But I could count on something -- once a month or so, there would be a car salesman in the room, and he'd feel a need to get up and defend the honor of car salesmen everywhere: "You know, a car salesman is just trying to sell you the best car he can at the highest price you'll pay," he'd explain, as though we all needed to take Car Salesman Explanation 101. Everyone in the audience would sit, blink, maybe nod once, then hope someone else was going to go back to the humor, because jokes about car salesmen don't require an explanation. They're JOKES, for crying out loud. Not mean spirited, just funny. They had attitude. They included exaggeration. They offered over-the-top examples. That's what actually made it humor. But... some people just don't get it. They're humor-impaired. Unable to figure out that a person being funny isn't trying to personally offend them. They're just telling jokes.
I share this with you because I recently posted this on my Facebook page: "Warning to Stupid People: I don't need your bears. I don't need your hearts. I don't need your rainbows. I especially don't need them if I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. So pack up your rainbow-hearted-pillow-bears and hit the road." If you're on Facebook, you already know what I'm talking about -- people will come on and say they're sending you a heart to show they love you, or hand you an angel to show they're spiritual, or hit you with a cyber-pillow to show the have the brains of a Cocker Spaniel. (See? That was HUMOR!) Anyway, most people got the joke. They've read my blog, know that I use attitude and sardonic humor, and understand that I'm being funny. I don't honestly think most people are stupid. I wouldn't really tell someone to hit the road.
But...some people just don't get it. Any time I do something like this, I get notes from church ladies, who feel a need to scold me. "NICE people don't call others stupid, Chip." "There's no reason to call others names." "If you were really a Christian, you wouldn't say such mean things." One person (someone I've NEVER MET, and who clearly doesn't know me) came on to say that she was shocked that I would engage in "name-calling."
My mature, Christian response: Give me a flippin' break. This is HUMOR, people. It's characterized by things like exaggeration, attitude, and offbeat observations. With humor, you mimic people. You set up silly comparisons. You talk about things you hate, or things you love, or things that frighten you. You explore the dopey things that happen in this world -- the negative personality traits, the over-the-top behaviors, the crazy worries you have (and my thanks to Judy Carter for her wonderful exploration of humor in STAND-UP COMEDY: THE BOOK). Much of comedy writing is a set-up and a punchline; the rest is basically descriptive observations that have their core meaning set in truth. The comic writer goes a bit beyond, or has a skewed view of it, but that's what makes it funny. And, frankly, it's funniest when the person doing it is completely sincere (or at least seems that way). Give a look to the blog of Jenny B Jones sometime, and see how she plays on her fears, her behaviors, and the things she loves that don't make any sense. And Jenny, like me, enjoys poking fun at herself as much as others. There is nothing mean-spirited or unChristian about it.
When did Christians decide to stop laughing? When did we decide we can't have people who are curmudgeons? (Cec Murphey, you're in trouble!) When did we determine we don't want people poking fun at the dopey behaviors we all fall into? (Julie Barnhill and Charles Marshall -- report to the principle's office.) Why is it that using sardonic humor is suddenly unacceptable? (If that's what you think, you might want to read your prophets and the Apostle Paul a bit more carefully.) Maybe this is why there isn't a big "humor" section in religious bookstores.
Sorry, but I have a personality, and it shows in my writing. Jim Rubart, who is a marketing guru for all those novelists trying to figure out how to promote their books in a crowded marketplace, likes to tell people I'm "the bad boy of Christian publishing." Maybe -- but that's not what I intend. I'm just trying to share information, and I don't feel like doing it apart from my personality. If I see something that looks stupid, I have a tendency to say, "That's stupid." Not, "I've prayed about this deeply, and while we are all different, the Spirit says to me that you and I are not in complete harmony." Sure, I've made mistakes with that at times. I've sometimes said things I regret, or poked fun at someone who was easily offended. But anyone who has spent any time with me at all knows I don't have a mean bone in my body. I recently disagreed with Ted Dekker on something, wrote about it, and he called me and we talked. No hard feelings -- I respect the heck out of Ted, I just disagreed with something he said. And I fear Christians have entered a stage where disagreeing is bad, disagreeing publicly is very bad, and disagreeing with humor and attitude means you're no longer part of the camp.
That's not good enough for me. Look, I'm not out to ruin your day. I'm out to share good information and, frankly, to have some fun. If my words make you unhappy, I'm sorry. You may want to read someone else -- someone nicer than me. (Rachelle Gardner is nicer than me. Try her blog.) But don't give up on humor just yet, okay? This world is screwed up, and if you can't laugh about it, you're going to find this one long, sorrow road.