I recently tweeted:
If you are listening to a sermon and they use “You know how women are, they always …” for a laugh line, it’s OK to get up and walk out.
That must have struck a nerve, because this is turning out to be the most re-tweeted thing I’ve ever written on twitter. I think it’s because a lot of people have been hurt by humor from the pulpit that’s just not funny.
I’ve heard it from liberals and conservatives, from egalitarians and complementarians, from men about women and women about men. The lesson here is that it’s never appropriate to use a put-down for a cheap laugh in an effort to make a point about Jesus.
Not Just Sermons
One pastor at a recent conference tweeted:
It’s exciting to be in a room with 1,300+ people none of whom are Rachel Held Evans fans. It gives me hope for the future.
When I tweeted back a question as to why he would say such a thing he responded that it was all tongue in cheek, using the “I was only joking” defense. He eventually decided to take down the original tweet, though, and that’s good. After all, the Bible says that the I-was-only-joking excuse is no excuse at all.
Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19.)
Whether it’s a sermon put-down about women in general or a tweet that throws one particular woman under the bus for a cheap laugh, pastors need to remember that members of their congregations are listening and reading. As James said:
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2.)
I’ve said a lot of dumb things in my life, things I’ve regretted immediately and things I’ve come to regret over time, so my point isn’t to shut pastors up nor to ridicule those who misspeak. The point here is to bring awareness to the power of words, even those meant only as a joke.
Because some jokes just aren’t funny.
Joking for Jesus
There’s a place for laughter in God’s kingdom, though, and I think it’s a prominent place.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2.)
Laugh and sing and speak of God. Now there’s something for pastors to remember as they prepare their next sermon.