I was recently purusing Steve Sjogren’s book The Perfectly Imperfect Church. In it, he speaks of 13 marks of what characterizes his version of an “ideal” church, the fifth of these being a sense of fun. Sjogren is all about fun, but comments that Christians don’t always appear to share his enthusiasm for the zany and the light-hearted. Unfortunately, many Christians are of the Ned Flanders variety: maybe nice and well-meaning enough — and heck, they even smile — but they don’t know how to have fun. And thanks in part to the popularity of The Simpsons, this is the stereotype that has stuck in the popular consciousness.
But joy, we are quick to assert, is another matter entirely. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” and thus we affirm (rightly so) that we are joyfully servants of Christ. But what about fun? Are joy and fun so diametrically opposed? Can we be joyful without cracking a smile? I have heard people try to make the distinction between the deep, abiding presence of joy and the superficial emotion of happiness or fun. Now, I do think it is possible to experience joy even in the hard times, for we know that God guides us through, but why are so down on fun? Doesn’t the old adage remind us laughter is the best medicine?
Thankfully, God has me in a church that knows how to have fun, but I am not so sure that my experience is the norm. You might think from the way some Christians walk around that they have never had an ounce of fun in their entire life — the frown on their face is a mile long. Gosh, even the thought of fun might be bordering on sin, because we are quite sure that Jesus never had any of it. That’s an issue I have with just about every movie that is ever produced concerning the life of Jesus: in our efforts to show due revrence to the Son of God, we always make him so serious, so otherwordly, so inhuman. Ne’er a smile graces his face. That’s hardly the Jesus I know.
If we are stuck on this fun-less kick, we might think, as does Rowan Atkinson in the movie Keeping Mum, that humour in church is certianly out of the question. In this move Atkinson plays a pastor who, after investing much energy and frustration into preaching dry sermons, discovers the gift of humour and begins to add jokes into his preaching, to eventually great effect. The rest of the movie is quite crass and terribly strange, but I think Mr. Bean here demonstrates our sometime suspicion of fun. As my friend often reminds me, the Eighteenth Century philosopher Voltaire once said, “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” While this would certainly be problematic if taken literally or the logic of such an analogy followed to its end, my point is simply that God has a far greater sense of humour than we give him credit for, and he wishes the same attitude for his creatures.
All I’m saying is, don’t let your joy crowd out your fun.