I have long been fond of laughter. If you have met me you know that I do not fear laughing. When things are funny, laughter is the necessary response. G.K. Chesterton criticizes those who do not know the art of laughing at jokes about “bad cheese”. Chesterton’s critics did not laugh at “bad cheese” jokes because they were looking for something foolish and ignorant to laugh at, but in reality “bad cheese” stood for a more subtle and philosophical idea.
Bad cheese is funny because it is (like the foreigner or the man fallen on the pavement) the type of the transition or transgression across a great mystical boundary. Bad cheese symbolises the change from the inorganic to the organic. Bad cheese symbolises the startling prodigy of matter taking on vitality. It symbolises the origin of life itself.
Bad cheese like symbolic criticisms of an economic or political system deserves great laughter. If we train our minds to laugh only at that which is simple, then we will never truly laugh. Laughter is an art; it must be cultivated and encouraged.
There is another side to this story. There are those who are immature at laughter. They are so self-centered that they do not allow themselves to be humbled by a joke. They are so isolated that they do not allow themselves to be entertained. This latter point is worth stressing. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says that ” a feast is made for laughter.” If laughter is to be encouraged and if in a feast we get to practice it, then why is there so little feasting? Christians have become virtual gnostics. They adore the theologizing and philosophizing, but they stay away from the feasting. They find little pleasure in a funny story or the jokes of a 10 year old. These Christians have created a “funny” status and if one does reach such level, then they must be kicked out. In the words of a theologian who knows the art of laughter, ” this is not only unChristian; it is inhuman.”
Not all laughter has to be sophisticated! Some times simple jokes are the most effective in producing laughter. Still, Christians must train themselves not to be caught with simple and unnecessary laughter. Crude and unwholesome jokes are an abomination. If we find greater laughter in the seat of scoffers than at the feasting table of saints, then we have sold our souls to misery, for only the wicked find consolation in the jokes of the wicked.