Category Archives: Humor

Having Some Fun With The Sede Vacante

As regular readers know I enjoy the opportunity to have a little fun at the expense of religion. So here are a few of the gems that caught my eye today as the Roman church went into sede vacante.

The first are a couple of great puns from @janewells, a reporter for CNBC:

Media loves to pontificate on what’s next for papacy. (stolen from @colemanrod)

A Popeless situation.

The second is not so much humor but entertainment. The Religion New Service brings us word that there is a Spotify playlist for choosing a new pope. The article says:

The music site Spotify called on [Timothy] O’Malley and other experts at University of Notre Dame to select two dozen chants, hymns, suites, orchestral music and more at Conclave: Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

“People who know sacred music will find this to be a greatest hits list,” O’Malley says. But among the classics are some surprises.

Charles Wesley wasn’t Catholic, for example, but his hymn Love Divine, all loves excelling is on the list “because the theme is what we were going for — it’s about love and unity and prayer.” And Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring is included for its mood of rebirth and renewal, he says.

And finally, a great play on the season (no not Lent) in another gift from the Religion News Service — March Madness Vatican Edition. Yes, the top candidates for pope from every region battle it out in an elimination tournament style bracket. And who can’t appreciate the first round as the “Sweet Sistine” But why did Tagle and Turkson have to end up facing each other in the first round! Couldn’t that have waited for the semi’s?

OK, enough frivolity for today. Get back as you were with your Reformed dour demeanor…

UPDATE: Thanks to Mark Silk (and Religious News Service) we have a job posting.

Another Comic Strip Mentioning Presbyterians

Well, Bruce Tinsley and his Mallard Fillmore comic strip are at it again with the reference to Presbyterians.  You may remember his previous reference a little over a year ago where he referred to “radical Presbyterians.”  Rev. Ed has preserved that comic and he and I riffed on it a bit.

The comic strip from today and the reference to “rogue Presbyterians” is not so amenable to the discussion of Presbyterian polity so I only note it for the reference.  (Then again, maybe it does fit the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria post I just finished — I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if one side or the other is “rogue.”) In fact, it appears that the use of Presbyterian is simply to make the rhyme work in the limerick.

But I will also note the… what shall I call it?  coincidence, irony, providence?… of being at work over my lunch hour on my previous post about Nigeria and Presbyterians only to have a phone call from my family alerting me to the fact that the comic strip had also made reference to both of those.  Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

A Little Levity — Humor Delivered Via Twitter

In celebration of my transition point in the Summer from part-time teaching back to my regular gig, and because I can use it, I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite places to have Twitter bring you some humor.  To the twitter-intelligentsia out there these are probably already familiar to you, but maybe someone out there will find these new and entertaining.

The first is simply an acknowledgement of some very sharp and refined Presbyterian humor from PCAPresbyter during GA season.  While he does have amusing tweets during the off-season, how can you match such great lines as he had during the PCA GA.

The PCA has a strong theology of penal substitutionary amendments.

GA: God’s plan for cultivating perseverance in Presbyterians.

OK, so maybe only the other polity wonks are ROTFL with stuff like that but I always enjoy when we can take a moment to step back and not take ourselves too seriously.  Well done PCAPresbyter!

Now, for religious humor that is not quite as refined, but that can also be a very funny insight into our foibles and idiosyncracies, I would point to the well know religious humor outlet XIANITY.  While this source puts out several satirical posts a day, a few of my favorites aimed at the Reformed folks include:

ROME: Reformer gored during the Running of the Papal Bulls.

MIRACLES: Report of entire Presbyterian congregation being raised from dead turns out to be everyone standing to sing hymn #78

FOOD: Calvinists pressure General Mills to change name of popular cereal to Providential Charms®

And of a more general theme:

CHURCH: Shabbat riot ensues as Messianic Jew replaces shofar with vuvuzela. #worldcup

LOCAL: Sunday service delayed after Pastor loses keys to “Church of the Open Door”

BREAKING NEWS: Bizarre kindergartner responds with something other than “Jesus” to Sunday School teacher’s questions.

Moving on to the refined, but secular, the writers and journalists out there probably already know about FakeAPStylebook, a twitter feed that satirizes that bastion of journalistic and literary advice, the venerable AP Stylebook.  Recent gems include:

there/their/they’re – What,seriously? This confuses you?

Sprinkle the word “quantum” throughout science articles, particularly if you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Never say anything about a colleague in a private e-mail that you wouldn’t put in print, since it’s going to end up there anyway.

Real estate listings should not describe a building as a “murder house.” Be specific: ax murder house, chainsaw murder house.

And finally, moving from twitter accounts to hashtags and the satirical to the ridiculous, in a play on the Wikileaks drama, there is now a Star Wars send-up called #wookieleaks:

DiscordianStooj: Empire covering up evidence that bombing of asteroids damages the habitat of endangered space slugs. #wookieleaks

FireLifeSafety #Wookieleaks Investigators claim sprinkler systems would have prevented Death Star explosions.

peterhau RT @KendalCole: Skywalker rumored to have spoiled Christmas for Vader, “I felt his presents.” #wookieleaks <- now that’s a good twitter joke!

Some Twitter humor that I follow that I pass along for your reading enjoyment.  Your mileage may vary.

So, having gotten that little bit of ardor out of my system we return to our regularly scheduled order here on this blog. Have fun!

A Little Fun With The General Assembly

While the whole idea of using “fun” and “General Assembly” in the same sentence is probably foreign to many Presbyterians, we have a whole genre of humor that revolves around the gatherings of our governing bodies and poking fun at our fascination with parliamentary procedure.

As evidence of that the representative of a group of Presbyterians who are not afraid to have some fun at the expense of our polity recently sent me a drinking game they came up with during one of the Assembly meetings this Spring.  With their permission I will share that in a minute, but it got me thinking about this.  Considering that a game of this nature would probably not work in the observer galleries of our Assemblies and that the near-by hotel lounges are not likely to live stream the meeting I have borrowed from their idea with the inspiration of a cartoon which has become a classic in academic circles.  Just in time for the resumption of plenary sessions at the PC(USA) Assembly, I bring you

General Assembly Bingo

So here is a bingo card for you to play along with your favorite meeting of the highest governing body of a Presbyterian branch.  I have tried to make it as generic as possible so it can be used at all the different meetings.

(I have also made a downloadable PDF copy.)

So let me know of other things that might be included or if any of these are too rare an occurrence to be worthy of the bingo card.

Now, as I said at the onset, this was inspired by a drinking game that others proposed.  These drinking games are their own genre as well — for example there is a Star Trek game.

But for General Assemblies, here are their suggested rules:

  • Point of Order — 1 drink
  • Moderator takes a drink — 1 drink
  • Moderator reminds someone to identify themselves at the microphone — 1 drink
  • Moderator makes a joke — 1 drink
  • One of the “polity police” rises to speak — 1 shot of stronger stuff
  • Call for Division — stand on one foot and drink
  • A substitute motion is offered — switch to a different drink
  • Substitute motion is defeated — switch back
  • Somebody from the back complains that they can’t hear or haven’t gotten the distributions yet — buy a round for everyone else
  • Reminder of being inside the voting area — trade drinks with your neighbor
  • Move to recess — bathroom break

Of course, this is presented for entertainment purposes only and I must emphasize the responsible consumption of whatever beverage.  As for me, after a enough drinks of coffee and a couple shots of espresso I’ll probably have a hard time standing on one foot to down the next cup of java during a division of the house.  However, the switch to decaf during the substitute motion will help.  🙂

But however you do it enjoy a bit of irreverence and ardor with your order.  Force yourself to not take the parliamentary procedure too seriously.

We now return to our regular being decent and in order.

A Little Levity For March 2010

I need a diversion from some other heavy work this weekend so I thought I would share a couple of lighter thoughts…

From MSN Lifestyle we have the 75 Best Dressed Men of All Time, and thanks to The Contemporary Calvinist we know that none other than John Calvin is number 52.  I tried to find a direct link to #52 but as far as I could find you need to click through the first 51 to get there.  So to save you the time of clicking through all that the citation says:

John Calvin, theologian

Because the most famous minimalist in world history knew a man didn’t need expensive clothes or bright colors to convey authority. Black and white, worn with the requisite gravity, can be powerful and intimidating. Just look at the Secret Service. Or the Reservoir Dogs.


It is interesting to note that Calvin is the figure on the list who lived the longest ago, with the exception of the generic caveman that starts the list.  Almost everyone else on the list is “modern.”  It is also interesting that the only other religious figure on the list is the next one, #53, Malcolm X.  (And in an interesting and unrelated observation, Sean Connery makes it onto the list twice, once as himself (#13) and once as James Bond (#19).)  But from my knowledge of Calvin, I have to think that it would greatly disturb Mr. Calvin, the theologian who was so clear that it was not about him that he insisted on a secret grave, that he would be honored in this way.

One of the heavy tasks I began this weekend is to start work on my sermon for the Easter Sunrise Service.  It is not just the writing of the sermon itself but the fact that part of the sermon is to insist that in order for the resurrection to be exceedingly good news you have to deal honestly with the bad news of death.  Yes, this will probably not be your typical Easter sermon, but when did I do anything typical?

So related to that I see that a Vatican official, in a collection of advice on preparing homilies, suggests that homilies should be no longer than the eight minutes a person can focus their attention.  (Interesting that in all that advice, some if it like starting early in the week I could endorse, the 8 minute mark got the headlines.)  I know of few preachers who could regularly stop at this point but I have worked with a couple of pastor nominating committees who considered something only slightly longer than this a positive skill of a potential pastor.  And if you keep the length short, you don’t have to worry as much about the fine print in yesterday’s Beetle Bailey comic strip.

Now related to pastor searches I bring you a final lighter note for today… If you are not familiar with the blog Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley you might be interested in the Archdruid Eileen’s commentary on their community life and religious perspective.  It provides a humourous look at religions in general and organized religion in particular.  With a hat tip to Ruth Gledhill, here is one of my favorites from the blog, a job posting:

Situations Vacant — The Dispersed Communities of Spalding

The Dispersed Communities of Spalding are looking for a male or female druid with vision, capable of leading our communities forward into new challenges.

We are a group of 12 Beaker communities scattered across the hamlets to the east of Spalding.  
Well, when we say communities, strictly speaking four of these communities have only one member each and there’s only twenty-three of us in total. But we are dedicated to keeping true to our roots.  Which is why we insist on worshiping only each within our own Moot Houses, coming together only for the annual Falling Out ceremony where we remember why we don’t get together any more often.
In order to help our communities to reach out to the people in the Spalding area, the new druid must be capable of vision, bringing forward radical ideas to transform the way we “do community”.  Which we will ignore.  They must be capable of relating easily with the young, teenagers, the old and the middle aged.  They will be up to date with the very latest ideas in Beaker Worship, but still willing to keep on with the same old pebbles and tea lights regardless.  
They must be good at dealing with frustration, and able to keep their thoughts very much to themselves.
A gifted evangelist and strategist, the main role for the new druid will be to try to work out how to raise the funds to patch up the roofs of 12 Moot Houses, all of which are in dire states of repair.  The boilers have gone in 6 as well.  The new druid must be able to inspire a giving attitude amongst our Folk, without at any point ever mentioning money.  It tends to depress us.

We are a modern and equal-opportunities group of fellowships, and will welcome the right druid, regardless of marital status, sexuality and gender, as long as his wife is good  at baking cakes and they have a couple of kids.

If that doesn’t resonate with some churches…

A Little Levity — Mid-February Edition

You can’t make this stuff up…

With a hat tip to Deacon Tim at Sacraments Wholesale I bring you a Joint Resolution currently in the South Carolina Legislature:

H 4468

H 4468 Joint Resolution, By Thompson and H.B. Brown

Here is how the text of this legislation begins:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION    1.    (A)    The General Assembly finds that:

(1)    on a recurrent basis the General Assembly relies upon study committees to study issues before the General Assembly, both those previously studied and unstudied; and

(2)    no study committee has ever studied study committees to specifically study the effectiveness of study committees at resolving or solving the issue or problem that the study committees studied.

( B )  It is the goal of the General Assembly to ensure that:

(1)    study committees are studied to study the optimal use of study committees to ensure study committees are neither being formed needlessly nor studying issues already sufficiently studied; and

(2)    to ensure that study committees are actually studying when they say they are studying.

(C)    There is created a study committee on study committees to be known as the “South Carolina Study Committee Study Committee,” composed of the following nine members…

Now for those who see this as a serious issue I’m sorry but the use of the English language here strikes me as something straight out of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song.  (Or maybe Donald Rumsfeld) Like if I broke up line 1( B )(1):

study committees are studied
to study the optimal use of study
committees to ensure study
committees are neither being formed needlessly
nor studying issues already sufficiently studied

So others might not see the humor in this, but maybe it helps to remember that the last PC(USA) General Assembly created more Special Committees and Task Forces than I can remember any other GA doing and I just came off one of those Special Committees.  Then again, I used to laugh at the redundancy implied in the former title of one of the research centers at a university – The Center for the Study of Evaluation.

Now in case you don’t share my sense of humor at governmental phraseology, I bring another humorous blog post from yesterday — You might be a Presbyterian If… by Joseph at A Higher Orthodoxy.  Yes, there is an older list floating around, but this one contains a couple of new gems:

2. Presbyterians like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.

4. Presbyterians usually follow the printed liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.

6. Presbyterians feel that applauding for their children’s choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.

7. Presbyterians drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.

8. Some Presbyterians believe that a PCA bride and a PC(USA) groom make for a mixed marriage.

10d. *The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight;

And there are a bunch more.  Check it out.

Radical Presbyterians

Had to laugh at the comic strip Mallard Fillmore yesterday — not often we get references to Presbyterians in the comic pages, to say nothing of “Radical Presbyterians.”  As the PCA Historical Center has shown us, comic strips about Presbyterians, and our General Assemblies no less, have been more common in the past.  [My all time favorite Presbyterian political cartoon from the 217th General Assembly (2006) not withstanding.]

One tends not to think of Presbyterians as “radical,” but I do remember a quote in a sermon one time about the fear inspired on the battlefield by a small band of Scottish Presbyterians on their knees in prayer before a battle.  [I could not find a source for that but I’ll ask my friend that preached the sermon about it on Sunday, unless one of you recognizes the quote.]

Our Presbyterian polity actually does talk about being “radical,” but in a different sense of the word than we think of today.  While these “radical principles of Presbyterian church government and discipline” are included in the current PC(USA) Book of Order, G-1.0400, the footnote tells us that they were adopted by the 1797 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  Through the wonders of Google Books, I can quote from an 1828 issue of The Christian Advocate (v. 6, p. 59) from a letter submitted to that publication:

Radical Principles of Presbyterianism.

Perhaps I shall not be able to state these better than by an extract from “Form of Government,” chap. xii. page 563, note. “The radical principles ofPresbyterian church government and discipline are:— That the several different congregations of believers, taken collectively, constitute one church of Christ; called emphatically the church; that a larger part of the church, or a representation of it, should govern a smaller, or determine matters of controversy which arise therein;—that a representation of the whole should govern and determine in regard to every part, and to all the parts united; that is, that a majority shall govern: and consequently that appeals may be carried from lower to higher judicatories, till they be finally decided by the collected wisdom and united voice of the whole church.”

These principles I hope to see preserved without any infraction— and I feel persuaded the more they are examined and tested, the more dear they will be to the Presbyterian church.

So we are radical in our polity, although it should be pointed out that the current PC(USA) Book of Order clarifies the meaning of radical by saying “the word ‘radical’ is used in its primary meaning of ‘fundamental and basic,'”

So have fun going out there and being radical — or at least “fundamental and basic.”

A Little Liturgical Levity

A quick post to bring you two recent sighting of Liturgical Levity…

The first is from my friend David Gambrell on his blog Linen Ephod.  David posts a lot of his own liturgical writing and musings on the blog, but under the tag Kitsch he has recently posted pictures of five liturgical objects made of plastic stacking building bricks.  You’ll see what I mean.  These are for Saint Oleg’s Church.  I am expecting to see the completed church on the blog at some time in the future.  So here is the Door, Font, Pulpit, Table, and Windows.

And now for something completely different…

With a hat tip to Cyberbrethren, I have been introduced to the blog Bad Vestments.  Yes, the name is all you need to know about the blog.  Now, I can appreciate “high church.”  But this is a collection of liturgical garments that just make you sit back and wonder.  Remember, liturgical garb was intended to keep from drawing attention to the leader so worshipers could focus on God.  You have to admit that some of these certainly do draw attention to the wearer.  It does not surprise me that one particular leader appears more than any other on this blog.  I thought I commented on this miter when I first saw it a while back but can’t find it now.

Have fun, and now back to pondering GA actions.

CD Review: Some Assembly Required by Angus Sutherland

I finally got around to ordering the CD “Some Assembly Required” from the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  For a G.A. Junkie this CD is a gem.

First, let me dispel any misconceptions.  This is not your typical CD of Christian music.  You won’t see it on the best seller charts.  It won’t be earning any Dove Awards.  To my knowledge this CD is one of a kind.

But, if you are a Presbyterian who understands and appreciates the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our Presbyterian system of government, and you don’t mind some humor about it in music, then you will probably get a kick out of this collection of seven songs.

And this album is worth every penny of the $Can 15 that it costs if for no other reason than the proceeds go to the Presbyterian World Service and Development Agency (PWS&D).

The Rev. Angus Sutherland has put together a set of seven novelty songs about Presbyterians in general and our system of government in particular.  I bought the album on the strength of the song “The Clerk’s Rant” which is available from the PCC web site.  It was a rap-style song with clever rhymes and witty lyrics from a clerk delivering, in a very typical “clerk tone,” guidance on parlimentary procedure for making motions and amendments.  Having now heard the rest of the album I can say that there is more clever song writing that I enjoyed.  For example, the second verse of the song “Decently and In Order” (sung to the tune Scotland the Brave with a whole bunch of extra syllables in the last line)

The people can be picky.
Ministry can be tricky.
The situation sticky.
What will you do?
When life is going faster,
It’s hard to be a pastor.
So when you face disaster,
What pulls you through?

We have the answer here
to help disperse your fear.
When you are lost here is one place you can come for answers.
When they will give no quarter,
Here’s how you meet disorder:
Decently and in Order,
And according to the Book of Forms.

(And as you probably guessed, the Book of Forms is very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the Book of Church Order or Book of Order.  The official documents of the PCC are the Acts of Assembly and the Book of Forms is updated regularly, but not annually, to reflect the Acts.)

It is also interesting to consider how universal the “Presbyterian experience” is.  The song “Moderator” (words and music by Mr. Sutherland) tells the story of a supposedly straight-forward committee report on the floor of the Assembly and the amendments and motions it is subjected to.  Here are the second and third verses, each of which is in a different voice invoking the requests of different GA commissioners:

Moderator, Moderator, Over here at microphone one.
I’m intending to be amending for so much is left undone.
Isn’t it a pity, don’t it make you blue.
Clearly the committee hasn’t thought the whole thing through.
Moderator, Moderator, my amendment’s on the floor.

Moderator, Moderator, I am standing — hear my plea.
The punctuation situation needs correction theologically.
If we place a comma after the word “and”
There will be no trauma and all will understand.
If those moving are approving, I propose this vital change.

Haven’t we all been there at one time or another.  And as a bit of an inside joke, the committee that is reporting is the Committee on History for which the Rev. Sutherland is the convener.

The strength of the album in my mind are the five songs more specific to Presbyterian governance.  There are two songs more general to the PCC and Presbyterianism:  “PWS&D” and “We are called.”  While interesting they don’t have the same resonance with me as the Assembly songs do.

So again, this album is not for everyone.  But for the rare breed versed in Presbyterian polity, parliamentary procedure, and the ways of General Assembly or other courts of the church this album will surely being a smile to your face.  Enjoy.

Greetings On Trinity Sunday

For those of you who use the liturgical calendar, I wish you a happy Trinity Sunday.

Some of you may have seen “If God text messaged the 10 Commandments.” (h/t Being Presbyterian)

Well, in case you did not see it the Liturgical Comic Strip Agnus Day for Trinity Sunday has the Athanasian Creed down to a tweet:

The Dad, Son & Spirit are God; God is Dad, Son & Spirit; Dad≠Son, Son≠Dad, Dad≠Spirit, Son≠Spirit, Spirit≠Dad, Spirit≠Son. Done.

Yes, less than 140 characters.  Even room for a hashtag.  As the straight man in the strip says to the maverick – “You scare me.”

Have a blessed Lord’s Day.