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FIRST-PERSON: A funny Gospel?

PARKVILLE, Mo. (BP)–I watched a portion of a video designed for the purpose of telling Bible stories and presenting the Gospel to children. The entertainer was dressed like an angelic Elvis Presley, complete with wings. The clothes and movements of the entertainer’s body were an overstatement of the real Elvis.

My friend touted the act as “soooooo funny.” It was. I mean, he was so funny that I could not help but laugh. What should we think about this approach?

Some thoughts:

1) The combination of the Gospel (which is dead serious) and staged humor make strange bedfellows. I am not speaking of occasional situational humor that often is acceptable. And I certainly do not mean that we should never laugh. We appreciate both humor and the Gospel, but do they work well together? Is a comedic presentation the appropriate tool for such a weighty subject? One has to ask the question, “What is soooooo funny about the Gospel?”

In this video, Elvis was said to be “sent from God.” But are angelic majesties funny? Is the truth about the cross funny? Are sin, heaven, hell, Christ, salvation or even the stories of redemptive history funny? What does God think about this? Should I listen to the Gospel from a man in a winged Elvis suit?

2) The medium of humor is a poor instrument of conviction. Children, and everybody else for that matter, are brought to the need for repentance through the conviction of the Spirit. Does laughter get us there? Does that which is designed to trivialize also cause us to agonize?

3) The use of such means may deaden the child’s ability and appetite to receive truth in a more conventional spoken or written form. In other words, entertainment becomes to the listener the preferred medium of receiving his information about God. The undiscerning listener (and that’s what all children are by nature until trained) may become unable to receive truth any other way. And this addiction to entertainment as the conveyor of information may last into adulthood.

4) Generally speaking, making truth entertaining means that the nuances and complexities are removed and only a simple or direct transferable idea is useable. Most entertainment does not have the ability to give the child anything substantive, but rather only a greatly reduced or simplistic concept.

5) Quite often, God’s name is taken in vain. For instance, to say that God sent an angelic Elvis is really to desecrate God’s character and name. Humor about God is almost always an “empty” or “vain” way of speaking about the God of the universe. We wouldn’t be able to put on such a performance in front of God’s throne in heaven.

6) Depending on the level of intensity of the entertainment, the truth may be totally drowned in the humor. In other words, what the child remembers may not be truth about God at all, but the funny situation depicted. At the end of the day, the child may come away from the entertaining religious experience having learned nothing at all.

Thankfully, our children will forgive us for our mistakes in teaching them. God has always condescended to our weaknesses in getting His work done. But we must not work against their salvation by teaching in a way that removes conviction. Those in churches who faithfully teach children need not feel they are short of help in reaching this objective. We have the Spirit and the Word. The Bible and its stories have been interesting to children throughout the ages. Presented lovingly and patiently, it is sufficient to save.
Jim Elliff is president of Christian Communicators Worldwide, on the Web at www.CCWonline.org.

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  • Jim Elliff