A Christian Sense of Humor
by Holly Vicente Robaina
When others insult Christianity, should we laugh, be silent, or get mad?
July 1, 2009 | Today's Christian Woman
Did you hear about the so-called Christian group that's protesting the upcoming video game "Dante's Inferno"? Claiming they were from a church in Ventura County, California, about 20 members of S.A.V.E.D. (an acronym for "Salvationists Against Virtual and Eternal Damnation") handed out pamphlets outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center during the Electronic Entertainment Expo last month and held picket signs that read, "Hell is not a game" and "Trade in your PlayStation for a PrayStation." The group also posted a website and YouTube videos.
I should tell you right now: The whole thing is a publicity stunt for the video game company Electronic Arts. Yet two reputable newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury-News, initially reported this "protest" as actual, factual news. Online posts and blogs on the topic indicate a number of folks are taking it seriously. Regardless of whether they're in on the joke or not, many are offering the same comment: "Can't Christians take a joke?"
Once again, Christianity's been portrayed as laughable. Most Christians will get an earful of jokes, pokes, and even some outright insults in our lives. When this happens, should we laugh it off, express our hurt, or get angry?
I think different slights call for different responses. Generally, we should respond with our honest reaction. If we think a joke about Christians or the church is funny, we should laugh about it. In my opinion, there are some hilarious jokes about Christians. (One website I enjoy is Stuff Christians Like; I'm told the blogger is a Christian.)
But we shouldn't limit these positive responses only to other Christians. I've heard atheists slam bad behavior by Christians, and I had to nod and agree they were right. Such snubs are actually helpful: I receive insight into how others view the church, and I'm able to surprise them by admitting Christians aren't perfect--individually and collectively, Christians do some loony things.
But if we're hurt by a statement, we should say this and explain the reason - namely, that our faith is important to us. Others can understand your emotional state if you explain by using examples to which they'll relate. For example, tell the one who's offended you, "When you insult my faith, it's like if I insulted your spouse or your parents; I love God just as strongly as you love your family. I know you may not understand why I love God, but as my friend who cares about my feelings, I need you to acknowledge the depth of my relationship with God."
There's a big difference between jabs at Christians, and insults about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Such statements are unacceptable: This is where we need to draw the line and diplomatically express our anger. It's a matter of standing up for our God. We need to correct any lies or misconceptions about God's character, and warn the offending friend that the most high God won't tolerate those insults forever. Any actions we take - such as disconnecting from the friendship if the insults toward God continue - are done so that we're not associated with the blasphemy.
The one thing we must avoid is holding our tongues. If we're silent when someone speaks ill, it might cause them to think the insults are appropriate and acceptable - that we don't really care about our faith. So whether it's acknowledging, "Yeah, Christians can do some awful stuff sometimes. I hope you don't think the misguided actions of some Christians represent God's character"; or pressing, "You know I'm a Christian--do you feel that way about me?"; or being blunt, "What you said is completely inappropriate. (Or intolerant. Or crass.) Why would you say something like that?"--speaking up shows others that our relationship with God is important to us.
I have mixed feelings about the Electronic Arts publicity stunt. Portraying Christians as people who sometimes protest in corny ways isn't inaccurate. The fact that this publicity stunt worked should cause us all to evaluate, Are there ways I'm fulfilling the stereotype that Christians are hypersensitive hotheads?
But I'm not about to laugh this one off, either. I'm troubled by the flippant use of images of Jesus and of the cross to hawk a video game. I'm still chewing on how I might express my disapproval to the company. In the meantime, I'll offer this comment posted on the Los Angeles Times website by "Thom Olson," which is a great example of what I've discussed here:
"I am disappointed that EA is all right with usurping the voice of religious people to promote a game. Past viral/guerilla marketing campaigns have been more clearly divorced from reality, and I think this crosses a line. If EA had â€˜protesters' who were of an ethnic group out there with literature and costuming that made them look foolish, I think the inappropriateness of this campaign would be more clear. In a world suffering because business seems to feel that the ends justify the means, I hope we see the return of basic ethics to business soon."
When others make jokes or insult Christianity, how do you respond?