Shock and Ha!

(I couldn’t resist this title, har, har, har!)

I just learned something about preaching from that great practical theologian, Judah Friedlander. (He’s currently on the TV show 30 Rock.)

A local afternoon newstalk program just brought him in on their discussion about the increasing raunchiness of TV shows (and, before you draw any conclusions, this would be the supposedly liberal side of the news, my local NPR station!)

The point was made that many shows mistake shock for humor: that the sex, poop, pee, body part, and fart jokes that are taking over many TV shows, are not actually funny. They are just titillating. Or shocking. As Friedlander said, “9/11: shocking. Not funny.” (That’s a harsh example, I know. But it drives home the point.)

Not that I’ve heard many sermons that contain fart and poop jokes, but…

Preachers need to remember that what they say in their sermon needs to have a point beyond shock value. Or, to put it more gently, keeping people awake. On a TV comedy, the point is humor. (And, I’ll admit: there’s a time and a place for a little well-done raunchy humor.)

When preaching, the point is kerygma (going beyond teaching, witnessing to the gospel, in a way that moves people, my probably questionable definition). You can use all sorts of techniques to do this. Humor. Irony. Theological playfulness. Unexpected illustrations. I could go on…

But if the point of any of those things is just to startle people for the sake of novelty and waking them up, it’s not kerygma.

2 Responses to “Shock and Ha!”

  1. Kerry Says:

    Interesting. I generally find myself stuck at the other end of shock-blah. Not as in a blah sermon or message, but I have never been intentional about saying something shocking. Sometimes I wonder if I should be more agitational or provocative…you know, too much comforting the afflicted and not enough afflicting the comfortable. Anyway, maybe it has more to do with being willing to get out of our own comfort zone as preachers. Thanks for the thought provoking post, and I love the title, of the post and your blog:)

  2. Erica Says:

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel like there’s something, just slightly different, than shocking someone and disturbing the comfortable. I LOVE that phrase “comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable”, and I firmly believe that if our preaching never bothers anyone, we aren’t doing our job. I think what I’m trying to get at is that when we do something in our sermons (surprise someone, or use humor, or turn something on its head, etc.) all of that has to somehow play into the kerygmatic purpose of the semron. This is definitely a thought-in-process for me!