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disclaimerA week or so ago, I posted about the papal visit to Philadelphia, and in that post I began as follows:

First, let me say that I’m really happy for those of you who are among the lucky few to secure a ticket to get within 10 miles of the Pope. For the record, he’s been calling me for weeks to see if I can carve out some time to talk while he’s here (something about evolution), but I’m just too busy at the moment. (Emphasis added)

I raise this because I have personally received and heard from others comments such as the following:

“What’s wrong with you? I mean, when the Pope wants to get together with you, you MAKE TIME!!”
“Enns is pretty arrogant not to drop everything and meet with the Pope.”
“If the Pope’s been calling for weeks, I think we can safely assume it must be very important.”

Apparently, a critical mass of readers took my post as a statement of fact, perhaps feeling that “For the record” was a sure genre indicator that we are dealing here with something that is actually on the record.

But I was joking. “For the record” was irony to enhance the experience of humor.

This reminded me of the time when I was a student at Westminster Theological Seminary in the 80’s.  I was playing Foosball with afoosball classmate, and we were discussing something or other theological, and how one position was right and another was wrong.

We happened to agree on this particular matter, and so I suggested that maybe we just kill all those who hold the opposite position.

His response was—and I kid you not—”No . . . I don’t think we should do that.” I heard genuine concern in his voice for my spiritual state.

It sort of ruined the joke for me to say, “Uh . . . I’m not serious.”

Granted, the Calvinist tradition has a history, however minimal, of doing God’s work by killing those who have wrong thoughts about God, so maybe this guy was channeling all that.

And Westminster Theological Seminary isn’t exactly a feeder for Comedy Central writers to begin with, but still.

I realize I tend to have that dry sarcastic sense of humor that’s hard to pick up on the internet. I was raised on SNL, M*A*S*H, and All in the Family in the 70s. In a way, I never had a fighting chance.

But still, you really thought the Pope was calling me? You really think the Pope knows who I am? And you really think I wouldn’t drop everything including my own funeral to get there?♠

humor meterSo as we all move forward from this, if you are offended or think I’ve simply gone off the deep end, make sure your “humor meter”♦ isn’t jammed, or check in with a friend—if need be from another denomination—to see if you might be missing some genre clues.

Now if you’ll forgive me, I have to prepare for the next presidential debate. I missed the first two and I really need to make this one if I want to have a chance.♣

♠Note—As it is impossible to miss one’s own funeral, this is an example of absurdity enhancing humor.
♦Note—I don’t really think you have a humor meter, nor do I think humor meters exist. You see, simply speaking of a “humor meter” is humorous, and the use of quotation marks helps draw attention to that fact.
♣See what I did there? 

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Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.