I’ve been talking recently about humor.
Today I want to share a thought that I’ve had several times, but I don’t really know what to do with it. It’s about a face that is burned in my memory.
Maybe you remember it too. It’s from the powerful and horrifying scene in the movie, The Passion of the Christ where Jesus is whipped.
Ugh. So horrible. Something about watching the Roman soldiers laugh while they flayed Jesus alive made the whole thing that much more horrifying.
Remembering this moment of the film makes me wonder: What is it that could make a person laugh at this kind of torture? Surely the inclusion of this man’s laughter in the film isn’t just Mel Gibson’s way of exaggerating the horror of what happened to Jesus: Because Scripture tells us clearly that Jesus was mocked, laughed at, beaten, and spit upon by guards and soldiers. And even apart from Scripture, we all know that this sort of thing really happens. We know that Gladiator battles and public executions have been popular forms of entertainment throughout history.
Are We Any Different?
We modern westerners have reason for indulging in the hope that we are “different” than such “barbaric” societies. I’m glad that our society doesn’t commonly use human suffering as a form of entertainment.
But when I think about some of the things I do let myself be entertained by, I wonder if I’m not all that different from that Roman soldier. Take a look again at the instances of degradation in the movie “The Hangover” that I cited in my last few blog posts. If I allow myself to be entertained by the degradation of another human being—even mild degradation—then the difference between me and that Roman soldier is only a difference of degree, not a difference of type. I’m a little evil and the Roman soldier is a lot evil; but what’s the difference? We both have evil in us!
This, in particular, is what scares me about humor. If I were given God’s eyes for a moment to look back on the last week of my life, how many times would I see myself laughing at Jesus in the midst of his suffering?
“Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” (Romans 14:22)
“Truly, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)