Saturday, September 15, 2012

Humour and Religion

I was set to thinking today [but not too deeply] about humour and religion.  I use humour when teaching my history of religion classes, but not in the sense that I make jokes about any particular religion.  I may be mad, but I am not stupid... or is that I may be stupid but I'm not mad?  Anyway, I think more to the point, can religion - its history and beliefs - be communicated to others with a light touch?  Or is it so deadly serious that humour has no place?

In my last class [my only face-to-face teaching], I touched briefly on the Hasidim - how they see joy as central to their beliefs.  Even when times are dark, the Hasidim believe one should be filled with joy.  Why?  Well, because creation overall is from God and must therefore be wonderful and joyful.  The vicissitudes of life are temporary and perhaps [well one hopes this] aberrant and not the norm.

There are preachers who use humour on occasion - but it is rare.  Only rarely do you see any kind of joy or laughter when the topic of religion arises.

I do not think it appropriate to laugh at any part of a religion - say in the adolescent style of that American TV show Saturday Night Live.  But religion can be discussed, debated, learned, explored with a light touch - with a smile of recognition or of surprise.

That's my intent and goal, anyway.

Monday, September 10, 2012

the Calm and the Passion

I have often wondered at the difference meanings given to the words passion and spirituality across Christian denominations.  In some evangelical Protestant churches these terms connote wild outbursts of emotion, passionate singing, shouting out Amen in church services.  For more sedate Anglicans and Catholics, and especially the Orthodox and Uniate churches of the East, it means deep, silent meditation that might produce tears in the one meditating, but more often a total silence and separation from emotion.

Religion and Schools

I was thinking tonight as I walked my dogs about a 1963 essay by George Grant on religion in schools in Ontario.  At that time Grant noted that the public schools - then known as being openly Protestant - taught religion in a rote and unenthusiastic fashion.  He noted their true religion was progress and something he called technique.  By this latter he meant not the word as commonly understood, but as signifying an attention to producing better things - to an almost worship of material improvement.  He went on to say that only the Catholic schools still took religion seriously and taught it as though God were real.  The article in question is called Religion and the State and is found in the collection of essays Technology and Empire [originally published in Queen's Quarterly, 1963].

A good overview of three critics of modern society and its technological bias can be found in this article:

Context and Content:  Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan and George Grant and the Role of Technology in Modern Society by Philip Massolin in Past Imperfect, Vol. 5, 1996