Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Is music more culturally translatable than humor?

I think so.

A Ethiopian man, Haile Amde Haymanot, signed the guest book over at the Onion Dome thus:
besime ab, weweld, wemenfes qidus; ahadu amlak; Amen!

Hello there! Yes, the Orthodox might not be laughing about themselves... It's because we take our religion very seriously. Our religion is theocentric and not anthropocentric as some other denominations are.

Mr. Haymanot conflates two distinct things here: laughing about ourselves and laughing about our religion. I feel safe in speaking for all the writers at the Onion Dome that we don't laugh at our faith. Mr. Haymanot is right; we are centered on God, and though I'm sure that God laughs at us, I don't laugh at Him. He is not ridiculous.

The same cannot be said of Orthodox Christians. We are the oddest, quirkiest and most frequently ridiculous of all the Christian groups, and I will hold us up in that regard against the craziest Catholics, the looniest Lutherans and the battiest Baptists you can find, as well as the most aggravating agnostics and the most irritating Unitarians.

But Mr. Haymanot continues:
And for us Orthodox people it is a gift of God that we could keep our faith to this very day. Some of us were under the rule of foreign non-christian empires and others had to retreat to isolation and defend whatever they had against others who attacked us. That probably had a certain effect on our 'humor' in religious things...

I think he's hit on the difference. It's a gift of God even to us Americans that he and the other persecuted peoples have kept their faith even to this day, and I suppose that in the crucible there may be no time or opportunity for laughter, just as for the first three centuries of the Church, there was not much opportunity to deal with heresy.

Heresy--and the theology that answers it--grows in times of safety, and the important arguments that must take place in the cool shade of religious freedom need humor. Satire channels anger; it substitutes ridicule for venom; it points up odd correspondences; it points up odd divergences.
This is my personal view, that I wanted to share with you. It's not a hate post or anything like that. I neither say that what you do is 'bad', it's your choice and if you have another understanding of humor or religion than I have, then keep on doing your work here and may the Almighty bless it.

May God bless you on all your ways...

It's too kindly worded to be quite a "Disgrunt™," but I can tell he's not quite pleased. And yet with all respect to him, I say that writing for the Onion Dome is one of the best things I do. So I suppose it comes down to a different understanding of humor and religion.

But here's the thing. Go to the Tawahedo Spiritual Song Shop and listen to the music he has there. Click on one of the links in the list. They play on RealPlayer on my Mac.


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