I have been reading–and adoring–a collection of essays by G.K. Chesterton (Heretics). In “On Mr. McCabe and a Divine Frivolity” he writes:
Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else….Whether a man chooses to tell the truth in long sentences or short jokes is a problem analogous to whether he chooses to tell the truth in French or German….Mr. Bernard Shaw is funny and sincere. Mr. George Robey is funny and not sincere. Mr. McCabe is sincere and not funny. The average Cabinet Minister is not sincere and not funny.
The whole collection is like the above. I literally had to stop writing “WOW” in the margins because it was getting redundant. I honestly can’t think of any essayist who has struck me as so profound, ever.
Anyway, in this essay Chesterton claims that the Bible shows that God laughs and winks. But he doesn’t provide an exact citation, and I’m not sure what he means. I would love to believe Chesterton is right–since, after all, I call myself a Christian and others no doubt call me a wiseguy–but I’m not so sure it’s explicitly in the Bible.
Ironically, I am more confident that the God depicted in the Old Testament was “a funny guy” than Jesus in the gospels. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but the stuff in the Old Testament is hilarious the way Dr. Strangelove is hilarious. The nation of Israel is so petty and childish, it’s laugh out loud funny. Try reading the book of Jonah and picture Woody Allen as the main character, and you’ll see what I mean.
(Of course, if I wanted to be a wiseguy, I could say, “Of course God has a sense of humor. He picked the Jews as His chosen people!” But this is a serious blog post.)
But if I’m hard-pressed to find a smoking gun of the God of the Old Testament being funny, it’s even harder to find textual support that Jesus was. The gospels famously tell us, “Jesus wept,” but they never say, “Jesus laughed.” They clearly depict Him as being superbly witty, but was He actually funny? It’s possible that when He chastised the scribes that the common folk were laughing–that could explain why they killed Him. But the Bible doesn’t ever come right out and say that.
So I have three theories. Maybe some of you have others.
(A) Jesus really wasn’t funny.
(B) Jesus was a riot at times–the guy turned water into wine so people could keep drinking at a wedding feast–but the gospel writers didn’t think those were the important things to write down.
(C) Jesus/God the Father are funny, but they are so much smarter/wiser/moral than everyone around them, that their humor is totally deadpan. God could say, “You’re wondering if I’m funny?! Did you open your eyes and look out the window today?”
To put it another way, I think we can all agree that someone who goes through this world with a wonderful sense of humor, is much better off than someone who never smiles. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that the Being who designed this world, understands the importance of humor?