It’s no secret that we as a society are very desensitized to evil in the world. Commonly we ignore it, pretend it isn’t there, accept it, or make light of it. I’ve noticed a trend lately in making jokes about tragic events, namely mass shootings and the September 11th attacks of 2001. Whether or not we really are making more jokes of this nature or I’ve just become more aware of them, I think we can all agree that this is a trend that needs to disappear. There is nothing funny about tragedy, and turning it into a joke does not lessen its reality in our fallen world. However, I do not want to act like I am innocent in this matter. I’m generally a less serious person who really likes to make others laugh, and I have made light of tragedy many times to get a reaction from others. It’s not something I’m proud of, and this article is speaking to myself just as much as anyone else.
We’ve all been in a situation where someone makes an off-color quip about some tragic event in history to a group of friends or peers, and the reaction is usually the same. The audience might say, “Oh, that’s so bad!” or “You’re terrible!” but the smile on their face and the laughter between their words betrays them. The audience knows that the joke was in poor taste and inappropriate to make, but they laugh anyway. One of the most common responses I hear is, “Too soon!,” implying that given enough time, the joke would have been acceptable to make. Somehow, distancing ourselves from the event gives us the green light to find humor even in the most terrible of incidents.
I would say that no matter what the topic is, it is always “too soon” to make a joke out of tragedy. Whether it be the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, nothing can change the fact that it happened and that it was an act of great evil and suffering. Treating it as the punchline for a riddle would not be appropriate the day after it happened, so why should the passage of time remove this taboo?
Think of every life that was lost in the events of the 9/11 attacks. For every person who died that day, a family lost someone they loved and cared for. Every September, those affected by the attacks are reminded of the ones they lost and how their lives were ended by senseless and cruel acts of violence. Do you think they will ever be able to joke about that? Whenever someone makes a joke about that day, those affected cannot help but think about the grief they experienced. To those affected by 9/11, there is absolutely nothing funny about that day, as should be the case for everyone else. For them, it is always “too soon” and that can never change.
The fact that we can turn tragedy into comedy shows how fallen we are. The murder of innocent people is terrible in and of itself, but to make it into something to laugh about indicates just how much our sin permeates us. Especially as Christians, our response to tragedy should be anything but light-hearted. It is a sobering reminder that something is very wrong with the world, and the only solution is our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only at his coming that sin will be put to death forever and tragedy will be no more. We should mourn the loss of our fellow image bearers of God and pray for His presence here on earth. In the face of tragedy, we should pray “come Lord Jesus, come” because His coming can never be “too soon.”