July 6, 2005

In search of offensive religious jokes.

BBC reports:
Ship of Fools, an online magazine which describes itself as the "Private Eye of the Christian world", is looking for the funniest, and most offensive, Christian jokes.

In the face of legislation [in Britain] it fears will limit what people can joke about in a religious context - a claim strongly rejected by ministers - it wants to provoke a debate about what is humorous and what is offensive.

"It's vital we have such criticism at the heart of our way of life and religion," says co-editor Stephen Goddard, who thinks an interactive debate is healthy for Christianity.

"But no-one knows quite where humour goes into offence, because one man's joke is another man's offensive comment. We're trying to find the theology of humour - how to understand humour from a Christian perspective, and we're giving people the chance to judge their own views by other people's."

But why is religion so often a source of comedy? Mr Goddard says it because there's a black humour to the Bible stories.

"The prophets did crazy things to draw the attention of people to repentance and a return to godly ways, like dragging dogs through the streets or sitting on a pillar for 40 years. Religion tends to draw certain extreme people, which can be very good material for humour."
Note the limitation of the search: Christians are searching for offensive jokes about Christianity. Making someone else's religion into a joke is another matter. Not that I think it should be against the law.

(Please don't be offensive in the comments!)


Meade said...

Today in Christian history, June 6:

Jan Hus, the Bohemian heretic or reformer (depending on your point of view), was burned on this day in 1415. He had been promised safe conduct by the Council of Constance if he came and told them a bit about his interesting new theology. Having no obligation to keep their word to heretics they then killed him.

okay, not exactly ha ha funny, but it is sort of inoffensively ironic funny, right?

leeontheroad said...

Ship of Fools has done good work on its own being amusing about Anglican Christianity, for certain. "Ship" was a British magazine before it went online; my favorite part of their site is "Gadgets for God." Of course, some folk find that edgy. Some folk like Elvis images on black velvet, too-- as is their perogative.

Thanks for the heads up on this one, Ann.

cobra verde said...

This is off topic, but you reminded me of something. Why is it that racial/ethinic jokes are okay to laugh at publicly, when told by a member of the same group, but considered in poor taste, or even blatantly racist otherwise? Jewish people (Woody Allen comes to mind) can get away with some of the most degrading remarks about their kind and fully expect everyone to laugh about it. Not only this, but why is it okay to laugh only if the joke teller is of the same ethinicty/race as the people he/she jokes about? In other words, a white person can laugh at a derogatory joke about black people only if the joke is told by a black person. However, the same white person could not get away with telling the same joke to the same people. It's as if we have to go through some kind of "comedy calculus" before we give ourselves persmission to laugh. This seems quite unnatural and false to me.

Ann Althouse said...

Cobra Verde: Among other things, it seems to me that it's similar to the way it feels completely different to make fun of yourself and to have somebody else make fun of you. Self-deprecating humor has a sweetness to it. Running someone else down seems mean.

cobra verde said...

Yes, I've heard that response before. But it does not account for, say, white people laughing heartily at a joke about black people, when told by a black person, but maintaing a stony silence at the identical joke when told by a white person (Assuming, of course, we're in public.) Self-deprecation applies to one's "self", not others. (But I'll concede that people of the same group might partake in some kind of "group deprecation".) If it is funny and not mean-spirited in the first context, and not mean-spirited in the second, how, where and why does it become unfunny? Why, if it is so funny to the self-derecator and his/her group, can't it be funny in a non-malicious way to those outside that group? One either thinks the substance of the joke is funny or not. But something else comes into play before we allow ourselves to laugh.

Stephanie said...

Cobra: I think it's because, besides what Ann said, when a member of the group that's being made fun of tells the joke, it's seen as eliminating the possibility of racism/anti-Semitism/etc. If a black person is telling a joke about black people, the thinking goes (or so I'm figuring), there can't be any actual bigotry involved, because who would say such things about themselves and really mean them? And so people don't feel like -- or look like -- they're participating in something dirty when they laugh.

Troy said...

Why don't Southern Baptists have sex standing up?

Because people might think they are dancing.

Anyone north of Kansas might be scratching, but in the Bible belt -- it's friggin' high-larious. (Says the SBC'er)

More silly than offensive.

oulawdog said...

Why do you always take two Baptists fishing?

Because if you take just one, he will drink all your beer.

cobra verde said...

I take self-deprecation to mean "look, i'm admitting this uncomplimentary aspect about myself, and can not only laugh about it, but want you to as well". I just don't see how it's self-depracation otherwise. But what you say about participating in something dirty is what I'm getting at. If it's true and funny, there shold be little concern about whether it's okay to laugh. If certain subjects are off-limits, at least in a public context, then they should be so for everybody. If there's something altogether improper about, say, ethnic and racial jokes, then I don't buy the loophole that says it's okay when guised as self-deprecating humor. I tend to think, and maybe I'm wrong, that we're laughing at the specific object of the the self-deprecating joke, and that the object does not somehow become un-funny, if pointed out in the same spirit, just because someone not the original joke-maker, or his/her group, retells the joke. Social propriety is one thing, but when we start attempting to mandate what is/is not funny on the gut level, I think we're getting into some bad stuff. But I don't mean to commandeer the religious joke thread. Just wanted to know what you all thought.

mcg said...

OK, I just know that someone on this thread has a Baylor Bear or two in the family besides me.

ziemer said...

the joke about baptists standing up may be better but this is the best about catholics.

a priest in a nice suburbuan parish goes downtown to do charity work one day, and wherever he goes, women say to him, "bj, fifty bucks."

but he is sheltered and does not know what they mean.

so after he finishes his day's charity work in the core, he goes back to his nice suburban parish, and asks one of the nuns, "sister, whats a bj?"

she answers, "fifty bucks. same as downtown."

Mark Daniels said...

Just a comment about 'Ship of Fools.' It is hysterically funny. Another place to go to see Christians satirizing the Church and all the crazy things Christians do in the Name of Christ, is 'Wittenburg Door.' (That's right, the magazine misspells 'Wittenberg.')

Noumenon said...

cobra: Your post reminded me of this bit I saw on Friday night standup:

Standup: OK, I've been in this business for a while now, and all I have to say is... Jews, Jews, Jews. They're everywhere! Oh, it's okay for me to say that, because, you know, I'm... a racist.

Goesh said...

There was this guy who just happened to be a fundamentalist Christian. He was born with a frog attached to the top of his head and it grew to be a massive frog. One day this fellow was walking around and noticed a Synagouge and wandered in, right in the middle of their prayers. The Rabbi stopped and approached the fellow and couldn't help but notice the massive frog sitting on top of his head. The Rabbi asked, " what can I do for you, Mister?" and the frog replied, " you can start by removing this wart from my ass".

Pastor_Jeff said...

A woman dies and goes to heaven, and St. Peter takes her on a tour of heaven. They pass a pit where there were people gnashing their teeth and wailing, and the woman says, "Who's down there?"

St. Peter says, "Those are the Catholics who ate meat on Fridays."

They walked a little farther and there was another pit with more groaning and wailing, and she says, "O.K., who's down there?"

St. Peter answers, "Those are the Baptists who went to dances."

And a little farther along, there was another pit and people down there gnashing their teeth and crying and ripping their garments, and she says, "And those people?"

And St. Peter says, "Those are the Episcopalians who ate their salads with their dessert forks."

Q. How many televangelists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Just one; but for the message of change to continue, keep your gifts coming.

Q. How many Pentecostals does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Five. One to change the bulb and four to bind the spirit of darkness.

Q. How many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. They don't change bulbs. They were predestined to burn out.

Yes to Ship of Fools and The Door - both are good.

And it's not a source of jokes, but another good Christian satire site is LarkNews.com.

peter hoh said...

How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to change it, and one to say he liked the old lightbulb better.

Episcopalians: when two or three are gathered, there shall be a fifth.

Mary's not sure what to name her baby. Walking into the manger, one of the wise men bumps his head on a timber. "Jesus Christ!" he exclaims. "Hey, great name," says Mary.

Dixie Flatline said...

On the differences between various religions:
1. Jews do not recognize the divinity of Jesus.
2. Episcopalians do not recognize the authority of the Pope.
3. Southern Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store.

And at some point, somebody sent me a selection of Unitarian Universalist jokes. A few of my favorites:

Q: Why are there no Unitarians in Heaven?
A: When you die, your soul comes to a fork in the road. Pointing in one direction, a sign says "Heaven". In the other direction, the sign says "Discussion About Heaven".

Q: When the KKK wants to chase a Unitarian family out of town, how do they do it?
A: Burn a question mark on their lawn.

A serial arsonist is burning down places of worship. He sets fire to a synagogue, and the rabbi rushes into the flames to rescue the Torah. He sets fire to a Catholic church, and the priest rushes into the flames to rescue the crucifix. He sets fire to a Unitarian church, and the minister rushes into the flames to rescue the coffeepot.

miklos rosza said...

This whole thread kind of bugs me after the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, the prosecution of Michel Houellebecq in France and now Oriana Fallacci in Italy, the assassination of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands... for what? Oh yeah, they were allegedly disrespectful to Islam.

But Andres Serrano can exhibit his crucifix in a jar of urine and become a celebrity because he's so "subversive."

Make a joke about Islam -- or associated tribal practices still clinging to it like honor-rapes -- and you're literally risking your life. Everyone knows this, and submits.

The bullies prevail.

Troy said...

How many Muslims does it take to change a light bulb?


What?!? you think I'm stupid?

This fat one needs no fatwa.

Gort said...

A Priest, a Minister and a Rabbi are at the funeral of a man that helped everyone in town. Whenever someone offered him money for his efforts he always refused saying "you can't take it with you." The Priest decides he is going to give the old guy something to take with him and puts a $100 bill in the coffin. The minister not wanting to be upstaged did the same. The Rabbi watched this and decided he also wanted to get in on the act. So he wrote a check for $300 and took $200 change.

headzero said...

Why do all the chicks dig Jesus?

He was hung like this (holding hands out to the side like you're up on the cross)

Ya, you burn in hell for telling it, but you can make Catholics spit beer through their noses from laughing if you tell it in a bar.

Diane said...

Cobra Verde;

Simple. It's the same reason that I'm allowed the make fun of my mother, and it's okay if you laugh with me, but if you make fun of my mother I might have to hurt you.

My siblings will let me make fun of our mother, but a stranger? Bah!

We have no choice about who our mothers are. Someone else making fun of our mothers is rude, because they are making fun of something that we are the victim of. Us making fun of our mothers is okay because we are helping ourselves endure it, and people laughing with us is simply showing us support.

Another person making fun of our mothers doesn't suffer from having our mother the way that we do. That's just mean.

It's the same for race, social class, and other things you are born into.

For instance, a black person making fun of White Trash is offensive. Jeff Foxworthy is hilarious.

DirtCrashr said...

As the son of a pastor and raised a missionary kid, I'm cracking-up at the jokes, especially the Baptist ones - you should hear a bunch of old missionaries crack jokes.
Some of these are oldies-but-goodies, I've always enjoyed interdenominational religious humor and as a "bad Christian," one year I sent out a Christmas card (not to everybody) which featured Jesus standing at an open door, and Mary shouting, "Jesus Christ, shut the door! What, were you born in a barn?" :-)

Sean E said...

cobra verde, Seinfeld addressed this years back when his dentist converted to Judeism to get access to the jokes.

diane, I was with you until your last sentence.

HaloJonesFan said...

Redneck is the new blackface.

Noumenon said...

What does the H. stand for in Jesus H. Christ?

Ann Althouse said...

Noumenon: We should start a new search: for the nerdiest relgious jokes.

Stephen said...

I guess you have to be white trash to appriciate it. Having spent much of my formative years in a trailer-park, I snort milk out of my nose watching him.

Chuck said...

What combination of 50 U.S. coins makes a dollar?

40 pennies, 8 nickels, and 2 dimes.