by Jim Elliff
I watched a portion of a video designed for the purpose of telling Bible stories and presenting the gospel. The entertainer was dressed like an angelic Elvis Presley, complete with wings. The clothes and movements of the entertainer’s body were an overstatement of the real Elvis. My friend touted the act as “soooooo funny.” It was. I mean that he was so funny that I could not help but laugh. What should we think about this approach?
1. First, the combination of the gospel (which is dead serious) and staged humor make strange bedfellows. I am not speaking of occasional situational humor that is often acceptable. And I certainly do not mean that we should never laugh. We appreciate both humor and the gospel, but do they work well together? Is a comedic presentation the appropriate tool for such a weighty subject? One has to ask the question, “What is soooooo funny about the gospel?” In this program, Elvis was said to be “sent from God.” But are angelic majesties “soooooo funny?” Is the truth about the cross “soooooo funny? Are sin, heaven, hell, Christ, salvation, or even the stories of redemptive history “soooooo funny?” What does God think about this? Should I listen to the gospel from a man in a winged Elvis suit?
2. The medium of humor is a poor instrument of conviction. Children, and everybody else for that matter, are brought to the need for repentance through the conviction of the Spirit. Does laughter get me there? Does that which is designed to trivialize, also cause me to agonize?
3. The use of such means may deaden the child’s ability and appetite to receive truth in a more conventional spoken or written form. In other words, entertainment becomes to the listener the preferred medium of receiving his information about God. The undiscerning listener (and that’s what all children are by nature until trained) may soon become unable to receive truth any other way. And this addiction to entertainment as the conveyor of information may last into adulthood.
4. Generally speaking, making truth entertaining means that the nuances and complexities are removed, and only a simple or direct transferable idea is useable. I am saying that most entertainment does not have the ability to give the child anything substantive, but rather only a greatly reduced or simplistic concept.
5. Quite often, God’s name is taken in vain. For instance, to say that God sent an angelic Elvis as I have described above is really to desecrate God’s character and name. Humor about God is almost always an “empty” or “vain” way of speaking about the God of the universe. We wouldn’t be able to put on such a performance in front of God’s throne in heaven.
6. Depending on the level of intensity of the entertainment, the truth may be totally drowned in the humor. In other words, what the child remembers may not be truth about God at all, but the funny situation depicted. At the end of the day, the child may come away from the entertaining religious experience having learned nothing at all.
Copyright © 2002 Jim Elliff. Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc. Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in unedited form including author’s name, title, complete content, copyright and weblink. Other uses require written permission.