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321 Humor and Religion by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen.

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Presentation on theme: "321 Humor and Religion by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen."— Presentation transcript:

1 321 Humor and Religion by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen

2 322 Laughter in the Bible “When laughter is mentioned in the Bible, it is associated with one of three things.” “In descending order, they are: –Hostility –Foolishness –Joy”(Morreall [2008] 212)

3 323 Laughter and Hostility For laughter and hostility, consider Psalm 59:4-8 which implores God to “have no mercy on villains and traitors…. But you, O Lord, laugh at them, and deride all the nations”(Morreall [2008] 212) Laughter and Foolishness For laughter and foolishness, consider Genesis 17:17 When God tells Abraham at age 99 that he and his aged wife Sarah will have a son:

4 324 Abraham “fell on his face and laughed.” On hearing the news, Sarah also laughed with disbelief, and “when God confronted her, she compounded her foolishness by denying that she had laughed.” (Genesis 18:12-15; Morreall [2008] 212)

5 325 Laughter is again associated with foolishness in a Bible passage which reads: “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.” “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:3-6; Morreall [2008] 213)

6 326 Laughter and Joy But laughter can also be associated with joy in the Bible as in: “When the lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:2) In the New Testament, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21; Morreall [2008] 213)

7 327 Evangelism & Paradox Evangelism is related to the “awakenings,” and is associated with fundamentalist Christianity. The religious world used to be divided between the Catholics and the Protestants, but now the division is more between the Evangelicals and mainstream religion (Sheffield 17). The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek “evangelion,” and is composed of “eu” (meaning “well”) and “angelos” (meaning “messenger”). It translates directly into Old English “godspell” or “gospel” (meaning “good word”) (Sheffield 1).

8 328 Evangelical television preaches “family values” in which a woman’s place is in the home. But at the same time it places women into very public roles (Sheffield 6). Many Evangelicals simply refer to themselves as “Christians,” meaning that they have been “born again” or “saved.” This leaves mainstream Christian denominations puzzled or angered by the implication that they are not “Christians” (Sheffield 11).

9 329 Conrad Hyers and Harvey Cox The Bible as Satire and Festival Conrad Hyers sees in the Story of Jonah as a satire on a reluctant prophet. “In many stories about Jesus, too, he finds wit, imagination, and an openness to people characteristic of someone with a sense of humor.” In the Bible, Harvey Cox sees festivity in terms of conscious excess, and celebrative affirmation. Cox closes his book by asking Christians to think of Christ as a harlequin!” (Morreall [2008] 232)

10 3210 John the Evangelist: The Importance of Play “When people were scandalized at finding him at play with his disciples, he requested one of his questioners who carried a bow to shoot an arrow. When this had been done several times, the man, on being asked wither he could keep on doing so continuously, replied that the bow would break. Whereupon the blessed John pointed the moral that so, too, would the human spirit snap were it never unbent.” (Morreall [2008] 218)

11 3211 MORMONISM Insider-Humor to Question Attitudes A cartoon that appeared in the Brigham Young University newspaper in Utah showed a bloodied and battered student rising from a pile of stones that had been thrown at him. As a campus police officer comes up, the student explains, “All I said was ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

12 3212 Another Mormon joke is a story about St. Peter taking visitors around Heaven and telling them to tiptoe past the room where the Mormons are…, because they think they’re the only ones here.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 117)

13 3213 Punishments for Laughter “The monastery of Columban in Ireland assigned the following punishments: “He who smiles in the service…six strokes; if he breaks out in the noise of laughter, a special fast unless it has happened pardonably.” “The strongest condemnations of laughter came from monastic leaders. The Essenes, an early Jewish monastic group, had imposed a penance of thirty days for those who ‘guffawed foolishly.’” (Morreall [2008] 217).

14 3214 TIBETAN BUDDHISM Laughter and Open Mindedness When John Cleese asked the Dalai Lama why in Tibetan Buddhism people laugh so much he responded that laughter is very helpful to him in teaching and in political negotiations, because when people laugh, it is easier for them to admit new ideas to their minds. (Nilsen & Nilsen 57)

15 3215 Zen Buddhism Zen masters use “koans” to break people’s attachments to incongruities like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” “The most comic vision among traditional religions is in Zen Buddhism and Taoism, the most tragic vision is in certain forms of Judaism and Calvinist Christianity. Virtually all the New Religions of the past fifty years have embraced the comic vision.” (Morreall [2008] 241)

16 3216 !YURI NIKULIN’S JOKE Trousers vs. The World Yuri Nikulin was known as the “Russian Charlie Chaplin.” When he died in 1997, his New York Times obituary recounted his favorite joke:

17 3217 !! An American actor rails at his New York Tailor: “God needed only seven days to create the universe and it took you 30 days to make a pair of trousers?” “Yes,” answered the tailor, “But look at the world, and then look at the trousers.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 38)

18 3218

19 3219 !!!Important Web Site: History of Five Religions: Mr. Diety:

20 3220 References: Aichele, George. Theology as Comedy: Critical and Theoretical Explorations. New York, NY: University Press of America, Berger, Peter. Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience. New York, NY: Walter de Gruyter, Beuchner, Frederick. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. New York, NY: Harper, Blyth, R. H. “Zen Humor” in Hyers (1969). Brenner, Athalya. “On the Semantic Field of Humour, Laughter and the Comic in the Old Testament.” in On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible. Eds. Yehuda T. Radday and Athalya Brenner. New York, NY: The Almond Press, 1990.

21 3221 Buckley, George Wright. The Wit and Wisdom of Jesus. Battle Creek, MI: Ellis, Capps, Donald. A Time to Laugh: The Religion of Humor. New York, NY: Continuum, Cox, Harvey. The Feast of Fools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Croissan, Dominic. Raid on the Articulate: Comic Eschatology in Jesus and Borges. New York, NY: Harper and Row, De Sousa, Ronald. “When is it Wrong to Laugh?” in Morreal (1987) Drakeford, John W. Humor in Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, Ministry Resources Library, 1986.

22 3222 Exum, Cheryl J., and William J. Whedbee. “Isaac, Samson, and Saul: Reflections on the Comic and Tragic Visions.” in On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible. Eds. Yehuda T. Radday and Athalya Brenner. New York, NY: The Almond Press, Gilhus, Ingvild. Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins: Laughter in the History of Religion. New York, NY: Routledge, Heinen, Tom. “A Humorous View of Quirky Christian Culture.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 4.3 (2007): Hyers, Conrad. And God Created Laughter: The Bible as Devine Comedy. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, Hyers, Conrad, ed. Holy Laughter: Essays on Religion in the Comic Perspective. New York, NY: Seabury, Hyers, Conrad. The Laughing Buddha: Zen and the Comic Spirit. Durango, CO: Longwood Academic Press, 1991.

23 3223 Hyers, Conrad. The Spirituality of Comedy: Comic Heroism in a Tragic World. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, Jablonski, Carol J. “Dorothy Day’s Contested Legacy: ‘Humble Irony’ as a Constraint on Memory.” Journal of Communication and Religion 23 (2000): Joeckel, Samuel. “Funny as Hell: Christianity and Humor Reconsidered.” HUMOR 21.4 (2008): Lindvall, Terry. Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis. New York, NY: Thomas Nelson, Landy, Francis. “Humor as a Tool for Biblical Exegesis.” in On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible. Eds. Yehuda T. Radday and Athalya Brenner. New York, NY: The Almond Press, 1990.

24 3224 Morreall, John. Comedy, Tragedy and Religion. Albany, NY: State Univ of New York Press, Morreall, John. “Comic Vices and Comic Virtues.” HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 23.1 (2010): Morreall, John. “Humor in Religion and Philosophy.” in A Primer for Humor Research. Ed. Victor Raskin. Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter, Morreall, John. “Philosophy and Religion” in Raskin (2008) Morreall, John. “Philosophy and Religion.” in Raskin Morreall, John, ed. The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987.

25 3225 Morreall, John. “Sarcasm, Irony, Wordplay, and Humor in the Hebrew Bible: A Response to Hershey Friedman.” HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 14.3 (2001): Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20 th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood/Oryx, Palmer, Earl F. The Humor of Jesus: Sources of Laughter in the Bible. Vancouver, Canada: Regent College, Peters, David A. The Many Faces of Biblical Humor. London, England: Hamilton Books, Phipps, William E. The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus. New York, NY: John Knox, 1993.

26 3226 Radday, Yehuda T. “On Missing the Humour in the Bible: An Introduction.” in On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible. Eds. Yehuda T. Radday and Athalya Brenner. New York, NY: The Almond Press, 1990, Radday, Yehuda T. “Sex and Women in Biblical Narrative Humor.” HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 8.4 (1995): Raskin, Victor, ed. The Primer of Humor Research. New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter, Saroglou, Vassilis. “Being Religious Implies being Different in Humour: Evidence from Self- and Peer-Ratings.” Mental Health, Religion and Culture 7.3 (2004): Saroglou, Vassilis, and Jean-Marie Jaspard. “Does Religion Effect Humour Creation? An Experimental Study.” Mental Health, Religion, and Culture 3.6 (2003): Sheffield, Kathryn I. “Old Wine in New Bottles: The Creation of Female Gender Identity on Evangelical Television.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Arizona State University, January, Sommerville, C. John. “Puritan Humor, Or Entertainment, for Children.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with Religious Studies 21.2 (1989):

27 3227 Thatcher, Tom. Jesus the Riddler: The Power of Ambiguity in the Gospels. New York, NY: Westminster John Knox, Trueblood, Elton. The Humor of Christ. New York, NY: Harper and Row, Van Rensburg, Lee. The Sense of Humor: In Scripture, Theology and Worship. Lima, OH: Fairway Press, Vos, Nevin. For God’s Sake, Laugh! New York, NY: John Knox, Whedbee, William J. The Bible and the Comic Vision. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, Willimon, William H., ed. And the Laugh Shall be First: A Treasury of Religious Humor. New York, NY: Abingdon, 1986.


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