Do faith and comedy complement one another? It sure seems that way, as the USA Today reports that Christians, Jews and Muslims are apparently part of "a fresh wave of humor" that is sweeping clergy and comics, alike.
As laughter is a uniting force, it seems its increasing presence in, among and between faith communities is a welcome distraction from the contentious social and political debates that often surround faith and religion.
There's a new breed of faith leaders and comics who seem intent on adding some entertainment into the mix to take off the edge. The jokes that these comedians and religious figures use, though rooted in each faith system, are contemporary in nature.
Take, for instance, Islamic comic Azhar Usman, who tours the United States. The title of his show? "Allah Made Me Funny." In his routine, he quips about Islamic customs, common misconceptions and the like. Below, see him in action:
Then there's Jesuit priest and humorist James Martin who believes wholeheartedly that jokes and comedy are much-needed in the church and among Christian believers.
He even has a new book out, which addresses this issue: "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life."
"Humor is a sign of God's creativity. Look at giraffes," he says. "If Jesus didn't have a sense of humor, he wouldn't have been fully human. People who can't laugh have a wrong-headed notion about Christianity and the Bible."
In one example of Martin's humor, he says that St. Lawrence, a martyr in 258 A.D., said the following as he roasted over coals: "This side is done. Turn me over and have a bite."
Below, watch Martin discuss the importance of jokes and comedy to the whole of Christianity:
But using humor among the religious does have its risk. There's a certain environment that people expect in church and some comments coming from the pulpit, if they aren't vetted properly, may not go over so well.
As the Christian Post's Allison Summer writes, "Humor has always been somewhat of a taboo subject in various religions, not just Christianity, with many displaying reservations about incorporating it into their spiritual lives."
However, in today's world many religious people believe that belief in a higher power and laughter go hand-in-hand. The USA Today has more:
Liel Leibovitz, who writes Blessed Week Ever, a weekly Torah column for the Jewish magazine Tablet, doubts anyone could believe in God without laughing.
"There's shared DNA between faith and humor. Both are attempts to deal with fundamental human anxiety and things you can't control. That's why so many rabbis and priests walk into a bar at the beginning of jokes. Laughing gets you past the anxiety," Leibovitz says. "There are Torah passages that crack me up. Look at the Israelites at Mount Sinai. God is about to reveal himself and everyone is in chaos. The about-to-be-chosen people want to know, 'Can we transfer this membership card to someone else?'
What do you think? Does comedy belong in the pulpit? Take our poll: