Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christians and Offensive Jokes

There have been times in life when I've been in a group with other Christians and was suddenly shocked or embarrassed by what comes out of their mouths, and I don't mean cursing.

The reason Christians shouldn't joke about certain things is that it is a poor representation of Christ and His unconditional love for all people, no matter what separates them from others. We need to love like that. When Christians joke about these subjects, it taints the witness they portray to the world.

Ephesians 5:1, 4 "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children...nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

In no particular order, six things Christians shouldn't joke about:

1. Homosexuality

I hate that the word "gay" became synonymous with "stupid." Whenever I hear Christians throw around that word or mock gay people, I want to scream. A huge percentage of gay people have been severely hurt by members of the church, and this kind of behavior only makes the gap bigger. Obviously people holding signs that say "God hates fags" is highly offensive, but so is careless joking as if gay people are less deserving of respect than straight people.

2. Retardation

I learned quickly in my social work classes that using the word "retard" was a big no-no, because disabled people deserve respect. In my acting class, we referred to it as the "r-word," because it's that offensive. If non-believers give people with disabilities that much respect, how much MORE should Christians?

I can only imagine the shame and anger that would pump through my veins if I had a child with disabilities and I heard someone say "retard." I almost wish everyone had a disabled person in their intimate circle, so that we'd all understand the importance of giving respect in this area.

3. Race

God made everyone. It's one thing to joke about differences in culture, but it's totally different to degrade people based on race. I remember hearing some pretty bad racist jokes and comments from Christians in my life. It seems like racist jokes are less popular, or maybe it's just I haven't heard any lately, but I know the problem still exists.

3. Pedophilia

I confronted some Christian friends in college about laughing about this in a restaurant. I was worried that the waitress or someone around us had been a victim of child molestation and would be hurt or upset by their careless jokes. How is this ever funny? I get sick to my stomach when I think of all the kids in this country and the world that have to experience the hell of pedophilia every day. It's not a joke. It's not funny. Ever.

4. Anorexia/Bulimia

Yeah, people really die of this. If you want to know the seriousness of eating disorders, you can read my friend's blog. She gives an honest account of her struggle as well as cases where people didn't beat the addiction. I hear people joke about being anorexic, but it's not really something to joke about. It's a serious addiction.

In fact, it's best to think twice about joking about other addictions too, like gambling, alcoholism, or drug usage. These things are damaging to the addict and their relationships.

5. Degrading Sex

Sex can be funny. I think it's okay to recognize the humor in this marital (and cultural) normality. But there's a time and place for appropriate sex jokes (some Christians say that time and place is never, which is okay too). However, when jokes degrade women or men, it's completely out of line. People and sex should be respected, in practice and joking.

6. Other Christians

This is a really hard one, because it's soooooo easy to do. I'm talking about making fun of what other Christians are doing to serve God. Here are some examples: the people who hand out tracts instead of candy at Halloween, mediocre Christian filmmaking, t-shirts that say "A Bread Crumb and Fish." Okay, so I have a hard time not laughing at some of that stuff, but the bottom line is that it divides us, when we should be unified. If it's not a foundational theological difference, don't let it divide.

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

I think it's good for people to know that Christians can have fun and joke around, but there's a God-honoring way to do it. We need to constantly consider how we are reflecting Christ, because people are watching and judging us. We'll fail. We're not perfect. We're doomed as hypocrites, but we can keep trying and keep moving toward a more Christ-like lifestyle.

Lastly, I should say that I've been guilty of all this stuff at one time or another, so hopefully this post doesn't come across too point-the-finger-like.
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