I don’t know why, but Protestant evangelicals have had a hard time with humor, whether creating or enjoying it. Maybe it’s ancillary to us abandoning the arts. Late night TV is owned by practicing Catholics Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. No one tells a good Bible joke like Jim Gaffigan, who even refers to his wife as a “Shiite Catholic.” But we, whose claim of “faith not works” should have let us off the hook back in 1517, are so obsessed with working out our salvation with fear and trembling that we have a hard time laughing at ourselves. Until recently, the only humor sanctioned by the Westminster Confession of Faith was the church-bulletin blooper. And one can groan only so long before that tuna hot dish belches back up.
Of course, there is humor in the Bible. Take Job’s snide reply to his accusers and Jesus’ stinging comebacks to the Pharisees. Or how about Paul’s satirical rant in Galatians about circumcision? (I hope no one took him literally). But we got into the habit of reading every verse as if Charlton Heston were bringing it down Mount Sinai. This may be the most cogent argument the Catholic Church had for keeping Scripture out of the hands of the peasants: We wouldn’t get the jokes.
There have been a few pilgrims in the crusade to make Christians lighten up, already. The Wittenburg Door, may it rest in peace, was the Mad Magazine of Christendom. Then the internet came along and opened the floodgates of all sorts of Jesusy humor. (I’ll leave aside the “bitter ex-Christian” sites. They’re like stepping in a Taylor Swift-Katy Perry feud.) Ship of Fools still offers some the best caption contests ever. And Lark News, the first satire website to come across my radar, wrote the best headline ever: “Homeschooler Spends Three-Day Suspension in Backyard Tent.” But they were just voices crying in the wilderness, “prepare ye the way of The Babylon Bee.”
The Babylon Bee is a Christian-themed satire website in the vein of The Onion, lampooning the faithful across denominations, political affiliations, and age groups. The Bee, launched in March 2016, arrived at the perfect time. The 2008 meltdown had decimated our savings and morale, Rob Bell had gone Oprah, and we were all going Code Red over a presidential election. The Bee provided much-needed comic relief. And it captured the perfect tone of speaking truthful harassment in love. Hallelujah.
So what happens when you build a successful brand with legions of followers and huge revenue streams? A publisher gives you a book deal that promises to make you hundreds of bucks. I applaud the Bee for going for it anyway.
The result is How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living. Using their signature satirical tone, authors Adam Ford and Kyle Mann offer an entertaining 10-step guide on how to match Jesus in holiness.
It’s not easy to adapt short-form comedy into a longer form. Just watch the Saturday Night Live movie The Ladies Man. (Actually, don’t do that. You’ll never get those two hours back.) At times, the Bee authors get long-winded on a short subject or on something we’ve been painfully aware of since the Y2K scare. But there are delicious descriptors even in the long-winded passages, so it’s worth your time.
Their 10 steps to flawless living cover everything from church membership to winning the culture war. The authors seem to take particular aim at two types of errant Christians: those who use church as a personal growth tool and those who use faith as a weapon. The book addresses them as if they’re the same entity, which I found confusing at first: The convenience-driven Christian is rarely a Bible-thumper. But their intent is to expose all forms of hypocrisy in the bride of Christ, whom they love. So if you don’t see yourself lampooned in the first chapter, keep reading. They’ll get to you.
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Source: Christianity Today