No more jokes on Presbyterianism! I call for an emergency moratorium!
I recently returned from a PCUSA (Presbyterian Church of US) conference and I am ready to stick my fingers into an outlet if I hear another joke on the denomination. It is not that I am a denominational patriot but because the jokes lack creativity. Their is no punch in them, no insights into the contradictions of reality which is what good jokes do, force a confrontation with discrepancies through exaggerations.
Presbyterian jokes are always the same rehashed jokes: how Presbyterians are the “frozen chosen,” that our first action is to form a “committee,” and our second action is to form a “sub-committee.” In every seminar I attended in that conference, someone cracked those same tired jokes, and the whole room always broke out laughing as if someone played a laughter-track on cue. What is more unfunny about those jokes than being unfunny is that those jokes actually cover up the real dangers in our denomination. We are choking on our laughs.
For one thing, we think joking and laughing is one way of being above the issues. If I can joke about the ad nauseum committees, then surely I am not one contributing to the problem. I give myself coverage with laughter. I laugh hard enough, then the joke is not on me. But if everyone is laughing and no one is actually getting angry, then the problems entrenched in our denomination is nobody’s fault, and no one is taking any responsibility!
Now I know laughter is good for you. It is healthy to be self-critical. One should laugh at oneself, or he will die under the weight of his own seriousness. If you are serious all the time, then what can you be serious about?
A healthy couple can humor themselves and laugh about their foibles because the foundation of their trust is strong. A joke is not going to endanger that relationship. From the confidence of their relationship, they are willing to hear the contradictions.
But then there are couples who all they do is make fun of each other. And it is one of those uncomfortable jokes where the one who made the joke is guffawing, and the spouse who is on the receiving end gives a perfunctory chuckle to pretend he or she is above it, and the rest of us, who unfortunately happen to be there, laugh uncomfortably hoping that this does not break out into an argument in front of us. The way we Presbyterians joke about presbyterianism, the only ones laughing are us, and no matter how loud we laugh, there is a deep anxious uneasiness.
Maybe we need to stop with the jokes for awhile if we have been using it to shirk our responsibility. Maybe we need to shed some tears which usually attends genuine repentance. There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn. There are times when one must be serious because only when one is serious can one eventually laugh from his belly. Then maybe, we can get some new creative jokes on Presbyterianism. Who knows? Maybe a joke about how one can slow down Presbyterian church plants?