Today I saw a reader board sign outside a church that read “Jesus loves you snow much.”
Yes, it said “snow much”.
It was a pun.
A bad pun.
A very bad pun.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against humor. Even bad jokes have their place. But is this really the place?
Even those who have never heard the name “Marshall McLuhan” probably have heard his most famous phrase: “The medium is the message.” In this case the medium is a reader board sign with a bad joke. What’s the message?
When I lived in England I loved visiting the great churches of Europe: St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, and my favorite of all, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The architects and builders of those churches understood that the medium was the message, and each of those buildings provided a resounding message of the sublime, transcendent, holy, eternal. I recognize that not every church can be a grand Gothic cathedral. But what do you think a bad pun on a reader board sign says? Do you think it conveys a sense of the sublime, the transcendent, the holy, the eternal?
On the contrary, it is difficult to envision something less sublime than a bad pun, or something more ephemeral than a reader board sign with a cycle of bad puns.
Not everything has to be funny. Not everything is light, ephemeral, and trivial. If the church belongs in the neighborhood at all it is not because of its bad puns. It is because here there is a promise to touch the sublime, the transcendent, the holy, the eternal.
And that’s no joke.