My article below titled "Humour and Religion" was published in Letters section of Irish Independent newspaper on 17 Oct 05. The editors removed some of my original sentences which I've included in italics below. I've no problem with that - it does keep the core sentiments and is more compact. They also dropped the capital H in "Himself" when referring to Jesus...I was trying to be respectful, but the Indo clearly didn't go for it!.
The controversial billboard, while it lasted, contained a light hearted joke that the Last Supper was not the time or place to be gambling. Is this really so grossly offensive?
Granted the image might arguably have offered more intelligent humour and been in better taste had it excluded Jesus Himself from seemingly being personally involved in the gambling process at the table. I say this because if we think a little deeper, would it really be impossible to imagine the disciples engaged in gambling at just the wrong time? We are talking about ordinary unsophisticated fishermen, who, in their well intentioned but fallible humanity, had at different stages either fallen asleep when they were asked to pray, denied Jesus after having promised not to, and betrayed Him for money. Moreover, Da Vinci's huge and dramatic Last Supper fresco was actually capturing the very moment after Jesus had announced that one of those at the table was about to betray Him. So I think the joke could have been wittier thrown more firmly on the disciples and maybe showing a contrastingly exasperated Jesus. Of course those in the advertising world don't always use too much sensitivity of thought on the subjects that they exploit.
Even though the advert as displayed perhaps wrongly poked some fun at Jesus Himself, there nevertheless is a general point to be raised. Are we still at the stage that there is no room at all for any humour in any interfacing on religion? I've listened to some Christian teachers say that Jesus was likely to have had a sense of humour - His ability to draw an attention span of groups of children being one clue. I think one of the problems is that many of us when approaching the subject of religion still fail to see the importance of both the recognition and inclusion of many valued aspects of our humanity. Our humanity in a very positive way includes humour and laughter.