When God sees the funny side: An open Letter.


Dear Mr Ball,

I remember years ago being brought by my mum and some friends to see the Reduced Shakespeare company play of the Bible in Belfast. I must have been about 12 or 13.

I love comedy and I love God. Sometimes we think that the two are incompatible. That for some reason God calls us to complete reverence when it comes to Him and certainly when it comes to the Bible itself.

I would love to ask you what about the play when you saw it upset you so much?

Which I am assuming you have? Seen it that is.

Because if you had done I am not sure why you would have held the view that you did? I am not sure why you are so afraid?

In the Bible there is a lot that is not funny. Whole nations are wiped out on a whim, countries are trafficked by whole other countries and children are slaughtered by kings. Aren’t these the things that we should find more offensive?

And what about all the sex, profanity and cheating that goes on? And I’m not talking about Stormont.

There is however, a lot that is funny. Try saying the name Abishag from 1 Kings with a straight face. Or maybe that’s just the 12 year old in me. Or how about when Jesus uses absurd hyperbolic language intentionally to make a point, slapstick when Peter falls into the Sea of Galilee and talking asses. Something I am sure you will be well used to as a politician.

Then of course there is the time when Jesus was crucified. The time He was taken and beaten for doing nothing wrong and sacrificed for the world. There is nothing funny about this and yet, when performing a comedy play on the Bible, surely there will be question marks on how this is handled.

Will they make fun of Jesus, will they mock his pain?

When I saw the play all those years ago that part of the Bible narrative was probably the most well done. For the whole play there was laughter from everyone, yet when it came to the part of Jesus death and resurrection it was conducted in such reverence and respect.

There was complete silence. Everyone’s attention was caught. It was without exaggerating a profound religious experience.

I remember even at the young age that I was, being hit by the importance of it. Perhaps it was the contrast of the comedy to seriousness that struck me but it had a profound impact on me.

It also showed me that comedy can have a place in faith. That we can laugh at ourselves and that we don’t need to be afraid. That when Sarah in Genesis says “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me,” we don’t need to be afraid of humor and should maybe even consider it as a gift from God. Or in Proverbs when the writer says Even in laughter the heart may ache”,  we can hold seriousness and pain and joy and laughter in harmonious tension.

I walked out of the theatre, at the end, with my faith still in tact and even strengthened.

We do not need to be afraid of our faith being ridiculed. What kind of faith is it that if at the slightest joke we are offended? What kind of fear is that to live in? How good and powerful can a God that can’t take some gentle ribbing really be?

I fear that by the mere fact that the play was cancelled at the Mill many people, who otherwise do not go to Church on a Sunday will have missed the opportunity to hear a story that could have opened their eyes to a Christian culture sadly more well known for what we stand against than what we stand for.

Have you helped shut out the good news to people who otherwise may never hear it?

Have you pushed people further away from a faith more commonly defined by fear and hatred than freedom and love?

I am not sure whether it is too late but I ask you to consider helping restore the play to the Mill. You may realize that actually there is nothing to fear. That Christianity won’t come crumbling down and God will not be offended.

He may even find the funny side too.

Your Brother in Christ,

Paul Robinson.

25 thoughts on “When God sees the funny side: An open Letter.

  1. Hi Paul,
    Interesting letter re RSC production being cancelled. Mind if i publish it in next week’s edition of Newtownabbey Times? Are you from the Newtownabbey area yourself?

  2. Hi I am so grateful I found your weblog, I really found you by error, while I was searching on Digg for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a incredible post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I dont have time to go through it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the fantastic jo.

  3. Paul, this is the most reasoned and sensible piece I have read all week on the subject. The question that puzzles me the decision is: of what are they so afraid to force the cancellation of the two performances, surely their faith is more robust? I hope this is published in the NT.

  4. Paul Robinson knows little of God this is exhibited in the above letter. God neither has anthropomorphisms nor anthropopathisms. The address is too puerile to deserve refutation. William Ball was right to ban this scurrilous attack on the person of God.

    • Hi Brian. Thank you so much for your taking the time to read and comment on the post. I think healthy discussion is good and I’m sure you have lots of stuff to do so taking the time out to reply is great. Thanks!

      I guess we fundamentally disagree on the attribution of Human form or feelings to God considering he came to Earth in the form of a man and showed many emotions common to man such as love, grace, anger, despair and peace.

      But in any case, I appreciate your time and consideration and wish you nothing but peace and grace,

      Warm regards,

    • Can you write in language more akin to the NIV rather than the King James? On a more serious note, since when did the state control the people. What happened to free speech? Was it taken over by the Free Presbyterians? Do we live in Northern Ireland or North Korea?

    • In what sense can it be reliably described as “an attack on the person of God”, if God is incapable of being anthropomorphized? What a desperate failure of logic.

      Even if causing offence is what the show had set out to do – which it didn’t, as anyone who’s *actually seen it* will tell you – who are you to say that God, being as ineffable as you say he is, takes offense the way people do at anything the minds of men can come up with?

    • Thanks for the comment Graeme! It’s the idea that Christianity needs defending or it will come crumbling down that is worrying. We’ve done enough damage ourselves and the church is still alive so I don’t think a play even if it was offensive (which it’s not) would do any damage.

  5. I remember being horrified when Jesus Christ Superstar came out. I still think it was an attack on the diety of Christ but I also agree that sometimes we can get too serious about God. After all, surely our lives show that God has a sense of humour. Many times I have prayed over something that was really needing an answer but when God did reply it made me laugh at his sense of humour. I think that we can laugh WITH God but not AT Him! There is such a difference….

    • Thanks for the comment Heather! I think the main problem here was that those opposed to the play live in a fear where unless they stand up for God their faith will fall apart. I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I couldn’t follow a God who needs us to stand up for him for him to be alive and breathing in the world.

  6. When you think He created us in such a way that when our bodies accumulate to much gas we release it with an often tuneful parp. Well, I can’t help but see that The Almighty has a tremendous sense of humour.

  7. as a Christian myself, I am not against banning and censoring play- people have to have the right to go see what they want. And it does give the impression that Christians are defined by why they are against, I have come to terms that we do live in a post christian culture.
    I do however believe that there are certain Christians that, in order to disassociate with the right wing/ plaqcard waving crew will accept anything culture throws out, without discernment. Some seem so concerned with not offending and being hipster that they won’t question anything out of fear of appearing like those fun dies. There is a balance.

    • Thanks for the comment Rab!

      I can’t speak for all Christians obviously, but from a personal note and from the friends I have spoken to about this, we weren’t for the play so we wouldn’t look like we’re right wing or fundamental.

      I also think the problem is not that we shouldn’t question things for fear of how it looks, but in the manner in which we question them. A lot of people (Christian/non Christian) questions things with an air of arrogancy and that isn’t helpful for a conversation. I mean I heard some people on phone ins on the radio saying unless you agreed with the play being banned you weren’t a Christian. I’ve also seen some people on twitter who were for the play be rude to those against it. Which is also arrogant.

      So I think the balance should be in ‘how’ we disagree rather than ‘if’ we disagree.

  8. Pingback: When Christians miss the point. Or (How God’s Got This) | paulrobinsonwrites

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