My bloggerel seems to be influenced by breakfast cereal at the moment. This morning as I was munching on my non-brand wheat-based biscuits I glanced at a box of crispy rice cereal that was left on the table. On the front was an advert for a ‘fun colour me in activity’ on the back of the packet. Call me cynical [pause to allow you time to shout ‘cynical’ at the screen] but I reckon that if someone has to tell you that an activity is fun, it may not be as good as you might hope. And the relationship between actual fun and promised fun may be inversely proportional: the more fun you are told the activity / venue / event will be, the less you will have.
‘Fun’ is a word that is used to describe all sorts of activities, and seems to be the default word that advertisers drop in to their adverts in the hope that we will want to buy it / do it / go there.
Our local leisure centre proclaims that it offers ‘Year round fun for all the family’
A free games website offers ‘ thousands of fun games for free’
Slightly overdoing it is ‘Fort Fun in Eastbourne, the Family Fun Park which provides outdoor and indoor fun for kids of all ages’
Long distance races are now called ‘Fun Runs’ (two words I have not often associated with each other).
A Google search for ‘fun’ yielded 3.5 BILLION results!
Regardless of my cynical view of ‘fun’ in advertising, it is clearly something that we humans like, otherwise they would not spend some much time, money and effort telling us where and how we can get it.
Sooo, and some of you are already way ahead of me, should we be describing church as ‘fun’? Well, if my cynical view is right, we should never label any church activity as ‘fun’ because it won’t be fun when people come. But the problem is that many people would associate the two words ‘church’ and ‘fun’ even less than I associate ‘fun’ and ‘run’. There is a serious problem here (pun intended).
Church is viewed as serious, boring, dull, out of touch. And we have not done much to dispel those views.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we get all frivolous. Neither am I suggesting that solemnity, reverence and awe do not have a place in church. But we have represented Jesus as someone who does not smile, as a ‘Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief’ without also representing him as the one who was accused of being too much of a party animal, who laced his teaching with humour and who, I believe, wore a smile more often than a scowl. The film Dogma starts with a Catholic Cardinal recognising that the church has an image problem and coming up with a solution. A new sigil (look it up): the Buddy Christ (pictured).
I think that it’s intended to poke fun at church attempts to be cool, trendy, hip, or any other words that lie behind similar attempts in the ‘real’ world. And I am with the film makers to a great extent. It just comes across as laughable (not the right sort of fun) or cringeworthy. So what should we do? Well, if my belief about Jesus is right, and if we are meant to be good free samples of him, the best way that people will see that being a Christian does not mean you have to surrender the right to laugh is by us being, er, fun.
Instead of holding coffee mornings, perhaps we could hold games mornings. Instead of tutting, perhaps we could giggle.
I love watching the sitcom Miranda. I think it is well-written, winsome and funny. Miranda’s mother has a phrase that drives her daughter mad because it is a stock answer to any objections or concerns she may have: “Such fun!”
Wouldn’t it be great if that was one of the characteristics people saw in us, the church, the collection of free samples of Jesus.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
Why did Jesus’ popularity mushroom? Because he was a fun guy to be with.
[Okay, I apologise for that, but I could not resist].