Holiness for a Laugh?

I love to laugh. The students in Mac often tease me by saying that hearing me shout “girl on the hall” is rather superfluous as you can usually hear my laughter from a few floors away. Thus it comes as no surprise that attending and advocating for Covenant’s improv shows is one of my greatest joys. However, this past Tuesday night I found myself uncharacteristically quiet. Instead of laughing, I sat there in my comfy yellow seat (quite the luxury as I normally stand in the back peaking over the shoulder of Jimmy Barnett or some other incredibly tall person), pondering what constitutes good humor, the nature of a Christian’s responsibility in an audience, and most importantly, the issue of holiness.

Before elaborating upon these thoughts, I first want to state that I believe Christians should extend grace to each other. I also firmly believe in the concept of Christian liberty and recognize that there are varying beliefs and convictions regarding God’s Word and call on our lives.  Nevertheless, I would still pose a few of these questions to both the Improv team as well as to those of us sitting in the audience (for I think both have a responsibility).

To the Improv team, I would like to say a sincere thanks for the incredible skills and gifts for humor that you have so often exhibited in your performances. I am blown away by the quickness of your minds, your comedic timing, your cultural references, and your willingness to serve our campus by giving so generously of your time and talents. However, it is in part because of these gifts that I am particularly saddened to have witnessed the types of jokes being made on stage this past Tuesday. The inappropriate nature of these jokes ranged from belittling disabilities to numerous sexual references.  As an audience member, I am never shocked to find myself disagreeing at some level with various aspects of a performance.  But Tuesday was different, quickly moving me into a far more significant state of discomfort. I also watched as many (certainly not all) members of the audience floundered, wondering how to respond to what was unfolding before them. Despite this hesitancy, the audience continually pushed the performers to continue in their often off-color jokes. Thus the issue was not just what was happening on stage, but also the reaction by the audience members. It left me wondering what a faithful response should be. Can we still demonstrate Christian charity without clapping and endorsing questionable joking? How did our response affect future decisions by the Improv team? And what did it communicate about our goal of imaging a holy God?

As I mentioned in the beginning, I recognize we all hold different positions regarding holiness and what is considered “good humor.” Many of you will disagree, maybe even strongly disagree, with my words. However, I encourage you to consider my thoughts and to trust that I am wrestling right alongside of you.  God calls us to be faithful to His Word and to examine our hearts, but ultimately each of us is responsible to follow our convictions with grace and civility toward others. My goal is not to vilify the Improv team or audience, but simply to ask questions regarding what our response should be in the future when performers either intentionally or unintentionally (very possible in an improvisational setting) cross lines. What would it mean to truly live out the renewing of our minds, even in our humor? What would it mean for an audience to not encourage or laugh at brokenness, but, with love and sincerity, to withhold applause and instead spur each other on to holiness that is still full of laughter and delight? Humor is one of the greatest blessings God has provided, thus it is my hope to attend Improv again, but to do so fully able to laugh and join the hilarity, reveling in the gifts God has so generously bestowed on this talented group of performers.


Read Jamison Shimmel's response here.