Monday, June 14, 2010

Philippians 4:8 on Humor, Part 2

Humor: The juxtaposition of two (or more) unexpected or incongruous elements.

A couple weeks ago, we studied the first three qualities of Philippians 4:8 (true, noble, right) and how humor lines up with them. But there are still three more basic qualities to consider: pure, lovely, admirable.

Is humor pure? (Pure: That which will not contaminate us—cause us to sin—if we should employ it in our own lives)

Ah, another “it depends” answer!

On one hand, we are instructed not to engage in course joking or other crude language (Ephesians 5:4), but as we saw under “right,” both God the Father and Christ used humor without contamination. So whether the humor is pure truly depends on the methods and types of humor employed.

Is it lovely? (Lovely: Pleasing to the senses or moves the heart toward love/affection)

Ever listened to a Marx Brothers’ play-on-words conversation? Or Abott and Costello’s “Who’s On First”? Or a Danny Kaye monologue? If you have, then you know how pleasing to the ear humor can be.

Likewise, slapstick. When properly choreographed, it is amazing how fluid and even beautiful it can appear, like the fist fight from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or some of the exaggerated scenes of martial arts.

As for moving the heart, humor is a great way to make us want to distance ourselves from evil and align ourselves with good.

But humor can be the reverse, pulling us away from good and coarse in sight and sound. Again, much depends on the how.

Is it admirable? (Admirable: Something spoken well of; a good reputation)

While it is changing, people who can make us laugh are often viewed in a positive light.

And that completes the basic qualities of Philippians 4:8, which I’ll soon wrap up with the summary and overriding qualities (excellent & praiseworthy). In the meantime, what do you think? What kind of gray area is humor? How should we handle it?


Anonymous said...
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Brandon said...

Humor is abused so much in our culture...even among Christians. Working with high school age kids, I see the worldy humor's influence too often in their speech.

Chawna Schroeder said...

Yes, it is often abused, but it can be such a great asset too, as it can breach defenses in ways that nothing else can.

But to know how to use it, you have to know what good humor is begin with. So what are the marks of humor? And are we teaching our kids these things? After all, they won't know they're using poor or crude humor if we don't teach them what is wrong (and why)--and what kind of humor we should be using instead.

奕生 said...
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Peter Stone said...

Great thoughts about humour. I tried watching Funny Home Videos with my two kids a few weeks ago, and every clip was laughing at some poor soul's unfortunate accident or embarrassment. None of us laughed, and my kids asked me to turn it off.

Compared to that, a simple game of minigolf with my kids in the loungeroom can be a riot, with them laughing innocently at the most innocent things, such as the ball getting stuck in the heater's grille.

Chawna Schroeder said...

Ah, this is why I went through the work of defining true humor as the juxtaposition of two incongruous or unexpected elements--a golf ball stuck in a heater's grille is funny, because it's unexpected. But in the television show you referenced, very few things fit that definition. Rather, humor often requires a level of intelligence, whether in the ability to put two elements together, like in play-on-words, or the ability to perceive those odd juxtapositions already in the world.