Recently, a friend mentioned his pastor’s habit of occasionally peppering his sermons with gender-based jokes.
You know what I mean, the quips about women shopping, or men hunting, or the woman “wearing the pants” in the marriage, or about blonde women being ditzy and men being emotionally distant. And maybe a million more.
My friend wanted to know my thoughts on this brand of humor. Here’s what I think:
If you’re in Christian leadership, and you find yourself with a microphone in hand in front of a room full of people waiting on your every word, do everything you can to avoid using stereotypical gender jokes.
Here are five reasons to steer clear of these kinds of jokes:
#1 It’s likely you’re alienating someone in the room.
Unless you know everyone in the room and their backstories, it’s likely you’re alienating someone every time you tell such a joke. You might offend someone who is like the stereotype but trying to change. Or you might offend someone who is not but wishes they were. Or you might offend someone, like me, who cares deeply about gender equality and finds such jokes distasteful. A church service should be a place of hospitality and welcome; alienating someone through an ill-advised joke thwarts that purpose.
#2. You’ll be perpetuating a culture of gender brokenness.
In all gender-based humor, someone is the punchline, and most gender-based jokes paint women in a negative light. My question is, why would you want to do that to a group that has historically been marginalized by the institutional church? Indeed, every time a pastor makes a crack about the stereotypical bossy/shrill/emotional/nagging/etc. woman, the status quo is reaffirmed and women are pushed back toward the edges of the church.
#3. You could be driving someone away from Jesus.
Have you considered that there could well be adverse missional ramifications to the stereotypical, gender-based remark? Let’s say you’re a woman who left the church long ago because there was no place for you to use your gifts, only to courageously decide to come back and give it another chance. How do you think you would feel being the butt of the joke?!? Or, imagine you’re a Jesus-seeking man that doesn’t fit the stereotypically masculine gender roles. How would you feel if you don’t watch sports, or like bacon, or think monster trucks are cool? We must be wary of putting up unnecessary barriers to someone connecting with Jesus.
#4. Jokes about marriage belittle an institution that doesn’t need more belittling.
Let’s face it, when it comes to marriage, the church isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Most statistics relate the tragic story of a church whose divorce rates are all too similar to those in the secular world. We need pastors to build up, to honor, to revere, the holy institution of marriage, not to reduce it to a mere punchline.
#5. What do you want people talking about in the car on the way home, your message or your one-liner?
As my friend and I finished talking, it dawned on me that he never told me what the sermon was about that Sunday. Instead, we were processing how he felt about the joke he heard. I would venture to say that if a 10 second sound bite is the takeaway from a 35-minute sermon, something is amiss. Don’t allow your message to be subverted by one throwaway comment.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention.
Humor is good. So is connecting with your audience by relating to real life experiences.
But there are ways to do that without using gender-based humor.
There are ways to do that that don’t deepen the gender brokenness, further entrench the stereotypes and, possibly, alienate people from the church and from a deeper walk with God.
In the end, we need to be creating meaningful venues where congregations can talk constructively about male/female relationships and partnerships. Maybe a place to start would be the content of this post. Agree? Disagree? Either way, it would be great to host a conversation in your church about it.
The bottom line is that until we figure out ways to take gender seriously in the church, the joke will be on us.
- A Church You Would Want to Avoid - January 18, 2018
- Laying Down Male Privilege for Joy - August 11, 2015
- 5 Reasons Not to Use Gender-Based Jokes in the Pulpit - January 8, 2015