A Comedian’s Guide To Theology, by Thor Ramsey
Admittedly, the jokes in this book are more than a little bit corny. I have never heard of the author as a comedian, although he has apparently worked with some famous people. That said, this book is funny largely because the author remembers that the first rule of being an appealing comedian is making fun of himself. And if there is one thing that the author does particularly well it is making fun of himself in such a way that it allows him to make fun of a great deal of the failures of contemporary Christianity without coming off as holier than thou. If the author draws some laughs, at least a few of those laughs are uncomfortable and reflect some self-awareness that the author has about himself. It is also genuinely funny, especially in the acknowledgments, to read that the author too hated the front cover (it truly is terrible) but that he had no clout as a new author. Still, he has better sense and taste than the people who designed the cover, and that does suggest that if he continues to write books that in the future he may be able to package these books in a way that reflects his own competence in writing the books.
This book is a short one at just a bit more than 200 pages and it contains fourteen chapters. The book begins with two prefaces, which the author jokes is a matter of giving postmodernists choices about which to read. After that the author talks about theology and the sexual life of a nun (1) and also mentions his own struggles with fidelity as a traveling comic. After that the author discusses the importance of knowing the Bible for believers (2) as well as the connection between inspiration and perspiration when it comes to the writing of the Bible (3). After that the author discusses doubt and how it may or may not help someone (4) as well as a general discussion of what God is like (5). After that comes a discussion of narcissism (6), a discussion of the superiority of Christianity (7), and a look at how one acquires a death threat (8), which demonstrates that the author’s humor occasionally strikes at sensitive nerves. This leads to a discussion of the theology of hell that takes two chapters (9, 10) where the author makes his own positions plain, and a look at the problem of grace in the contemporary context (11) of licentiousness. The author manages to defend uptight fundamentalist Christians (12) while also discussing Christology (13) and the end times (14), before ending with acknowledgments and some notes about the author and an overall successful first effort as an author.
There are some aspects about this book that greatly pleased me. For one, despite not knowing the comedian, I found him to be a very appealing and relatable writer, which is important when one is dealing with a subject like this one. The ability to write about theological matters as someone who does not have an obviously recognized expertise in the subject can be a dicey matter sometimes and the author handles it well. The way that the author talks about the behavior of Christians and about the knowledge level that people tend to have about the ways of God are heavily dosed with a lot of levity, and that makes them go down better. If the author is not someone who could draw a lot of attention to his work by his nonexistent name recognition, he at least is someone whose work I can appreciate and respect, and if I see any more from him I will definitely take them seriously. Anyone who can engage in theology and comedy and do it in a self-effacing but competent manner is worthy of respect by my standards, at least.