There are people who have devoted serious careers to the study of humor, and many, if not most, are not very funny.
They are like me–they are not the life of the party, but they love to laugh. They are also interested in the psychology, sociology and physiology of the humorous event.
Writing about humor is like explaining a joke. If the joke has to be explained, it isn’t funny anymore.
E.B. White once wrote that analyzing humor is like dissecting frogs: Few people are interested and the subject always dies in the end.
I have a theory about the Christian faith. Many Christians, especially young Christians, have had their faith questioned and have watched it atrophy as they’ve tried to explain it. If it didn’t die, it sure went into hibernation.
Have you ever thought something was funny and as you shared the funny moment with someone else who didn’t see the humor in it? You questioned whether the moment was humorous at all.
The same thing happens to many people who have held onto their faith through their younger years.
Having never questioned their beliefs, they discover when they have tried to explain it or defend it later in life that others didn’t get it.
Not only do some people not get it, they disparage it, laughing and saying, “How can you believe such stuff?”
This can cause people to question whether their faith is even real, and many have fallen away from their faith because they have been unable to defend their beliefs. And that’s not funny.
You can enjoy humor without understanding what makes something funny. Likewise, you can embrace faith without understanding why you believe, but should you?
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.”
To explain why you believe, your faith must be comprehensible to you.
The church is losing a large number of its youth once they leave the safety net of the home and their youth group.
I’ve seen numbers as high as 75 percent who are no longer involved in church after leaving home.
Could it be that they have been indoctrinated with elements of the Christian faith but don’t know how to defend them because their minds have never been challenged with opposing views?
We spend a lot of time telling our youth what to believe, but not enough time educating them about opposing views and helping them think.
Some say, “They might think the wrong thing.” While understandable, aren’t we commanded to worship God with our minds as well as our hearts?
As youth age, they should be taught the ability to think through concepts and opposing views. This should not threaten their faith, but strengthen it.
“Education” comes from the Latin root “educare,” which means to “to draw forth from within.” In many cases, we don’t teach like this anymore.
We’ve moved away from the Socratic method, which involved inquiry and discussion between individuals and allowed for critical thinking and ideas to form.
Instead, we’ve focused on sharing information that is to be memorized and repeated.
Christian doctrine is essential, but beyond learning it, our youth must be encouraged to question it and examine it.
They must hear it as the world hears it before leaving the comfortable nest of home and the youth group or they will be shocked at how many reject their beliefs.
Peter reminds us that faith is a matter of the heart and in our hearts we set apart Christ as Lord.
However, too many people are teaching Christianity as if it’s just a bunch of rules for living.
If it’s no more than dos and don’ts, it’s little wonder so many leave the faith behind like an old band uniform.
Just like we equate laughter with humor, we should equate the Christian faith with loving Jesus and following his commands.
So first and foremost, we all must discover Jesus. Jesus must be as real to us as the breath we breathe and we must be able to tell people why we believe this.
Our beliefs must be something more than Mama said, the Sunday school teacher said or the preacher said.
They must be something we have discovered and decided for ourselves is true and through our education have learned how to defend against those who think we are fools.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.