God, That’s Funny

November 8, 2013

My friend Dan helped me even more than he knew. Not that he wouldn’t have done it anyway. He sent me links to essays on humor from an unlikely source, one he knew I wouldn’t see. And they were pretty good, except for one by Joel Kilpatrick that I suspect a careless editor let by. It was terrific. Kilpatrick is the brains behind larknews.com, a satirical (Onion-like) Christian site where you can find headlines like “Family buys hut next to sponsored child” or “Pastor welcomes birth of second sermon illustration” or a news article about a church stuck with a worship leader who specializes in “alien folk music.” So I laughed and learned that larknews.com is still around (cheers!) and that Kilpatrick has written a fun and insightful book, God, That’s Funny.

The book will startle some readers, I’m sure, because Kilpatrick combines humor with God as foundational, not simply frivolous or decorative. “We all need to be reminded that God is funny,” he writes. “That his humor is on display everywhere and is a key to understanding what he’s doing in our lives, in Scripture and in the world around us. We all need to appreciate that comedy is one of God’s primary languages.” He challenges even more pointedly about our relationship with God: “God has never been without humor, and if we live in his presence, neither can we.”

Always funny and often poignant, Kilpatrick develops this theme out of his personal experience, his well-honed humor skills, and his reading of the Bible. He shows humor in the Bible in Old Testament stories like geriatric Abraham and Sarah having a baby, but also uses unexpected Old Testament texts. He stirs readers’ imaginations and insight when he analyzes the steps of humor in Jesus’ teaching, healing, and conversations with folks. (I especially enjoyed his take on the story of Jesus chatting with the woman at the well in Samaria.) In my case, at least, he stretched and deepened my understanding of the absurdity and upside-down character of Jesus’ “incarnation,” which he describes as “pure hilarity to me, the strongest possible satire of human power and pretense.”

Kilpatrick calls readers to a new dimension in their life with God: “This is the pattern of God, to provoke surprise and laughter, and then to invite us into an astonished, sincere, loving relationship with him that looks nothing like we expected.” Maybe it’s time here for a show of hands, even an altar call. Hum along, joyfully. If you can’t do that, you can at least read the book.

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Living in Fun

"Walking Cheerfully" is place to think out loud about how to use and enjoy humor in positive, life-giving ways. We’ll explore how following Christ in all of life can shape, not scuttle, laughter and creative play. What might it mean to laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you?

Probably the other most common posts will be "Finds in Fun." I first learned the phrase “being in fun” from Tom Mullen’s Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences. He points to the playfulness of children, who are readier to laugh and to see the silly than most adults. Living each day “in fun” often makes us laugh as we slog through a nearly endless supply of things odd, silly, klutzy, and preposterous. The stories here are mostly from my own ordinary, “in fun” days.

Fun Nooks and Crannies

There’s “Humor in the Bible,” and these posts explore where it is, how to find it, and what to do with it. It’s one way of thinking about how to read the Bible well.

Since a lot of us spend big chunks of time at work, the “Humor at Work” posts will suggest ways to stay sane and happy, to get along with cow-orkers, and to use humor to do good work.

I’m a book-pusher at heart, and some of my best friends push books, too. I even know some folks who read. So “Fun Books” posts will tell about books that are funny and help us think about humor.

Sometimes I’ll brag on some of the friends I’ve been given or share some photos I’ve enjoyed taking. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe not, but they’ve brought joy in my journey.

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