Laugh Christians and Take the Joke

What is it about us Christians that hold so tightly to the idea that we can’t make fun of ourselves or what we do? Growing up in the church, I was told that we shouldn’t joke about such things and that some aspects of the faith are to be off-limits/kept holy. While to this day I still think this way about some things and cringe whenever someone pokes fun at Pentecostal flag waving or if there are dancers in the aisles at a particular church, I still believe that we take ourselves MUCH too seriously.

As a young boy in the church, I grew up knowing that Christians were a bit up-tight, sensitive, and protective of certain things that should never be made fun of. This was and to an extent, still is a stigma of the Christian faith. Christians unwilling to take a joke when it’s directed at their practices, aspects of their belief, or even some deeply real truths related to how others see us, has left non-believers with this unfortunate image of Christians as unwilling to laugh at themselves or enjoy healthy satire.

Babylon Bee. That’s all I need to say for those who know the website. For those who don’t, the website has been called the Christian Onion. And I realize for some of you, and those who frequently misuse Onion articles, this may be too vague as well. The Onion is a satire website poking fun at life, politics, pop-culture, and world events. Satire has a way of pointing to truth in a rather amusing way.

sat·ire    ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/     noun
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

So, there’s that.

All caught up. Hopefully.

The Babylon Bee is not the only source to realize that we could all do with a bit of humor in our life when it comes to Christianity. Another popular source of sarcastic hilarity these days is a man by the name of John Crist. John is a comedian who does clean stand-up, and makes YouTube videos that push the conventional, stiff boundaries of “things-all-christians-know-about-but-no-one-talks-about.” Needless to say, if you like humor that sheds light on the Christian way of life, his stuff is quite funny. Top videos include: “Christian Mingle Inspector,” “How It’s Made: Christian Music,” “Christian Girl on Instagram,” “Millennial International: Sponsor a Millenial Today,” and “Church Hunters: Part 1.”

Again, growing up in an environment where you did NOT make fun of Christianity and then in 2012 moving to New Zealand for 3 years, a land where if you took yourself too seriously…you got brought down a peg. This was a way of life. Quickly, I adapted to this type of humor and learned not to take myself too seriously. I was able to poke fun at myself and at things I was told were off-limits.

[DISCLAIMER] I don’t poke fun, mock, or rip into Christianity maliciously. No. That’s not the point. Of course. The point was to make fun of everyday things that we experience, but no one talks about, in order to lighten the mood and make people laugh. Here are a few of my favorites as examples:

  1. “Man Stacks Chairs After Service Like Tetris Champion,”
  2. “Report: Closeness To God Linked To Constantly Telling Friends What You Gave Up For Lent,”
  3. “Local Man Relieved After Spiritual Gift Test Comes Back Negative For ‘Giving’,”
  4. “Mountain Climber Recovering After Decision To Let Go And Let God,”
  5. “Man Recommits Life To Christ Just To Put Altar Call Out Of Its Misery,”
  6. “Landscaper Accidentally Trims Church’s Hedge Of Protection.”

Some people take offense to The Bee and I think this has to do with the website pointing out the sobering reminders of the kind of baggage that we’ve dumped into Christianity, particularly American evangelicalism in the name of good spirituality. Ultimately, the Babylon Bee gives us a mirror and sometimes we don’t necessarily enjoy the reflection.

Personally, I like the rise in Christian satire and subsequent comedy. I think that there’s no real need to take yourself too seriously. This raises a good question though. Are there things we shouldn’t be making fun of? Does all of this go too far sometimes? Sometimes, maybe. Will I get smitted for making a bad joke, I don’t think so. But that’s easy to filter out. Take the good and leave the bad. Finally, as a person that laughs most likely more than anyone you’ve ever met, I feel we could all use a little more laughing Christians, ha.

“Local Churchgoer refuses to laugh at a joke made at the expense of a Disciple.”
“Self-proclaimed Christian Introvert relieved that local church bans long-standing practice of “Saying Hi to Someone You Don’t Know.”

My Profession: The Reality Behind Social Work vs. What People Think I Do.

As I sit here, killing a sinus infection, there is not much to do besides knock off some Netflix, rest, drink water, and sleep again. Needless to say, I’ve been getting some writing done and this post has been sitting around for years. I decided to finish it up.

I can spot it right away. I’m at a social gathering and I’m telling someone I’ve never met what I do for a living. I tell them I’m a social worker. “Oh..” is their response. When you’re as good at reading people as I am, you try not to laugh at how blunt their reaction comes off. “Oh..” translates into, “Right, so you take people’s kids from them. You make almost no money. You’re a male in a female dominated profession. Wait…why are you a social worker?? You could do anything??”

Sometimes it’s only a few of these I pick up on. Sometimes it’s all of them, haha. Still, it concerns me that this is what people think I do, and why I chose to practice Social Work. The public perception isn’t generally a good one. They’re right. When you think of a social sorker, or there is a social worker in a movie, generally the kids parents got shot and they become a ward of the state. CUE THE MOPPY LOOKING SOCIAL WORKER to take the kid into the Evil System. Or, the parents are screwing up at home, so the social worker comes to the house and tells the parent that they have 2 weeks to clean up their act, or they’re going to take their kid away from them. Think of an example, and it’s likely that social workers aren’t portrayed in a very positive light…ever.

There’s rarely a social worker who is shown finding a foster kid a great home to live in, or a social worker helping a troubled teenager with their depression at school and preventing a suicide, or a social worker sitting with a patient in a hospital in their last hours on this earth. I get it. It’s easier to pin the trope of the Evil Social Worker on this profession. Most of what we do is ugly, hard, and right there in the mud with the people going through it. Still, the image needs to change.

Here’s a dose of truth: Social workers often work in dangerous conditions for low pay. In New York, it is a felony to assault a nurse. However, social workers are not afforded the same safeguard under the law. Social workers provide a voice for the marginalized. That type of work and the individuals who are strong enough to do it speak volumes about the humanity of care. Sherry Saturno LCSW, DCSW had this to say about her exposure to this reality in the field of Social Work:

I have seen my colleagues threatened and exposed to violence in the field. I have read with a heavy heart accounts of fellow social workers who were murdered while performing their duties. I bore witness to a shooting on the job. Every one of these acts failed to obliterate the intent of the work that was being accomplished….There are so many things that cannot be explained: the senseless acts that inflict pain upon each other, and the unexpected compassion of strangers. Even in times of darkness, social workers affirm the power of good in the world by not giving up.

To choose a profession that doesn’t pay well, a profession that is dangerous at times, a profession that takes more from you than it gives back at the end of the day, isn’t a choice that one makes on a whim. To become a social worker, you have to care, you have to endure, you have to keep moving. What we do is a thankless job and an under funded career. We created a thing called, “self-care,” because what we do almost liteally sucks the life from you. I’m being dramatic. Sort of.

To give you a final idea of what I jumped into; when I moved back to Illinois, I had hoped that my home state had gotten its act together and paid attention to the cries of the people and government workers. Instead I returned to a state that was in crisis. Their response to their massive financial woes was to cut programs of the “least importance.” A band-aid for an amputation. What were those programs? Social Services. They sent a message loud and clear. “If you’re hurting, if you need help, if you got that help from Social Workers, go somewhere else. Gone Fishing.” I needed a job, and Illinois was surely not going to help me in that arena. So I left.

A long time ago, I wrote a post on why I do what I do, and in it, I explain that people who are struggling with depression and suicide have always been on my heart. Really, it’s been the underdogs that have been my drive. The people that society counts out, ignores, makes fun of, see no value in…these are my people. These people are why I do what I do. I don’t do it for money, I don’t hold my breath to be thanked, and I certainly don’t do it because it’s easy. I do it because I’m good at it, someone has to, and I’m tired of having no answer to the question, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

There’s a song by Matthew West, it’s not a new song, but the lyrics to the song, “Do Something,” pretty much wrap up this final concept. There are problems out there and we’re the ones who are going to fix them. We are. You. Me. We.

So the next time you’re talking to someone and they tell you that they are a Social Worker or Counsellor, thank them and give them a pie. They don’t get that a lot….the praise I meant.

The Rise of the “New Normal,” Christianity Explained

It’s no surprise to us that our parents grew up in a very religious time. There were practices that were followed, traditions that were kept, and certain things you did or didn’t do. For some Christians, your parents weren’t allowed to dance, gamble, or play cards. For some Christians, your parents went to church every Sunday morning growing up. For others, your parents might have had a less strict, but still religious upbringing.

There is a phenomenon that is coming, and some see the effects of it coming into effect finally. There will come a time when the religious, firmly founded, and unwavering baby boomer generation of our parents is replaced by the curious, spiritual, and less religious millenial generation in the church. There are a group of people called Nones. When you check “none” in the religious affiliation box, it gives rise to the label, “nones.” With nones on the rise, especially in the millenial age group, the future of the church becomes even more murky.

According to the Pew Research Study from 2007-2014, Nones have risen to 23% of all adults, up 7% from 2007. The nones include two primary groups, both of which might be generally labeled “religiously unaffiliated theists”: (1) The “spiritual but not religious” and (2) the “spiritual and independently religious.” These two groups are what remains after you subtract the smaller subset of atheists and agnostics. The first group, “spiritual but not religious,” are the people who get spiritual nourishment from, let’s say, yoga, foodie excursions, beach-walking, Sufjan Stevens concerts, or extreme sports, etc. They made the front page of USA Today in 2010, with the headline: “72% of Millennials ‘more spiritual than religious.’” They are sometimes known by their nickname: “SBNR.”

In 2007, the SBNR comprised barely half of the nones. The other half of the nones are the second group above, those who identity positively with spirituality but who also practice traditional religious activities (going to church, praying, reading the Bible, etc.). But their religious activity is eclectic, independent, and inconsistent. They might attend a variety of churches or participate in a variety of religious experiences, but do not identify strongly with any single one. They are spiritual and religious, but still unaffiliated. Still, religion is still important to them.

Here are some of the findings regarding the secularizing of the nones from the research article:
-61% of all nones believe in God, down from 70% in 2007.
-20% pray daily, down from 22% in 2007.
-13% believe religion is very important, down from 16% in 2007.
-9% attend services weekly, down from 10% in 2007. (not a big dip, but at this point you can’t get a whole lot lower).

The NEW NORMAL is going to be what the church looks like without our parents generation running it, but with us in leadership positions, teaching positions, mentorship positions, etc. Again, this has already begun in some areas. We are a questioning generation, not quick to believe, and fast to criticize. We are a generation burned by religion and the rule of religious law. We’ve been excommunicated, cast out, scolded, shamed, lectured, and gossiped to by the very people that are supposed to exercise humility, wisdom, patience, forgiveness, love, and Godliness. In our figuring out what we believe, whether in college or afterwards, some now have a loose grip on correct theology, gospel truth, or giftings in the spirit. They make statements like, “The Bible was written by men and can’t really be trusted fully as the, “exact words of God.” or, “I can’t believe that the God I know would let people perish, so I believe everyone will be able to enjoy Heaven.” or, “How do we know that other religions aren’t also speaking truth? How can we assume that we have the only truth? Doesn’t that seem presumptuous?”

Many Millenials have been trying to figure out their spiritual identity for years. According to the Pew Research Center, “The phrase ‘spiritual but not religious’ has become widely used in recent years by some Americans who are trying to describe their religious identity.” According to Pew, religious activities such as attendance to a church, prayer, meeting in small groups, are on a decline. Still, feeling a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe is on the rise.

Is this something to be concerned with? Do we find a balance between the popular act of  casting out religion and just following Christ? In our pursuit to find knowledge and know how to truly live out a Christ centered life, have we lost some things along the way? Or are we better off than where we were in our parents generation? Have we corrected the sins of what religion did to our faith? Was the key to loose religion and the law that ruled it?

Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.

A definition that encapsulates the point. Progressive…a need to reform, favoring and promoting change or innovation. Yet, arguably, we should have already cared about these things. This shouldn’t be radical. This shouldn’t be Progressive.

SOURCES

Masci, David, and Michael Lipka. “Americans May Be Getting Less Religious, but Feelings of Spirituality Are on the Rise.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

“The Future of Christianity and the “Nones”: Still Rising, Still Spiritual, More Secular.” Unsystematic Theology. N.p., 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Life is in a Box

It’s an odd feeling when you pack your life into a few boxes, some bags, and an overstuffed car. You wonder, “Is this all I am?” You wonder as you sift through old school papers and doodles when you were 7, “How do I still have this?” I definitely don’t hoard, as the five full garbage bags in the trash bin can tell you. I’m more “hoarder light.” I can throw things away, but sometimes I collect things. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I collected cards, toys, rocks, knives…things escalated when I started getting an allowance, haha.

Nostalgia looms over my dimly lit room. Continue reading “Life is in a Box”