By: Dan Rupple

Comedy is universally loved by almost everyone. People everywhere love to laugh. But comedy, whether as an artistic craft or as a form of communication, rarely receives the full respect it so richly deserves.

When someone does something stupid, what is the first thing an onlooker says? "What are you, some kind of comedian?" The folks who put it all on the line for our amusement seldom get our admiration ... our love, yes; our admiration, no. When it comes to public esteem, funny people usually have to take a backseat to their somber, more serious-minded brethren.

From the beginning of civilization, the most admired individuals, or the ones remembered with the greatest reverence, are the great men and women of faith, the conquering military leaders, the political rulers, the classic authors, composers or philosophers. But have you ever seen a monument to village idiots? How about a national holiday for court jesters? No, those who make us laugh get very little respect!

In our modern culture, the same bias continues. When was the last time you heard a comedian’s name being bantered about as potential presidential candidate? In a corporate setting, do you ever hear a statement such as: "Hey, you know the guy who drank his coffee through his nose at last year’s Christmas party? Let’s make him our new executive vice-president."

Now, of course there are a few exceptions (most notably Mark Twain and Will Rogers), but let us not confuse being admired with being loved. In the contest of "Most Beloved," the comedian wins hands down.

In the past, this problem has been magnified even more in Christendom. Not only has the church often paralleled our culture’s view that comedy isn’t a highly regarded form of communication, but there have been those who questioned whether humor is even appropriate in a life of a true disciple, let alone a church sanctuary.

Through the centuries, the Christian culture has sometimes had an overly austere and pious view of our faith. It makes one wonder if we might have had a more fruitful history if Christians would have lightened up!

Dr. Humphrey Osmond, a well-known professor of psychiatry, speculated: "Jesus had an excellent sense of humor and pungent wit. If He hadn’t, He could not have made such a favorable impression on publicans and sinners, and such an unfavorable impression on the religious establishment."

Dating back more than 25 years ago, when my comedy team Isaac Air Freight was launching one of Christendom’s first forays into the ultimate oxymoron, "Christian comedy," we were sometimes questioned whether our humor was mockingly aimed at God. I would respond to our critics: "We aren’t laughing at God; our humor comes from the absurdity of man trying to live a fulfilled and purposeful life without a relationship with his creator." But isn’t it also absurd for people who have a relationship with the God of the universe, the creator of all joy, not to have lives, homes and ministries filled with joyful laughter?

Presently, Christian comedy has come a long way, and Christian comedians are fast becoming some of the most in-demand performers within the Christian community. We see a growing trend of churches presenting comedy sketches on Sunday mornings, and comedy nights are being presented by outreach-minded churches on a regular basis.

To meet this demand, not only has the number of Christian comedy performers dramatically escalated, but also the comedic quality of these comedians has been elevated to a level that meets or surpasses some of the best secular comedians working today. Comedy is happily here to stay in the program of the church and in the life of the Christian.

Mark Twain once wrote, "The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter." When it comes to using comedy as a vehicle to reach people with the greatest news that has ever been shared, laughter is an effective weapon indeed.

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By: Dan Rupple, a TV producer, comedy writer, adjunct professor and a licensed Foursquare minister. Learn more about his work by logging on to www.SeriouslyFunny.cc. This original article by Dan Rupple is reprinted here with his permission, all rights reserved, and cannot be reproduced.