Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John L. Jackson
Humor that takes as its comedic object the beliefs, practices, and culture of Christianity has flourished in the digital age via journalistic satire, video sharing, and social network websites. Theory of the comic's use as a moderator between the sacred and the profane provide by Conrad Hyers, and the carnivalesque literary theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, reminds us that humor made at the expense of elements of Christian doctrine and culture can serve to reify and strengthen Christianity in the United States, a conclusion justified by textual analysis of three websites featuring this material. The analysis supports that an essential rule for successfully blending humor and religion together is to avoid directly leveling the humor at God or at Christianity as a valid religion but rather restricting the ludic treatment to church practices, church culture, and individual behavior. Comments made by readers reveal that a majority approve of the ludic turn, but vehement dissent shows a strong tension between the ludic and the presupposition that religion must remain sacrosanct and solemn. The specific mechanisms that lead from humor at the expense of Christianity to bolstering of Christian belief include inducing humility, providing reflection on one's beliefs and attitudes, offering corrective (termed parabolic) lessons regarding sin and folly, boosting the salience of Christian practices and beliefs, inoculation, and a negative reaction to perceived sacrilege that inspires recommittment to core beliefs. Christian humor is increasingly available and popular, and is fast becoming a constructive alternative mode through which Christians can address, explore, and consider their faith.
Fallis, Timothy William, "Pro-Christian Humor and the Online Carnival" (2014). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1272.