Keeping the “Fun” in Fundamentalism

How many Fundamentalists does it take to change a lightbulb? [*Answer below.]

Since the beginning of American fundamentalism in the 1920s, fundamentalism has had an image of a group that could not take a joke. H.L. Mencken, one of the first–and still best–critics of fundamentalism, defined fundamentalism, like Puritanism, as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.

The image of dour fundamentalists remains powerful, with popular representations such as the fun-hating father in Footloose.

That’s not funny.

It has long been a temptation for conservatives to take on comedians for irreverence and political buffoonery.  TV shows such as Family Guy have repeatedly come under fire for their offensive sexual and political jokes.  Here, for example, Ben Shapiro and David Menzies accuse Family Guy of un-funny anti-Tea Party animus.  More recently, the aggressive Catholic conservative William Donohue of the Catholic League has worked to get a retraction by Jon Stewart of some contraception jokes.As announced in the Religion News Service, conservative Cardinal Tom Dolan of New York hopes to change that.  He will be appearing alongside Catholic comedian Stephen Colbert in a panel on September 14 at Fordham University in the Bronx.

The goal of the panel, “Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life,” is to explore the meanings of humor as a ministry.

Can a fundamentalist be funny?  New York Magazine listed a few of “Cardinal Rimshot’s” zingers since moving to his influential post in New York:

“They asked me when I got here, ‘Are you Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, or Yankees?’ And I said, ‘When it comes to baseball, I think I can be pro-choice.’
—To 60 Minutes

“New York has grown on me.”
—Describing his first year in the city, while patting his midsection, per the Times

“You’re the only people who never leave Mass early.”
—To inmates at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, on why he loves ministering to prisoners, per the Associated Press

“The only cardinal I wanted to be growing up was Stan Musial.”
—To Matt Lauer on the Today show

“I’m at a Steak ’n’ Shake. What do I order?”
—Dolan, calling his diet doctor, as recounted in the Daily News

“Go away, Lord. I’m not your man. My Spanish is lousy and my English not much better.”
—On his reaction to being moved from Milwaukee to New York, at a 2009 St. Patrick’s Cathedral service

“I am going to give these to a hungry person. Namely me at about four o’clock.”
—On being given a box of French pastries, as quoted in the Times

“I might have to rent a space and a half.”
—To 60 Minutes while touring the crypt of the archbishops of New York beneath St. Patrick’s Cathedral

“My first pastoral letter’s gonna be a condemnation of light beer and instant mashed potatoes.”
—On Sirius XM Radio’s Catholic channel

“I’ll answer any questions—except about my taxes.”
—At a Fordham University press conference in the midst of the Mitt Romney tax-return controversy

But what is Dolan’s boss’s attitude toward humor?
“I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes.”
—Pope Benedict XVI

Will this collection of self-deprecating fat jokes and white-bread baseball jokes be able to hold its own against Colbert’s famously incisive wit?  We at ILYBYGTH can’t wait to find out.

* So how many Fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Take your pick:

  • None, fundamentalists don’t believe in change.
  • None, God will change the lightbulb if it is part of His plan.
  • Four, unless there is a slave woman present, in which case they can’t eat pig. (Leviticus 11:4-7).

Okay, so maybe those aren’t so good. Anyone got something better?

 

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