Can American Christians take a joke? The question will be tested by the new film Don Verdean, a satire about a Christian archeologist who tours churches showcasing the “biblical” artifacts he has unearthed—from the shears used to cut Samson’s hair to the Goliath’s skull. The movie lampoons a Christian subculture that seems to attract more than its share of swindlers, shysters, and hucksters.
But it’s difficult to imagine the film recreating the success of its director Jared Hess’s 2004 hit, Napoleon Dynamite, because the audience most likely to understand the jokes is the one least likely to find it amusing.
The line between a giggle and a groan is often thin, and much religious comedy is just ridicule offered in bad taste. But when done right, religious humor in film, television, literature, and stand-up can be a gateway to important conversations and even instill listeners with humility. So Christians need to learn to laugh at themselves.