The Comedy of Christ

Comedy is usually thought of as beneficial but not necessarily significant or essential. However, there is actually a structure and significance to humor as seen in comedic pieces. For instance, during comedic movies, many times the events are going decently well but in time they begin to devolve and become somewhat tragic, that is until the arrival of the comedic turn. The comedic turn is what serves as the axis which turns tragedy on its head and the once sorrowful story suddenly becomes joyful and hopeful. In light of the structure behind comedy, it may play a larger role than initially believed.

The important role that comedy plays is to inject hope through a greater understanding of truth. In Harry Potter, students encounter a Boggart, a creature that attacks them in the form of their worst fear. One would think students would be taught a deadly, powerful spell to defeat the Boggart but instead they are taught to use the spell, “Riddikulus” which turns the Boggart into something humorous. Through their laughter, the students learn that the opponent they face is not indestructible but ultimately conquerable. The transformation of approach from terror to humor stems from understanding this truth and allows them to then laugh from an assurance of victory.

For Christians, we are able to similarly fight our enemy with laughter from the same hope of victory. Our hope stems from the unique comedic turn of Christ, the axis that turns tragedy into joy. Raskin, a distinguished professor of linguistics at Purdue, explains the link between the comedic turn and humor stating it comes from, “the idea is that every joke is based on a juxtaposition of two scripts. The punch line triggers the switch from one script to the other. It is a universal theory.” In the biblical story, there exists the two scripts: the present fallen world and the future perfect world. When Christ came, died, and rose again, he was the punch line that triggered the switch from the fallen world and bridged the gap to the perfect world.

Christ’s life and death was a miraculous act that suddenly and irreversibly altered the fight against sin. The fight against a once seemingly formidable enemy becomes a fight filled with the joy and laughter that accompanies ultimate victory. The consolation of a happy ending is labeled by Tolkien as the Eucatastrophe,  “the consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn.”  As a result of Christ’s life and death, we are able to fight against our enemy without total anxiety or fear. If Satan is our Boggart, Jesus is the “Riddikulus” which allows us to claim our assurance of victory. Because of Christ, we are able to recognize the ridiculousness attempt of Satan to rule and can wage war against us. This joy found in the fight against Satan does not trivialize or underestimate the battle but rather esteems the miraculous turn created by Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.

We will face obstacles and struggles in the present world since Christ’s Eucatastrophe has not come to its full effect, but this does not mean His actions lack present effect. The underlying quality of the Eucatastrophe is,“It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, ‘Is it true?’” While the Gospel’s Eucatastrophe creates a perfect hope for the future, it has the ability to deeply affect our present spiritual struggles by removing fear or anxiety in the midst of battle.

 

The Power of Fantasy

When I was little, my parents chose to tell me the truth about Santa Claus. They thought if I knew this particular myth was false, I would be less susceptible to believing lies in the future. They didn’t want me to confuse fantasy with reality, especially when I began to learn about Christianity. Not surprisingly, a lot of Christians feel similarly about fantasy and ask why would you read or watch something that doesn’t exactly correspond with the reality we experience? While these concerns regarding fantasy are not ungrounded, I believe there is also a lot of good and truth that can be communicated through this specific genre.

Although the genre of fantasy is able to communicate truth, it does not mean it is free from potential danger. Scripture defines the line between myth and reality when Peter writes, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” and Paul warns to not, “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” These two verses clearly warn against the dangers of myths and fables since they have the ability to detract from the truth of the Gospel.

These passages were interpreted by many Christians, including my parents, to mean all fiction must be harmful since it was unrealistic and therefore untruthful. To these Christians, fantasy stories are made up of lies and deceit and are directly opposed to the Bible which is completely truthful. The works which include fantastical elements such as talking animals are deemed falsehoods since they promote worlds incompatible with the Christian reality. Whether or not one completely agrees, these types of concerns are truly valid when an individual begins to replace truth and reality with a fantasy world. Fantasy is not meant to be nonfiction and most would understand the label of fantasy to differ from reality. However, the distinction is not always easy for some, which is why prudence and discretion are important guiding factors when exploring fantasy.

However, in spite of the potential risks, fantasy was championed by Tolkien and Lewis as a powerful tool for Christians through its ability to engage the imagination. Their use of magic and myth is supported by many Christians because of their explicit ties to Gospel themes, but C.S Lewis believed fantasy was useful beyond direct connections to the Bible. He said, “At all ages, if [fantasy and myth] is used well by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.” Fantasy thus has the unique ability to extend beyond the present and introduce to the human mind the potential of a life beyond the tangible reality man experiences.

Fantasy’s introduction to the extension of life beyond the material then allows the mind to break the limitations of materialism and embrace truth’s existence outside materialistic bounds. Fantasy critics construct a false parallel between tangible reality and truth, believing fantasy’s venture outside the realm of daily life is an attack on reality. Tolkien said, “creative Fantasy is founded…on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it.” At it’s core, fantasy still maintains logical thought, but it simultaneously engages in a world which extends beyond an earthly framework.By doing so, fantasy breaks the spell of a mindset that truth only exists in this present earth and teaches us to realize greater truths beyond a material worldview.

 

 

Weekly Roundup

UPDATE:  In case you missed it, Vladimir Putin recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he offers counsel to the United States.  Yesterday “President Obama” responded with his own op-ed for the Huffington Post

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Katelyn Beaty writes at Christianity Today about our Hunger for Outrage (specifically on the internet):

Outrage begins to eat us alive when it is not channeled into creative love. It does not produce the righteousness we rightly seek (James 1:20). And there is only so much love you can demonstrate in 140 characters on a glowing screen.

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Wednesday was the twelfth anniversary of 9/11.  Here are 9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Attack Aftermath.

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From National Journal:  Syria Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Barack Obama.

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Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal on Syria and Why America is Saying ‘No’:  “There is something going on here, a new distance between DC and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus.”

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Our fearless leader James Arnold has written an article for Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts on Giving Grace to “Crossover” Artists.

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John Mark Reynolds responds to a friend’s question about Vocation and Money.

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Digital Times argues that Part 2 of the Hobbit trilogy will be better than part 1 (but not by much).  The article is short, snarky and repetitive, so here’s the only paragraph you really need to read:

No, seriously. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is going to be the best part because hello, all the best stuff happens in it. “The Hobbit” Part Three-ie (out on December 17, 2014) is going to be the worst snooze cruise since Helm’s Deep. That’s because certain dragons are going to get whacked in the first of many hours and the rest is just going to be a big battle and then a long walk home.

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Speaking of The Hobbit, here is JRR Tolkien singing “Chip The Glasses And Crack The Plates”:

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One should always be careful about giving too much weight to “scientific journalism.”  Still, these developments are worth noting:  Global warming? No, actually we’re cooling, claim scientists.

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Love it or hate it, the very colorful (and very plastic) new iPhone 5c is probably here to stay:  Forget “Cheap”, The iPhone 5c Is Clearly The iPhone Jony Ive Wanted For iOS 7.

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Book nerds, time to geek out!  “Harry Potter” Gets Seven New Illustrated Covers.

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From The Atlantic:  Why Sequels Will Never Die: Hollywood’s Summer of ‘Flops’ Was Actually Its Best Year Ever.

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Mali, Syria, Obamacare, Detroit;  2013 has seen many debacles…all of which Mitt Romney warned us about during his 2012 presidential campaign.  This recently prompted Buzzfeed to ask:  Was Mitt Romney Right About Everything?  (The truth, of course, is that this is not about Romney.  He was not a visionary or a genius.  He was just saying what conservatives have been saying since long before 2012).

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If World War One Was a Bar Fight…

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Help Kickstart World War III!  Why?  Because Obama:

Weekly Roundup

This week’s noteworthies are fairly self-explanatory, so they are presented without comment. 

Move over New Atheists, there’s a New Theist in town.

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The 4th of July: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

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Egypt’s Pope hails protesters taking back ‘stolen revolution.’

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RAND PAUL: Celebrating American independence while abetting tyranny.

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What J.R.R. Tolkien said to the Nazis when they asked if he was Jewish.

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Your Boss Owes You a Paycheck, not Fulfillment.

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If only Kermit Gosnell had worn pink sneakers like Wendy Davis.

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Nearly 1,200 People Have Starved to Death in NHS Hospitals.

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Beliefs Are Not Set in Stone, Except for When They’re on Tablets (Rachel Held Evans, Same-Sex Marriage, and When Not to Rethink Your Theology).

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21 Jokes Only Nerds Will Understand (Or people with questionable senses of humor).

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UPDATE:  American Evangelist Arrested in London for Preaching Homosexuality is a Sin.