Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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HT Stalin’s Moustache
I always wondered if the crew got written up when the body turned up missing.
I wonder what percent of Christian readers reflexively felt either disgusted, offended, uncomfortable or some other similar sensation on seeing this cartoon.Next I wonder how many ex-Christian readers actually felt the same. (I doubt "Natural Atheists" feel it.)Then I wonder, how did those who internally grimmace when they first saw this, finally justify in their heads why it is OK or at least serves a purpose?I love understanding those internal states in all of us.James, did it bother you when you first saw it? If not, what do you think is the difference in visceral response between yourself and others in your church (for instance)?
To answer part of my own question:Here is a NZ church's "insensitive" poster with an explanation of why such "insensitivity"/ humor can be viewed as healthy among Christians.
Sabio, as an ex-Christian I was not at all offended, but instead thought it was hilarious. But that's probably due to my warped sense of humor more than anything else.
A friend and former colleague gave a lecture on the philosophy of humor, and one thing I learned is that we don't know why things are funny. And so I'd be interested to know if anyone found it offensive, and if so why. It seems that the self-centeredness of the soldier depicts human nature in a manner that is compatible with Christian doctrine!
I think that this cartoon is funny precisely because it makes a very important point, one that I think most progressive or social-justice minded Christians would instantly recognize. I think really gets to the heart of the difference between the Roman Imperial ideology and its attendant concepts of what things like "justice" or "compassion" mean to Caesar, versus what those things mean to God. I would bet that Dominic Crossan would find that cartoon enormously to the point.
I don't know if I would say that I'm offended….but I would line up with Sabio's initial point about revulsion.If I stop and actively think about the cartoon, I get the point….but my first reaction is one of thinking the humor might be out of place and disliking the attempt at humorizing a sacred/revered person/event.
After thinking about why I don't like this cartoon,trying analyze the un-analyzable, I think I have figured out why.I'm assuming that the point of the cartoon is to identify and criticize the Roman soldier's narcissism. We're supposed to be shoked by his inability to empathize with the pain of crucifixion while complaining about a small boo-boo.That's one way of looking at it.I think the revulsion comes from another way of perceiving the humor…as a complete trivialization of the subject…as a revelation that the subject is unworthy of even the consideration of basic humanity.Think of Nazis cracking jokes as they execute Jews…it's a revolting idea to make jokes in the face of horrific events. It's not at all "funny" and is more of a revolting glimpse into the darkest side of humanity.This cartoon is not any different…but it seems as if it is because it's drawn in a "cute" style and Jesus seems more annoyed than dying in exrcuciating pain.THe idea that this could be "funny" comes from a place of denying it's reality. It's only "funny" if you don't think it's real.So…at its core…the cartoon undermines the concept of Jesus's death.
Please don't get me wrong:(1) I don't think Jesus died for my sins (or anyone else's)(2) I don't think it is funny, probably because I don't enjoy slap-stick, nor does it really say anything to me. But I kind of did like the pudgy Jesus. (3) I was not the least bit offended. Jesus stuff ain't in my taboo brain. Humans have a part of brain to safeguard items — the taboo brain. It breaks down in some mental illness and thus get a flood of soteriological and scatological chatter in all cultures. So I assume it was taboo in some of your reader's minds (like Terri) and wanted to hear their impressions (thanx Terri). Oddly enough, taboo is a great way to control thinking — sometimes humor plays with that. I guess you could call it taboo therapy.
I didn't think anyone would find the cartoon offensive. I thought that my attempts to be humorous in words recently were far more likely to offend. I promise to post a cartoon for Easter that will offend a completely different constituency, so as to be fair.
@ JamesThat you did not think anyone would be offended shows in what a unique space your head lives ! That is a compliment!Lookin' forward to your next offense.;-)
This reminded me of the film, "In the Name of the Rose" where the crazy monk destroys an Greek philosophers book on humor because if people make jokes, they might even laugh at God. I'm sure Jesus didn't think it was funny at the time, but if he feels the same after 2000 years, there might be something wrong with him. I'm from the school that says all things are funny eventually, even rape(see George Carlin) and the Holocaust. It's been said that there are so many Jewish comedians because the Jews used humor to take control of the evil that oppressed them.
It is certainly true that Nazis making jokes while they execute Jews is not funny. But Nazis themselves have been the butt of jokes, including by Jews (consider Mel Brooks's "The Producers"). I saw this cartoon as making the Roman soldier the butt of the joke, rather than Jesus, but perhaps I was making that inference from the title of this post ("A Roman Perspective on Good Friday"). Without that title, perhaps the cartoon would have a different significance.
I feel like a school marm….I don't think all things, even rape, eventually become funny. If they do, it's because the people joking and laughing are removed through time and a lack of emotional connection to what's being joked about.Humor can be found in tragedy, certainly. Black, gallows humor is probably necessary. I think the difference is in who is doing the joking. If teh victim makes a joke about it….it's funny. If the perpetrator makes a joke about it it's distasteful.never it let it be said that I can't strain at gnats….
Teri, if we were laughing with the Roman soldier then I might agree with you, but I think the point is that we are not laughing with the Roman soldier but rather at him. The use of humor against those who oppress is a time honored tool of the disenfranchised.
I think our school marm (Terri) is right on one important point. It matters who is laughing about what.
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