Pastor Mark – “So these two Germans are walking down the street…”

Listener – “Whoa, Pastor Mark, why do all your jokes need to be ethnic jokes? Wouldn’t it be just as funny if it were just two guys?”

Pastor Mark – “Oh OK, you’re right, let me start again. So these two guys were walking down the street; Hans and Wolfgang…”

Speaking of which…Canadian Ernst Zundel is serving five years in a German jail for denying the holocaust. It’s a stupid position to take given what we know concerning Nazi Germany, but my question is; since when was stupidity against the law? (If that’s the case I can think of a few politicians that need to go to prison for life). Whatever happened to freedom of speech, and freedom of thought and expression? Zundel has never been convicted of inciting violence (or any criminal offence for that matter), just denying the Holocaust and trying to convince others of the same. His views clearly offend the sensibilities of many, myself included. So what? He also has written extensively on the existence of UFO’s. How about the feelings of the poor Martians he has maligned? Waaaa! To my way of thinking, the real intolerance is on the part of those of us that won’t tolerate him.

The biggest complaints I ever get concerning my preaching are about my sense of humour. Some people just cannot understand why I am so politically incorrect, and in their minds, offensive. Here is an example of a fairly typical letter:

Dear Pastor Mark

one thing that confuses me when i see the Church Of the Rock television broadcast is Pastor Mark’s brand of humour: if we are to walk in love, doesn’t that mean we are to love Michael Jackson…etc etc as well? i get a very non-Christian instruction on how to behave, in with the Christian message. “according to scriptures we must this and this and this, except when it comes to making fun at the expense of celebrities” now, i don’t want to make your work more difficult and i’m not a person who gets offended easily (at all!), but isn’t that how the devil works? a little bit of truth to make the evil go down? i just don’t get the ‘jokes’ and the mixed message they send. Joel Osteen doesn’t make fun of people and he tells jokes, too.

Sincerely KL

Dear KL

Yeah, but Joel Osteen isn’t funny! Oops, there I go again…

I believe most of us are far too easily offended. We live in a culture of hypersensitivity. People get bent out of shape everyday because of the most petty of things. I think people take themselves waaaaay too seriously. When we are offended because of an ethnic or gender comment, what is the real root of our offence? Is it not human pride? Our race, religion, culture and gender are all important, but all too often they become too important. The original sin of the fall of both Lucifer (Isa 14:12-15) and of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:5) was pride. Pride could be described as ‘thinking more highly of yourself than you ought’ (Rom 12:3).  What do they call that gay parade they hold every year?  That’s it, Gay Pride. Yeah, that’s working for me.

Look at the way Canadians describe themselves. No one is just a Canadian. They are either Italian Canadian or Indo-Canadian or German Canadian etc. It doesn’t seem to matter if their family has been here for 300 years! The Census taker at my front door was offended when I looked down the list options and told her I was a Native Canadian. “No, sir, what is your ethnic origin?” she indignantly replied. “I was born here, that makes me native Canadian.” I calmly responded. I have no intention of carrying the ethnic pride of my great, great, great grandparents. I haven’t even been to their birth countries. I am certainly not going to be offended by a joke related to their (or my) ethnic origin. I am of course not talking about mean spirited racial slurs and hurtful comments.

If you want some great Jewish jokes, go to Israel. The best Newfie jokes are told in Newfoundland. We were there a few years ago and they are easily the friendliest and perhaps funniest people in Canada (think Rick Mercer). When I tell a Newfie joke I get a raft of letters, not from Newfoundlanders, but from others who are offended for them. We really need to lighten up. Trust me, the Newfies are not nearly as bent out of shape as we are. You can buy this T-shirt in St Johns.

Personally, I think it is healthy to poke fun at ourselves and even our differences. For me no one is off limits, but in fact, I poke more fun at myself than anyone else. I do it deliberately as a provocation not to take ourselves too seriously. If that is a sin, then I am guilty as charged. But to me the far worse sin is the sin of hypersensitivity.