Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who's the Comedian?

I was talking to a layperson yesterday (a member of another church) about the task of biblical preaching. We talked about how some people think there must be a "trick" or a "secret" to biblical preaching, when in reality, it is simply reading the word, explaining the word, and applying the word. I say "simply," but in fact it is hard work. If there's a trick or secret to it, it is that you have to exert much intellectual and spiritual sweat in the work of preparing biblical sermons. But contrast this with those who want to give "life tips" and nice little talks that may allude at some point to the Bible without expounding the Scriptures clearly and straight-forwardly. To this my friend said, "And some preachers think they have to be comedians too!" We've all seen this. I know some preachers who are known for their jokes. And nothing pains me more than hearing the same jokes repeated ad nauseum from every pulpit in the world. Usually I just sit there and mutter the punch line to whoever is sitting beside me before the set-up is finished.

Preachers as comedians? We who handle the most precious and serious truth in the universe, trying to cash it in for a mess of pottage so that people will think we are cute and funny! How ironic. George Carlin has died this week, and the blogosphere is full of reflection about his career. George Carlin was vulgar, blasphemous, and obscene. He was also brilliant and the intelligent insight he had on "regular life" was what made him so funny. Reading the blogs about him in recent days, I am particularly struck by the comments of the Internet Monk. I think this comment struck me so sharply because of the conversation I had yesterday with my friend about preachers trying to be comedians.

Here is the comment from the iMonk:

"What strikes me as continually ironic is that Carlin and other comedians have become the truth-tellers of our time, while Christians, especially in their official capacities as preachers, etc., have become the embodiment of truth avoidance and truth obscuration. Or, if you’d like to get on the more cynical bus with me and the Ecclesiastes Band, we’re more known for being liars about the human journey than we are for telling the truth. In that sense, I can say a hardy Thank God for George Carlin, who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was, even if it totally overturned the tables so nicely arranged by the orderers of society and the custodian of decent thought."

Read the whole thing here.

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