If you followed this blog a few weeks back you will have found this post and the comments it generated. It has been a previous theme here, but is worth coming back to because it has obviously touched a nerve; how 'sensitive' should we be with our humour?
Here's my position. Firstly, I should be slow to anger and therefore slow to take offence. I find that in the Bible. Secondly, I should judge other people in the best possible light and assume good, not evil, motivation. That too, is biblical. Both are also common sense and make the world a more peaceful place.
Here's a joke:
A vox popper is standing outside a shop in central Europe and says to a group of passing people, 'Excuse me, what is your opinion of the current meat shortages?' It happens that the four people who have been approached are Russian, Chinese, American and a Jew. The Russian replies, 'What is meat?' The Chinese,' What is opinion?' The American, 'What is shortage?' The Jew, 'What is excuse-me?'
Offensive? Does it change your opinion to learn that I read it in a national newspaper and the columnist said it was told him by a Jewish friend? And notice that, out of sensitivity, I removed references to the gender of the characters in the joke. We all have axes to grind. I seem to think it is OK for jokes to pick on old stereotypes but not to make new ones?
Does your opinion of my dementia joke change if you learn I have experience of growing up with an aunt with severe learning difficulties, a grandmother-in-law with Alzheimer's and a father who underwent a quite dramatic personality change after a stroke yet lived for ten more years until a second stroke which took five days to kill him slowly. 'Did you hear about the stroke victim with learning difficulties who developed Alzheimer's?' sounds to me like a line that needs a punch. Probably not to all. I'm aware that I may be slightly unusual.
I used to work in insurance. I investigated and compensated (where appropriate) people for industrial accidents and illnesses. In the West Midlands, where I was, we had a lot of heavy industry and a number of claims for industrial deafness, white finger and pneumoconiosis. One poor guy got all three. The plaintiff's solicitor, describing his client, said, 'He gave a cough, his hand fell off, he didn't hear it fall.' I think it might have gained his client more compensation as the defence team laughed its own heads off.
All occupations that involve dealing with people suffering in some way develop humour to cope. I'm a minister. You think we don't laugh about funerals? A hearse rear door that wouldn't open wasn't amusing at the time but has since entertained me greatly. Likewise a hole too small for a coffin. Black is cool. We dress our comedy that way.
The team were accused once, on a summer camp, of someone during an organised outing damaging a coach seat with a knife. We were asked to pay for repair. I suggested that, if it wasn't a huge amount of money, for the sake of goodwill with the coach company, we should pay up. My co-leader told this joke.
A man was sitting next to an unattached, and stunningly elegant, woman at a banquet. He leaned over to her during the main course. 'After this,' he said, 'If I paid you £1000, would you go to bed with me?'
'I believe I would,' she whispered back.
During coffee the man proposed once again, 'Would you go to bed with me for £25?'
'What do you think I am?' she snorted.
'Madam,' he said, 'We've established what you are. Now we're negotiating the price.'
We had no further discussion. We didn't offer compensation to the coach company.
Humour. It's how I see life and make sense of it. It may be why I don't have breakdowns, am not a workaholic and continue to be moderately effective in public ministry after 24 years. If you feel it's inappropriate please stop visiting here. To some extent insensitivity is the tax you pay on quick wittedness. I try to be balanced about laughing at misfortune and having my own misfortune laughed at. I chronicle it for that reason.
In public, where the audience cannot select attendance, I am more circumspect, OK slightly.
Enjoy. But nobody is asking you to stay if you don't. Do comment.