Respect is a pretty big deal in anyone’s book. Respect for a person, an environment, a life style or institution. Even a situation.
Levity is an appropriately satirical remark in an inappropriate environment.
A whispered bit of observant humor at an overblown funeral is one thing. But when an assailant sticks a weapon in your face and says, “You respect me now, don’t ya!” — are you really going to tell him the truth?
“Just because I respect what a gun can do, doesn’t mean I respect the fool holding the gun.”
No. That’s the kind of pithy reply that gets your vital organs shut down for you.
Extreme instances aside though, I actively seek out any and every opportunity for levity. My desire to illuminate the ludicrous or ridiculous is surpassed only by my need to laugh. I can’t resist poking fun at those who genuinely deserve it.
However, I would never make a joke at the expense of someone else’s dignity. That is cruelty, plain and simple, and I should not want to stoop to that kind of humor.
But when an inconsiderate, self-important individual or entity presumes it’s okay to behave in a manner disrespectful of others, I am compelled to react.
A couple years back, one such popular and still-too-common practice inspired in me a bit of satire. It resulted in my creating this fake commercial. As of this writing well over three and a half million people on YouTube have approved. It’s called “Cell Phones In Church”:
Like I said — appropriate response in an inappropriate environment.
Across the board, ordained clergy of every stripe have praised this bit of satire and many ministers and pastors have asked for their own copy to play for their congregations. I am always happy to accommodate and have received some lovely responses.
By the same token, I’ve also been hit with a good deal of hate mail for this bit of fun. There are those who have protested this video so vehemently and scorchingly with cries of “Blasphemy!” — really, blasphemy — that I am left to imagine these poor souls must either have been born without a sense of humor or had it surgically removed.
This video in no way disrespects the church or religion. It does however satirize the disrespectful nature of people who blithely ignore the courtesy of silencing their electronics in a public forum, whether it be a church, lecture hall or movie theater.
It’s not about religion — it’s about rudeness in any environment.
To be clear, I do not disrespect their negative points of view and I have not censored these scathing tirades. Indeed every comment that is fit to print, both pro and con, has been clearly posted beneath this video on YouTube. Only those remarks containing foul verbiage have been removed, and there have been quite a few. I never imagined church folk to be so handy with vulgarity.
I do however take issue with some viewers’ ludicrous accusations that this video means I must hate the bible. My NIV is a marvelous collection of 66 books containing a nice mix of history, poetry, literature, and life lessons. It is a volume I happen to read regularly and admire greatly. Though for some passages, I still prefer the more poetic translation of the King James. But no, I do not hate the bible.
It baffles me to receive such dire and serious comments such as, “Jesus wouldn’t allow such things”, “It’s unchristian to send people to hell”, and “You shouldn’t be doing that!”
Frankly I can’t decide whether to recommend these people put more fiber in their diets, or just thank them for their conviction that I can manage what the video suggests.
Levity is a tricky animal because when you pull it off you often run the risk of upsetting a portion of the populace.
I remain convinced that it’s not only important, but actually our duty, to observe some degree of vigilance — to draw attention to injustice and demonstrate the ridiculous nature of those who thrive on abuse at the expense of others.
For my money though, laughing at ourselves is the finest kind of laughter. When our own folly is made clear we can finally acknowledge we are not more important than the next guy. It’s what George Carlin called the laughter of recognition — things that are funny because they make us see the same failings in ourselves.
One of my favorite quotes happens to be from scripture. It urges us to “make a joyous noise.” What more joyous noise can there be than good-natured laughter?
In the spirit of levity, another of my favorite quotes is from the writings of Hunter S. Thompson:
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
Folks, when dippy fundamentalists are convinced I possess the power to actually send people to hell, it doesn’t get much weirder than that.