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The Laughing Evangelist

Was Jesus a joker? There’s not a lot of explicit chicanery in the gospels, but when you read the gospels, you get the impression that there was within our Lord an incredible lightness of being.

He may not have been a joker, but he enjoyed the joke. I think he took pleasure in being subversive and undermining the deadly seriousness of the Pharisees. He was quick witted and I’m many of his one liners raised a laugh among his hearers. Most of all, I think he exuded an irrepressible joy, zeal and energy that was infectious. He was fun to be with.

Chesterton said “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” This is one of the marks of true religion, and when I come across Some Catholics who cannot laugh–and most of all cannot laugh at themselves–I get worried.

Humor is one of the signs of the saints. Even in their hardships–especially in their hardships–they were able to crack a joke as their heads were being cracked open or laugh their heads off as their heads were being lopped off. St Thomas More asked for help as he was climbing the scaffold to be executed and commented, “Thank you. I will not need your assistance to get down.” Another English martyrs, when the executioner had hung him and cut him open began to reach in to tear out his heart. He said, “Do not touch that. It belongs to Jesus Christ.”

Saints sing in prison. I think they also make jokes in prison. They know that their trials are just a stepping stone to glory.

In these dark days when black hooded thugs behead children and threaten global terror–in these days when we are besieged with the most deadly serious religion to ever threaten humanity–Islam, it is ever more important for Christians to be hilarious evangelists. We need to take it up a notch and start making jokes about the dark lords of ISIS. We need to tickle the terrorists and joke about the Jihadists.

One of the joyful things about being with Jesse and Ray this weekend is that they were as joyful and fun and funny offstage as they were on. If we were having a drink or just sitting around together they were always joshing and poking fun at each other and me. They didn’t take themselves seriously, and that helped us to take them seriously.

When Jesse and Dr Ray made people laugh their defenses went down. They did feel good about their religion and their God and they did feel uplifted and that means they went away charged up in their faith and wanting to serve and love God more.

This same principle applies when any kind of emotion is used in worship. Music is another tool we use to pry open those jam closed doors of the heart.

The heart without the head leads to sappy sentimentalism. Along with the open heart needs to be an open mind. Along with the engaged emotions needs to be an engaged intellect. You better have a main course before you have the dessert.

Ray and Jesse are laughing cavaliers, happy warriors, hilarious evangelists. They radiate the joy of Christ and the power of the gospel to transform.

More power to them, and may more men and women with their gifts rise up to serve God’s church.