I took some heat from Mumon earlier, in the comments to my recent post about humor.

The problem, of course, did not revolve around the central issue of the post. Mumon usually tries to take a look from another angle, that I didn’t cover. He’s right though. I didn’t cover it, and that was for a reason. This post. The last one spoke about what was not funny. This post, on the other hand, I’ll talk about what IS funny – as well as address the questions Mumon raises.

First, Mumon’s questions/objections.

To start with, he zeroed in on the NASB’s slightly misleading use of the word “silly”, in Ephesians 5:4. The King James uses ‘foolish”, while the newer ESV does the same. I say only “slightly”, because the word silly doesn’t mean what he thinks it does. To quote Inigo Montoya… “You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means”.

The word “foolish” has a much more negative connotation (in slang) than “silly” – it also reflects an attitude of conscious rejection of it’s antithesis, rather than a playful, bantering fun-loving spirit. (However, in formal English, they are synonyms)

Silly, in standard English, can be a term of mild disapproval – someone who tends to frivolity, for instance. But it has a more derisive meaning ,as well. “a lack of wisdom or good sense; foolish”. To lack wisdom, by any standard, is simply not a good thing. It does not mean “having fun” – it means “lacking wisdom”, in the formal sense of the word. Now, in modern English slang, silly means simply to be playful. This is not the meaning of the word in the original Greek, however.

The word, in greek, is Morologia – which means “foolish talking”. However, it’s not as ambigious as all that. The root words for this compound word are lego and moroß.

is, basically, “to speak”. moroß is foolish – or, impious/godless. It’s not precisely blasphmeous, per se – that is covered in another word in that verse – but, it is clearly “foolish” – as in lacking wisdom – that is addressed. Unwise speech.

So, I’ll leave it there.

Secondly, he was a bit of a smart aleck.

To my question: Why can’t I keep from laughing at what is crass, or ribald?

He answered:

You answered the question yourself: because evidently, you find them funny.

My question, I suppose, is different – and more to the point. Why do I find them “funny”? The incongruity of certain situations are, indeed, funny – the subject matter, however, is not. It’s not right, and it’s not what I should be laughing at. The answer is simple. I’ve let myself be trained, by repetition, that the crass and ribald, when related in the form of a joke, are “ok”. While if I heard them related as a story, I would not think so. In the slightest. In other words… you missed the entire point of the post. It was relating something that I’ve rediscovered about our culture – that if something we would consider to be wrong is covered over by the veneer of humor… it’s suddenly “ok”. How many comedies have set records for the most risque scenes… by making jokes out of them? How is it George Carlin makes his money again? Oh, yeah. Taking everything people consider wrong, and making jokes out of them. Nah, noone really does that, do they? Pssst. That is the bedrock for 90% of today’s humor on TV and movies – just media in general.

That isn’t ok, and it isn’t funny. It’s a sham. It’s camoflauge for sin, using the pattern of humor to hide it. That’s the tricky part. In other words, it’s possible to take your sense of humor more seriously than your dislike for sin – and your duty to imitate God, by being Holy, as He is Holy. THAT is the problem.

This is a key difference – and why I’m a Buddhist: if one can be mindful of the intent and attitude behind one’s activities, one doesn’t need them to be prescribed or proscribed by anyone else.

And I might also add that certain teishos- Dharma commentaries- contain some of the 7 words you can’t say on TV, and to good effect.

You can be mindful of the same in Christianity – but you cannot attempt to justify wrongdoing by hiding behind “oh, I meant it as a joke”. That’s why we’re told not to do it. So, I suppose you’re right.

That is a key difference, and not one I’d recommend.

And lastly…

You’ll be “free from the body of this death” soon enough; I hope you appreciate what you sense while you’re around, but mindfully…

I know; your mileage varies…

There is plenty of humor in the world without resorting to humor which portrays sin as “just a laugh”.

Which is the point of this post.

So, after that long preamble…

Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Jokes about sin are easy. Everyone sins, and does it daily. Everyone wants to laugh at their own sin, and laugh at others. Otherwise, we’d have to take them seriously, wouldn’t we? Much easier to just laugh at them, isn’t it?

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If you treat your sin as if it is a joke, pretty soon you’ll treat it as a joke, too. Imagine that. Repetition becoming habit? The devil, you say!

But, seriously now.

The joke – the humor – the fun… all of that is completely satisfactory. All of that is completely normal, and as much a part of human existence as any other could be. It’s the subject matter that, well.. matters. Paul says this:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Now, contrast that with Titus 2:

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Get the picture? It’s like momma always said: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Except, in this case… it’s “if you can’t laugh at something nice – don’t laugh at all.”

That doesn’t mean don’t laugh. It means don’t laugh at things you shouldn’t laugh at.

What are things you can laugh at? The same things most people laugh at. The absurdities of life. The funny things your kids do. The funny things you do. When I say funny, I mean those things that strike you as absurd – as unlikely – as, well, funny. Your dad wearing a bucket on his head, and talking like Darth Vader. Your kids telling you all about an imaginary friend named “cup” – because he just made him as he was talking to you, and that was the first thing he saw.

Life. Life is fun. Life is, thus, funny. Sin, however, is not life. Sin is death. Sin is what caused death, is causing death, and is the cause of all death. Sin is NOT funny. God, even, is funny. He was pretty hilarious dresing down Jonah for worrying more about a pitiful plant than the city of Ninevah, for example. Or when, instead of striking down Nebuchadnezzar for his hubris in declaring himself to be a god… he struck down his mind, and reduced the most powerful man in the world to a grass-chomping quadruped.

That’s funny. Or, saving his three favorites from a fiery death in that same king’s furnace… and not even a hair on their head is singed, and their clothes look brand new. It’s strange, it’s not exactly normal. It’s funny. Imagine the look on Nebuchadnezzar’s face, when he sees these three young men he condemmed to die, walking out this insanely hot furnace. The look HAD to be priceless. Or, the look on Jonah’s face, when he realizes he’s been vomited up by a whale on the shores of Assyria – exactly where God told him to go in the first place. Just imagine that mental picture. Jonah shudders to his feet, amazed to be alive, and looks up and down the beach. Looks at himself. Looks towards Ninevah. Oh, man. That look must have been great. Hah!

We are funny beings. We think time is ours. We get ticked when we are inconvenienced, and we have “lost time”. It wasn’t ours to begin with. We get annoyed when things take too long, or we’re “cheated” out of time we “deserved”. It’s ridiculous. Laughing at ourselves is key, sometimes.

Laugh. Have fun. Be joyful. Rejoice in what God has given you, and what amuses you. Just don’t be amused at things which have no business being amusing.

Get it? Good.