Religious jokes: Good clean fun or offensive?

Comedians on the old comedy circuits used to tell plenty of religious jokes, usually about their own religion or denomination. The habit was still going strong during the years of “The Tonight Show” in Steve Allen’s tenure and Johnny Carson’s tenure. I thought most of the jokes were funny.

Now, with so much hatred in our world, I wonder if those jokes can still be told. I think we should still be able to tell them, but worry that they might be taken as an offensive attack rather than a lighthearted jest aimed at the foibles of our own or our friends’ beliefs.

Perhaps our concern about the jokes tells us just how rampant the hatred has become. Rather than friends laughing at their differences, we seem to have become enemies attacking each other over things that don’t matter or things that seem threatening now to live as we know it.

This joke, from 58+ Quirky & Hillarious Baptist Jokes, is the sort of thing I’m talking bout: “After the plane took off, the cowboy asked for a whiskey and soda, which was brought and placed before him.

The flight attendant then asked the preacher if he would like a drink.

Appalled, the preacher replied, “I’d rather be tied up and taken advantage of by women of ill-repute, than let liquor touch my lips.”

The cowboy then handed his drink back to the attendant and said, “Me too, I didn’t know we had a choice.”

So, do you laugh or do you say that such jokes aren’t woke?

Or this, from Brentwood Presbyterian Church:

A woman visitor to a Presbyterian Church was disrupting church one day with your enthusiastic yelps of “Praise God!” and “Hallelujah!” One of the ushers tried to quiet her down. He tried to explain to her that she was disrupting the worship service.

“But mister, I got religion!” The woman proclaimed.

“Yes, madame,” replied the usher. “But you did not get it here!”

I see the humor in that. I grew up in the Presbyterian church and knew that we were fairly boring to the members of other denominations, especially the Southern Baptists whom we thought really overdid the gaudy decorations in their church.  The Methodists had two pulpits for reasons we didn’t comprehend, so we assumed it allowed the ministers to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Growing up, I poked fun at the Presbyterian Church’s historic belief in predestination, including the concept of election, a philosophy that asserted those going to Heaven and those going to Hell were predetermined and unchangeable. My approach to this was that it didn’t matter whether we went to church or not since our fate was already engraved in stone. My parents and minister didn’t like my view, but then I was quoting doctrine.

So, what’s your take? Can I still say I’m giving up sobriety for lent or is that something I shouldn’t say?

As a writer, I always like to push the envelope–or perhaps destroy it–but the hatred of the times keeps trying to keep us in line.



‘The Templar Revelation’ by Picknett and Prince

I’m re-reading this book because, like a mountain, it was there. (Amazon’s page listing reminds me that I bought it in 2004, seven years after it was released.) “There” in this case means that the book was sitting on my bookshelf in plain view when I put my feet up on my desk and wondered what to read next after finishing the Travis McGee thriller. McGee and the Knights Templar have very little in common, so my reading trend of late has more to do with having nothing new in the house than it does with a consistent, well-managed approach to reading.

Unlike MacDonald’s The Dreadful Lemon Sky, this book promises “The secret code of Leonardo de Vinci Revealed” and that I will learn about the “Secret guardians of the true identity of Christ.” Good Lord, I’m thinking, there appear to be conspiracy theories higher than Mt. Everest when it comes to that old-time religion. A lot of people were wondering about that old-time religion when this book came out since Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982) found a diverse audience and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was about to hit the fan in 2003.

I thrive off this kind of stuff, not because I pay much attention to the daily conspiracy theories coming out of Washington, but because–to my ministers’ displeasue–I’ve always had a lot of questions about the politics behind the Bible’s selection of books and about the “stuff” that seems to be missing from Sunday school class and vacation Bible school. In those days, I was seen as disruptive. Now, other than an occasional post on this blog, I don’t say much about religion. As Salman Rushie found out, saying things about religion isn’t safe.

Religion, it seems to be, has created one hell of a mess throughout the world when you consider wars found over it, people burnt at the stake because of it, and books banned from libraries because the town’s rulers believe stuff that doesn’t fit their kids’ available fiction. So, I’m not about to put a sign in my yard that says Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife. I think she was, but in our neighborhood, it’s much safer to put up a “John 3.16” sign than anything more inflammatory. Years ago, the signs would have said “Impeach Earl Warren.”

I’m enjoying re-reading The Templar Revelation because it contains the kind of subject matter that it’s not safe to talk about. No, I don’t believe it lock, stock, and barrel, but I like being free to consider the evidence in the privacy of my home since I’m not really free to say it on Facebook or in a letter to the editor of my daily newspaper.  Freedom of speech and freedom of religion seem to be controlled by the crazy people with basements full of guns.