations: “Where then is boasting??!”  (Rom 3:27; 4:2; 1 Cor 1:29,31; 3:21; Gal 6:14; Eph 2:9).  Boasting is essentially the definition of taking yourself too seriously.  And it’s the opposite of joy!

The gospel means that we must get off centre-stage, sit in the audience and watch the living God work salvation for us.  And thus we take God seriously and we do not take ourselves seriously.  In fact the essence of faith is to transfer our focus entirely from self to Christ.

Before Paul came to faith he used to take himself very seriously.  He would spend his time building and making known his spiritual CV:  Circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel… (Phil 3:5ff).  But when he came to see Christ as the gift of righteousness from God to be received by faith he counted that whole self-focused, CV-building, take-myself-very-seriously Pharisaism as dung!  Total crap! (Phil 3:8).  (And if we don’t like those words maybe we need to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously!)

Now he just wants to be found in Christ (Phil 3:9).  The old Paul is dead, crucified with Christ (Rom 6:3ff; Gal 2:20; 6:14).  And he entrusts every judgement about himself into Christ’s hands:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:3-4).

In the (half-remembered) words of Tim Keller, Paul is basically saying “I don’t care what you think of me, I don’t even care what I think of me.”  Paul has been so liberated by Jesus from self-focus, he knows his life is hidden with Christ in God – that’s where his true life is (Col 3:1-4).  And he refuses to be drawn back down into navel-gazing.

So that’s what I basically mean when I say, Take God seriously, Don’t take yourself seriously.  Be released by Jesus into happy dependence.  Then you can roar with laughter and not worry about what a goof you look. Then you can make fun of yourself and all your ridiculous self-salvation projects.  Then you can hold everything else lightly because you know that you yourself are gripped by the triune God.

I admit that this can all sound quite radical because we tend to think that spiritual people are very serious people.  And the more spiritual, the more serious.  Well that’s true for every human religion.  But the gospel of Jesus is utterly different.  And it’s the one power to liberate us from the slavery to self and truly release us into the joy of the Spirit.

More on not being too earnest.

More on Comedy and Christianity
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An older rant about Rev, comedy, Christianity and not taking yourself too seriously

If there’s one thing Oscar Wilde teaches us about comedy it’s the vital importance of not being earnest.  If Earnest was earnest there’d be no Earnest – if you catch my drift.

Whatever you put at the centre of your comedy it cannot be earnestness or else it will pull all things down into it’s righteous self-absorption.

Which brings me to Rev – the BBC sitcom set in an East London church.  At the centre is Adam, a well-meaning priest who seems world-weary long before his time.  From the outset he seems worn down by the clash of his sincere liberalism and the harsh realities of modern ministry.  His heavy soul dominates the show and there just aren’t any interesting characters to offset this earnest-overload.  The writers seem very aware of this, desperately trying to punctuate the morass with some fairly blunt sex gags.  Something’s got to break up the moralism.

Maybe this sounds weird coming from a minister – but the whole thing is just way too preachy.  The punchlines all fall to Adam who turns them into sermonettes:

Colin isn’t vital to anyone, Darren, except God. And if God loves you, Darren, then he loves Colin just as much.

In any other comedy this would be the feedline.  In Rev it’s the punchline.

Now there are ways of communicating the love of God creatively.  But you couldn’t shift gears more clunkily if Adam turned to camera and said “You know guys, if you’re affected by any of the issues raised by this episode, phone the number on your screen…”

So much comedy works off pricking the bubbles that Rev produces.  But it’s usually a wide-eyed, joyful bubble pricked by a caustic, insightful wit.  Think of Blackadder with Baldrick, or Peter Cook with Dudley Moore, or Basil Fawlty with the Major / Manuel, or Del Boy with Rodney, or Sir Humphrey with Jim Hacker, or Bernard with Manny, or Mark with Jez.  There’s an ebullience and joy to the bubble and a razor-sharp riposte to burst it.

But in Rev it’s a tired moralistic bloat bludgeoned by sex gags (oo er vicar).

And it’s not as though you need a sardonic crank at the heart of the show.  In the church context, Father Ted and The Vicar of Dibley worked exceptionally well as comedies – I’d say largely because there was a joie de vivre in the central characters.  In fact here (and with anything Graham Linehan does) it’s not so much about bursting the bubble, more about the bubble gloriously flying off into the stratosphere.

But this is so desperately lacking in Rev and instead we have a black-hole of worthiness in the worst sense.

I think it goes to show something I harped on about last year.  There’s nothing less joyful, nothing less funny, than taking yourself seriously.  True joy comes when we take God seriously but not ourselves.

More posts on comedy here.

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Happy Friday

One of the best… about some of the worst…

And anyone who says sarcasm is the lowest form of wit should take it up with the LORD.

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god-seriously-self-lightly-21

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Here’s the audio of my talk on the subject

All this began here.

Then I had some initial thoughts on the usefulness of comedy here

There’s an excellent CS Lewis quote here

Here is a very expanded early version of the talk: part one, part two, part three, part four.

Then some follow up thoughts on blasphemy here and here.

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If there’s one thing Oscar Wilde teaches us about comedy it’s the vital importance of not being earnest.  If Earnest was earnest there’d be no Earnest – if you catch my drift.

.

Whatever you put at the centre of your comedy it cannot be earnestness or else it will pull all things down into it’s righteous self-absorption.

.

.

Which brings me to Rev – the new BBC sitcom set in an East London church.  At the centre is Adam, a well-meaning priest who seems world-weary long before his time.  We’ve only had three episodes but from the outset he seems worn out by the clash of his sincere liberalism and the harsh realities of modern ministry.  His heavy soul weighs down the whole show and there just aren’t any interesting characters to offset this earnest-overload.  The writers seem very aware of this, desperately trying to punctuate the morass with some fairly blunt sex gags.  Something’s got to break up the moralism.

Maybe this sounds weird coming from a minister – but the whole thing is just way too preachy.  The punchlines all fall to Adam who turns them into sermonettes:

Colin isn’t vital to anyone, Darren, except God. And if God loves you, Darren, then he loves Colin just as much.

In any other comedy this would be the feedline.  In Rev it’s the punchline.

Now there are ways of communicating the love of God creatively.  But you couldn’t shift gears more clunkily if Adam turned to camera and said “You know guys, if you’re affected by any of these issues, phone the number on your screen…”

So much comedy works off pricking the bubbles that Rev produces.  But it’s usually a wide-eyed, joyful bubble pricked by a caustic, insightful wit.  Think of Blackadder with Baldrick, or Peter Cook with Dudley Moore, or Basil Fawlty with the Major / Manuel, or Del Boy with Rodney, or Sir Humphrey with Jim Hacker, or Bernard with Manny, or Mark with Jez.  There’s an ebullience and joy to the bubble and a razor-sharp riposte to burst it.

But in Rev it’s a tired moralistic bloat bludgeoned by sex gags (oo er vicar).

And it’s not as though you need a sardonic crank at the heart of the show.  In the church context, Father Ted and The Vicar of Dibley worked exceptionally well as comedies – I’d say largely because there was a joie de vivre in the central characters.  In fact here (and with anything Graham Linehan does) it’s not so much about bursting the bubble, more about the bubble gloriously flying off into the stratosphere.

But this is so desperately lacking in Rev and instead we have a black-hole of worthiness in the worst sense.

I think it goes to show something I harped on about last year.  There’s nothing less joyful, nothing less funny, than taking yourself seriously.  True joy comes when we take God seriously but not ourselves.

More posts on comedy here.

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Here tis

Lots of other posts on the topic here.

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god-seriously-self-lightly-21

 

.

Here’s the audio of my talk on the subject

All this began here.

Then I had some initial thoughts on the usefulness of comedy here

There’s an excellent CS Lewis quote here

Here is a very expanded early version of the talk: part one, part two, part three, part four.

Then some follow up thoughts on blasphemy here and here.

 

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Read Full Post »

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