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Anger Management By Being Slow To Take Offence
Religion has been a major target for comedians at the Edinburgh festival in 2006 and in the world in general for some time. Should religious people be offended and even angered by jokes about their most sacred beliefs and those they worship? Maybe not as much as they often are.
The subject was discussed recently on BBC 1’s Heaven and Earth programme. Canon Robin Gamble of Manchester Cathedral suggested that God is big enough to take care of himself. We should only care when the weak and defenseless are crippled.
Some religions, like Judaism, are already good at not taking themselves too seriously. There is a story, for example, about a 94-year-old Jewish man on his deathbed. Larry Jay Tish, a Jewish comedian, described what happened.
The dying Jew asked his rabbi to find a priest so he could convert to Christianity.
“You have been a Jew all your life for 94 years. You are on your deathbed. And now you want to convert to Christianity. Why?” asked the rabbi.
“I guess it’s better that one of them dies rather than one of us!”
It’s worth remembering that a comedian’s priority is to laugh. They are not too concerned about the possible sensitivities of the individuals in their audience.
Nor are they always trying to be mean. They just need a laugh or they won’t survive as comedians. They may also need to shock to increase the size of their audiences.
It’s worth taking the time to understand exactly why comedians say or do those things that seem outrageous at first glance.
One comedian at the Festival dressed up as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner in an orange suit. He also wore a crown of thorns. Many Christians might take offense to this but the comedian in question believes that laughter is holy.
Laughter encourages you to mock authority and think critically. He believes that such an attitude is typical of the spirit of Jesus.
In early 2006, cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad were published in Denmark sparking global riots and angry protests. One protest poster read “Kill those who insult Islam.” But not all Muslims show such anger.
Omar Marzouk is a Danish, Muslim comedian. He can see humor in the situation but has no intention of offending his fellow Muslims. However, he is not afraid to highlight stupidity wherever it occurs.
“It’s really hard to be European, Danish, Muslim because I was confused about what to burn and who to boycott! It’s hard to be Muslim because of all the terrorism and now people hate me also because I’m Danish!”
Omar, born to Egyptian parents in Copenhagen, offends right-wing and radical Muslims alike. Some of his comments, such as the following, where he refers to the London bombings, could well offend even moderates:
“I believe they should hire Muslims to ride on the trains and buses with suicide belts around their waists. Then we could also make our contribution to the war on terror. Then if a genuine suicide bomber appeared, you could say:
– Listen, man, get out. This is my bus!”
He also has something to say about the shooting of the innocent Brazilian in London.
“There are certain rules to follow if you look like me and live in England. For example you can’t run to catch a train or a bus. You walk.”
He may well offend many people and especially the relatives of the injured and dead but most of his audience is just relieved to be able to laugh at such serious and scary things. Omar wants to ease the tension enough to allow people to talk about the problems.
Australian comedian, Jim Jeffries, argues that you shouldn’t see his shows if you’re worried about being offended. His posts say he will be offensive. If you’re worried, don’t buy a ticket. A typical joking remark of his is the following:
“Are you worried about suicide bombers in Scotland? No. Of course not. Scotland looks like it’s already done!”
Some comedians choose religion as a target because they personally do not believe in God. To them cracking jokes about God is like cracking jokes about Santa Claus.
Ed Byrne believes that religion is an easy subject for comedians because everyone knows about it.
He tells his audiences that he became an atheist when he was quite young when he saw Christians installing a lightning rod on his local church – “What a great deal of faith you show!”
Ed doesn’t believe that God, if He exists, could be so small that He would be offended by a comedian making jokes about Him. More important things are happening in the world.
Stephen Green of “Christian Voice” argues that if God is not just a private lifestyle choice but the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, we should not take His name in vain and should be concerned if we do. He feels comedians have no idea how deeply they offend religious people.
Ed, on the other hand, is offended by some Christians who believe that Hurricane Katrina was sent to cleanse the city of New Orleans and who believe that God can destroy His own creation with “all the precision of a drunken seven-year-old stamp on ants. .”
Canon Robin is most concerned about how quick Christians are to take offense. He quoted from the Bible: “Love is slow to offend.”
He is not troubled by offensive remarks about religion: “God is a big boy, He does not need me to defend Him. I am shocked by how quickly Christians get offended. We should be more tolerant. Life is bright. It is about joy and participation in this that joy.”
Stefano argues that you don’t insult someone just because they are big. You wouldn’t feel free to tell a grown man that his mother is a whore. If God is so great, we should worry about offending Him.
Canon Robin, as usual, disagreed with Stephen Green. We should feel safe and secure in God – not anxious about God. If you can laugh at yourself and your beliefs, tensions will dissipate.
Overall I agree with Canon Robin’s views. God is too big and life is too exciting to get angry at comedians’ attempts to use God or religion as the fault of their jokes. Love should be slow to offend.
Offending didn’t do the world much good. Religious wars have caused the deaths of millions. It’s time to try another path.
Saint Paul is probably talking mainly about human relationships when he teaches that love is slow to be offended in his famous passage about love in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians.
A confident person will not worry about the people who make fun of him or her. He or she will have enough sense to realize that taking offense could lead to a damaging confrontation that will benefit no one.
As the Buddha said, the angry man is like someone holding a hot piece of coal in his hand to throw at his enemy. He will hurt himself as well as his enemy.
Self-confident people will have enough self-confidence not to take insults personally. They will understand that not everyone will like them, but many will and they need not become anxious and angry at the insults of those who dislike or envy them.
A loving person will see the good even in the people who insult them. Those who are big enough to ignore the insults may well see their enemies become their friends.
Politicians have already learned the art of not responding to insults with anger. John Prescott, the deputy prime minister of Great Britain, reportedly called President Bush’s policy for peace in the Middle East “cr**”. The White House responded very tolerantly:
“Being called names is part of the burden of leadership”
In short, religious people should not get too angry about offensive remarks about their religion. It’s not necessary. They certainly shouldn’t get angry enough to kill.
Those they worship are big enough to stand up for themselves and usually teach love and forgiveness rather than violence. Enough deaths have already been caused by religious believers who are quick to take offense at the fact that others do not share their respect for their beliefs about God.
All men should be slow to offend. Loving tolerance will produce far better and longer lasting results than anger.
If politicians, with the possible exception of John Prescott, can keep their cool, so can the rest of the human race!
Gervase Phinn, the Catholic author, noted that in Northern Ireland there is an emphatic Protestant piece of graffiti:
NO POPE THERE!
Under Catholic wit wrote with equal emphasis:
CUTE OLD DADDY!
– a much better answer than bombs and bigotry!
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