Letter to the Editor: Altar Boys and Nuns

David Burchard Letters

Recently, I shared a Douglas Wilson #NoQuarterNovember joke on Facebook. “How do you get a nun pregnant? Dress her up as an altar boy.”

The joke ridicules the Roman Catholic Church, a false church that for years has harbored pedophile priests.

And it drew Facebook rage all the way from trans activists to conservative Christians.

A godly brother followed the ensuing comment thread interactions and wrote me the following note:

I see you’re getting in trouble again on your wall with perverted priest jokes. I read the back and forth and get where you are going, so I agree that the joke is fine…perhaps not funny to all, but fine.

That said, I assume that you and I agree that some jokes are off limits. So I am wondering, based on our agreed upon standard, when do you think a joke goes too far? I want to get past the easily agreed upon things (taking the Lord’s name in vain, clearly tearing down a brother, etc.). You ask others for standards, which is a great question, but what is yours? At some level, when we apply texts to life, there will be some subjective measure, right? What is an unwholesome sentence? Would you drop the joke to a woman that had just been raped? Does timing play into these things? Etc.

Just wondering where you draw the line.

This brother’s question was sharp and asked in love. I gave the following answer, an answer which I believe gets at a Biblical use of mockery.

Thanks for the question, brother.

Where’s my line? Target/point and context are my two big factors.

Target/point: My joke was about the perverted priesthood, falling into the sexual category, in line with a number of prophetic rebuke texts. Its target is the ridicule of wicked men who falsely bear the name of righteousness. Now, just the other day, my friend told me a joke about a French guy who pours wine on a girl’s breasts and lights her nether regions on fire. There is no agenda in the joke beyond finding the far-fetched crudeness of the acts themselves funny. So, I wouldn’t tell that joke. It fails to measure up regarding target/point.

Context: The difference between private and public forums is a big deal. The way I write on my blog is different sometimes to how I’d talk about an issue if I was speaking to one individual about whom I had more personal information. Same with a sermon. I preach a text from the pulpit differently than I might explain a text in a counseling session. The forums are different. Anyone browsing Facebook has to be ok with their eyes beholding manful verbal warfare against the well-respected legions of darkness. They can’t fall into the too sensitive stereotypes of our generation. But, in private conversation with an individual, sensitive Christian girl, I don’t need to wage war against a priest. I’m talking to a girl, not a soldier. If I’m talking to a child, I’m talking differently too because he isn’t a soldier and needs to be introduced to particular subjects in a particular way. If I discover a man was abused as an altar boy, whereas I publicly ridicule Rome for such things, my play with him is not going to use the weapon of humor. I’m going to talk directly to him about it, point out what was evil, and call him to forsake the institution.

On an only somewhat related note, in that it has to do with altar boys, I know a guy who used to be an altar boy and a lover of popery. When doing whatever altar boys do during the idolatrous mass, he let out what he thought would be silent but deadly. Instead, it was loud and deadly, loud enough to echo throughout the dead, cruciform Cathedral.

The priest was less than amused, especially since he’d already hocus-pocused the bread.

Well, with that shared, I shall sign off with another humdinger #NoQuarterNovember joke.

Why can’t Anglicans play chess? They can no longer tell the difference between a bishop and a queen.

Merry Christmas.