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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is this funny?

Last Sunday in that "other" church, the following joke appeared in the bulletin insert.

I'm not sure it's funny - and if you are not sure it's funny, then I'm not sure it is.

Well, let me put it this way: Had I first heard this in any other context but while sitting in a church pew, having said my prayers, and preparing myself for worship, I might have laughed right out loud.

Instead, I found myself gasping.

Then, I looked around to see if anyone else had read what I had just read and if they had, what was their reaction?

Let me put it this way - the joke, in and of itself, is fairly harmless. The fact that it's about a clergy person - a young clergy person and his young wife - and procreation . . . well, that's part of what's funny, too.

Had this been a joke directed at a certain clergy couple who used to be Episcopalian and are now getting ready for their fifth child in eight years . . . well, it would either be hysterically funny (if you don't like them) or in very bad taste (well, even if you don't like them).

Might my problem with this joke have had anything to do with the fact that there were two clergymen at the altar and both were gay?

Then again, let me ask you this: have you ever found church humor really funny? I can't think of one story involving church that has ever brought forth more than a snicker from my lips. Never a full belly-laugh.

So, what do you think? Is this funny? Is it appropriate to be read in church as people are preparing their heart, mind and soul for worship.

If so, why so? And if not, why not?

Off you go then. I'll be at the beach while you are pondering these weighty questions of a gorgeous Saturday morning. I'll wave at a few waves for you.

Not funny. I know.

A pastor's wife was expecting a baby, so he stood before the congregation and asked for a raise. After much discussion, they passed a rule that whenever the preacher's family expanded, so would his paycheck.

After 6 children, this started to get expensive and the congregation decided to hold another meeting to discuss the preacher's expanding salary. A great deal of yelling and inner bickering ensued, as to how much the clergyman's additional children were costing the church, and how much more it could potentially cost.

After listening to them for about an hour, the pastor rose from his chair and spoke, 'Children are a gift from God, and we will take as many gifts as He gives us.

Silence fell on the congregations.

In the back pew, a little old lady struggled to stand, and finally said in her frail voice, "Rain is also a gift from God, but when we get too much of it, we wear rubbers.'

The entire congregation said, 'Amen."


Mary-Cauliflower said...

Humor has always been important to me. It's the way I see the world, and it keeps me from sinking into despair sometimes. And inappropriate humor? Well, there are days when it has more healing powers than expresso, chocolate mousse cake, and a cool pair of new pumps all combined.

But church humor is the equivalent of hospital food to me. Maybe because it has the taint of "officialdom" if it appears in the church bulletin? It's the difference between stripping off your clothes and dancing naked in the summer rain for the sheer release of it all, versus doing the frug with Uncle Marvin at your second cousin's wedding.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, I think the joke is funny, but I also think it's inappropriate in a church setting.

Why is it funny? To me, when I start to pick a joke apart, especially one that I think IS funny, the joke disappears. That the frail little old lady is the ONLY one who is brave enough to speak out is a great part of what makes the joke funny. The "rubbers" double entendre is another.

I believe that I've heard some very funny church jokes, but I can't think of one right now.

Textjunkie said...

They put a joke in the bulletin? Whatever for??

I mean, sure it's a pun and kind of funny (assuming you aren't using it to dig at Roman Catholics) but it's puerile. It's not particularly funny, and it's highlighting that people with a lot of kids aren't good stewards and put a strain on everyone else. It's also not funny for people who have problems with contraception. Way to make folks in the pews feel accepted, there.

Church humor, though--the first time I saw some of those putative "what kids say in Sunday School" lists I really laughed. I could just hear some of the kids I knew saying, "What's an epistle? The wife of an apostle!"

Ok, maybe not a belly laugh. ;) But still.

Brother David said...

Sorry, I think it is funny. And I would have probably laughed right out loud when I read it, before I remembered that I was sitting in church.

Do you really think that those two gay clergymen control everything that goes in the church bulletin? Should they? Do you?

I think that your comic is funny too. Michael Angelo probably does as well!

Jim said...

It is a bit funny, certainly not hysterical and it can be as you note, targeted unkindly. Humor often, Jonathon Winters used to say, is a way we say something otherwise unacceptable, difficult or hostile. So for instance, we can tell jokes about poor people, women, black people, clergy, democrats and either say something of our hostility towards that group or if we are in the group something about ourselves we could not say out without fear of offending.

Is it funny in this case? I dunno, if it were told about some formerly Episcopal clerics, no. They and their community are joyously awaiting the birth of that child and for those of us who are not in their community to rain on their parade is simply wrong.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

I'm kind of with you on the context of where the joke was.

But now,that cartoon you put with this post, in the context of me sitting and drinking my morning coffee? Now THAT's funny! So funny, coffee went up my nose.

Then again, you know from being in the medical world, in your past life, body emissions become incredibly funny to us in a way not as funny to most people!

Kay & Sarah said...

I wouldn't expect to see that in a church bulletin.

Wonder if there is a story behind it?

Paul Powers said...

It's not that funny in any context. Not really appropriate for a service bulletin either (in my opinion). Did it tie into the readings, by chance? Or into a sermon on wise stewardship of the Creator's gifts (or something like that)?
Why would it matter that the priests at the altar were gay males? I guess there's some possibility that the people in the pew would interpret it as "breederphobia" on the gay priest's part, but I think that's kind of a stretch.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Well... there is a point ;=)

Fran said...

When it rains too much I wear rubbers or just decide not to go out and play!

Jane Priest said...

I think it's funny and decent commentary on our responsibility to the earth and society not to overpopulate.

HOWEVER, I can't stand it when jokes are told in church when they have nothing to do with the subject of the reading. Too many jokes are told in church when they are not germane to the commentary of the preacher and I all too often here from lay people that they liked so and so because he (never heard this about a female preacher) told a lot of jokes. This isn't the entertainment hour, people!

Magdalene6127 said...

Tack-y. Not funny. And not appropriate for the bulletin. I don't care what church it is, the pastor/ rector/ whomever will get flack for it. As well they should.

Bateau Master said...

WOW - a joke at the expense of reproductive choice! Is that allowed?

marla said...

The joke was funny; but, not appropriate for the church bulletin. It could offend people of RC origin.

Anonymous said...

Just barely funny and not appropriate for the Sunday bulletin. I give the context in which it appeared a thumbs down.

IT said...

Well, WE laughed.

But yes, given how fraught and symbolic the bulletin can be seen to be, I can understand it might not be appropriate in that venue.

But we thought it was funny!

Paul Powers said...


I don't know whether either of the two gay priests was the rector, but I think that ultimately the rector is responsible for what goes into the service bulletin. Depending on her management style and the abilities of her staff, she might delegate the job of putting together and editing the bulletin to someone else. But if someone is offended and complains to the bishop, it's the rector who will have to answer to the bishop (or the canon to the ordinary).

it's margaret said...

Never used rubbers; never will.

Hey --I thought it was mildly funny. But no way would I think to put it in the bulletin. For us, the bulletin is liturgical --even "announcements and calendar" are called "Our Offerings" That's what blogs are for....

I'm glad Grandmere thought it was cool that the lol called the whole thing out.

Muthah+ said...

nah--not ready for prime-time bulletins! Kinda funny but over a martini rather than in church papers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I love humor. God knows, I love to laugh. I think laughter is a gift from God that makes some of the insanity of life bearable.

I love, Love, LOVE Chris Rock, but I love him in my living room on HBO - not in church.

I am thinking this particular joke was funny, but it was not appropriate for church.

I'm wondering, as some of you are, about what is really going on in this church which is so rigid in its liturgical style, but then prints something like this in its bulletin.

Interesting, n'est pas?

BTW, we had a super day at the beach, followed by a marvelous supper of pasta, peppers and shrimp. First, I infused the olive oil with some fennel and crushed red pepper, then fried up some onion and fresh garlic and then green, red and yellow bell peppers. Then I saute shrimp in butter and white wine and added it to the peppers. Then, boiled up some whole wheat pasta, just a wee tad under al dente. Drained it then added some butter and fresh grated parmesan cheese.

I tossed the pasta with the vegetables and shrimp, poured it into the serving dish, sprinkled it with more parmesan and topped it off with some freshly chopped basil and Italian parsley.

We drank some sovignon blanc and ate the pasta, peppers and shrimp and out on the deck and laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed.

What a wonderful evening following a glorious day at the beach.

This - THIS! - is what vacation is all about. Great beach days, great friends, great food.

Jokes in church? As we say in NJ: Fuggeddeboutit.

Thanks to all who commented here. I wish I could bring each and every one of you here so we could eat wonderful food and laugh at jokes - good and bad, appropriate or not.

Unknown said...

Hi Elizabeth: just thought I'd weigh in here. Agree with you. Neither the cartoon nor the joke go in a church bulletin (and I think the rector has ultimate responsibility for the bulletin) Obvious double meaning in the joke and gosh, can't folks get away from that in church at least? Good grief. Could have something to do with the omitted part of the lectionary from Ephesians today (21-33)

Have a great vacation

Revd. Neal Terry said...

The intimate relation between humour and faith is derived from the fact that both deal with the incongruities of our existence. Humour is concerned with the
immediate incongruities of life and faith with the ultimate ones. Both humour and faith are expressions of the freedom of the human spirit, of its capacity to stand outside of life, and itself, and view the whole scene.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Great quote. Thanks, TMTIM.

JCF said...

Jokes in church bulletins seem inappropriate to me.

But if someone (anyone) had clipped/printed this out, and stuck it on the parish hall bulletin board? A laugh riot! ;-D