Preaching Jokes to Power

May 4, 2022 : 10:00 -11:30 am by Zoom

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Preaching and stand-up comedy share many traits. Both art forms transpire with a lone speaker addressing a more or less attuned audience on some matter of sociopolitical significance. Despite their commonalities, comedy and preaching bear a troubled history. Much discourse emerging from the contemporary comedy stage would lead to a slew of angry emails (and possibly termination) were it to come from the pulpit. Some even question whether humor is appropriate for the “serious” task of gospel proclamation. What, then, might preachers learn from comics?

Many stand-up comics have found ways to challenge sociopolitical norms through humor. While the efficacy of humor aimed toward social justice remains debatable, such humor prompts us to consider what preachers might learn from stand-up comics in this regard? This workshop interrogates the capacities of preaching and stand-up comedy to challenge structures of injustice, i.e., to preach jokes to power. It aims to help participants consider afresh how humor might lead their hearers to modulate their ways of believing, belonging, and behaving and perhaps to mobilize them for material action in the world.

Facilitator: The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers

The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers is the Wade P. Huie, Jr. Associate Professor of Homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary. Dr. Myers is interested in homiletical theories and theologies, continental philosophies (esp. poststructuralism, existentialism, and phenomenology), and emerging expressions of faith and practice in postmodern, post-Christian contexts. His research focuses on alternative epistemologies for sermon development and delivery, the philosophical and theological conditions for the im-possibility of preaching, contextual/constructive biblical hermeneutics and theologies, and the ways in which preaching interacts with cultures and traditions.

Dr. Myers has authored or co-authored numerous essays and articles for such journals as Theology Today, Literature and Theology, Homiletic, and Worship. His book publications include the following: Making Love with Scripture: Why the Bible Doesn’t Mean How You Think It Means (Fortress, 2015); Preaching Must Die! Troubling Homiletical Theology (Fortress, 2017); Curating Church: Strategies for Innovative Worship (Abingdon, 2018); In Tongues of Mortals and Angels: A Deconstructive Theology of God-talk, co-authored with Eric D. Barreto and Nikki Young (Fortress Academic/Lexington Books, 2019); Proclaiming God at the Threshold of Philosophy (Mohr Siebeck, 2022); and Stand-up Preaching: Homiletical Insights from Contemporary Comedians (Cascade, 2022).

Dr. Myers received his BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University, his MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his PhD in Person, Community, and Religious Life from Emory University. Dr. Myers is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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This workshop is part of a monthly workshop series on preaching, the first Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. For an overview of the series, click here.