Now is the time for me to read “Power and Pragmatism” by past Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind who is speaking for ZANE in early November. An excellent and insightful book about an extraordinary career by a man crackling with ability and high achievement. Defence Secretary and foreign Secretary and today and elder statesman whose views are continually being sought.
I am also reading David Coltart’s book “The Struggle Continues” that outlines in terrible detail the plight of Zimbabwe today. David describes the many attempts on his life as if they were an occupational hazard or a commonplace in his role as education secretary in the coalition government.
No Sex Please, We’re Godly…
On a recent holiday, a couple of good friends showed Jane and me a YouTube clip of a comic called Danny Bhoy comparing the Italian and British parliaments, and demonstrating how the Italians wish one another “good luck”.
After we had laughed we were left wondering which of our friends would enjoy Bhoy’s act and who would be shocked? Okay, Bhoy swears, and deploys vulgarity and mild sexual innuendo – but not gratuitously, and so what? Why do sexual references produce such anxiety amongst the religious community? And why don’t money, anger, jealousy, or envy produce an equal reaction, for it’s apparently okay to make jokes about these subjects, but not sex? Go figure. In fact, when you come to think about it, I suppose the two subjects of God and sex cause the greatest fear and anxiety in people; the same topics that form the basis of most so-called “jokes”.
The Christian “Walk”
Anyway we have friends whose default position where vulgarity is concerned is a permanent sniff of disapproval and so we have to be careful. Don’t forget that Christians are expected not to tell smutty stories; not to gossip or boast; and not to exaggerate events. In fact, it seems to me there is very little we can talk about other than what the vicar said last Sunday, and the weather – which is, I suppose, why the latter is such a popular topic! No wonder the Desert Fathers maintained a vow of silence.
I know some people who are “good” in the worst sense of the word. These are the Christians who wander about with downcast eyes and turned-down mouths. They can be relied on to parade their interpretation of scripture as the “right one”, or to condemn gay rights and disapprove of women vicars. Quick to condemn joy, fun and sex, these deeply dreary types are the ones who put off non-Christians (who take one look and not surprisingly say “no thanks”). They can be heard talking in “holy” voices in church, and have a special vocabulary in which they detail their Christian “walk”; or they can be heard muttering about what God confided to them that very morning, or celebrating the car space that was miraculously made available. They read lessons in church, not as the good news but as a final demand for payment; and when they are around, the temperature drops at least five degrees as the sun vanishes behind the nearest cloud. Who can blame it?
What is wrong with a bit of vulgarity provided it doesn’t hurt anyone? I don’t like gratuitous swearing, crudeness or blasphemy. But salty stories and earthy humour (see Danny Bhoy) is different as it lightens the day and does no harm – there is no therapy better than a good laugh. Humour doesn’t change much throughout the ages. I visited Pompeii recently, and saw graffiti drawings of cocks and balls – as have been drawn on loo walls since the Garden of Eden (were there loos there?) So what’s new?
By all accounts, Jesus spent a good deal of his time talking to fallen women, tax collectors, drunkards, down-and-outs, and deeply flawed people like me. He was an attractive man, charismatic and wildly popular. I doubt he told his low-life friends to “shut up” whenever they started to tell an off-colour story. Sex has been a source of vulgar humour since the world began. Jesus must have heard all the old jokes and he probably had a good laugh at them too. I’ll bet he would have laughed at Danny Bhoy because he had a sense of humour. In fact, the late former Lord Chancellor Viscount Hailsham once proclaimed that Jesus told a joke when he called Peter “His Rock”!”
So if you are a Christian, does Danny Bhoy’s act offend you? If so, why?