About three weeks ago, lightning hit and burned to the ground a six-story statue next to the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. The targeting scored a solid 6.0 on the irony scale because the statue was of Jesus with his arms raised toward the heavens — the statue was a major landmark of southwest Ohio that passers by over the years had come to nickname “Touchdown Jesus.”
The story initially came to my attention through Alison. Over the next day or two, I heard reactions from various people covering the gamut of sorrow to humor to scorn for religion. It got me to thinking about the whole concept of blasphemy.
I have to admit that I’m not good at not laughing at things. It’s not that I don’t recognize what should be serious, but I spent enough time in the past miserable at work and at home, and unable to laugh at even what was funny. The choice between laughing and crying is a no-brainer anymore. And along the lines of Touchdown Jesus burning down, I have to say that the God I believe in ranks a sense of humor as among the greatest gifts to humanity. Seems to me, any omnipotent being would at least have the self-confidence to find what’s funny in the quirks of happenstance. It seems a direct contravention to the absolute seriousness with which so many organized churches take themselves.
I’m reminded of the furor a few years ago over the Dutch cartoons published that showed the Prophet Mohammed, which prompted radical Islamists to start making death threats. The most entertaining part of that whole episode was in Iran, where dailies published a couple of retaliatory cartoons showing Jesus in compromising situations. The Western World … shrugged. Trey Parker and Matt Stone famously parodied the Dutch cartoon situation by that pretending Comedy Central wouldn’t let them air episodes showing Mohammed.
I am a Christian. That may not come across in the snarky comments I make sometimes, but it’s in keeping with my own strong belief that we should all be able to laugh at ourselves. I think that goes for God, too. Buddha is usually embodied laughing, and polytheistic pantheons almost all had a deity whose claim to fame was being a prankster (e.g., Loki or Coyote) or a god of revelry (e.g., Bacchus). When did we go Western and monotheistic and lose the ability to laugh at ourselves?