Clergy are the Original Source of Dad Jokes

Christopher Benek

Why do chicken coops only have two doors? Because if they had four they’d be called chicken sedans! What does a baby computer call his father? Data! Why are elevator jokes so good? They work on so many levels!

Dad jokes like these are all the rage in modern society. A child says “Dad, I’m hungry,” and the dad replies “Hi, Hungry, I’m Dad." The punchline is intentionally unfunny which is exactly what makes it funny.

While the modern day perception may be that cornball jokes like those above arose from fathers trying to be punny to children without being inappropriate, the truth is that they were likely popularized by clergy. Why? Because clergy have the arduous weekly task of keeping peoples’ attention while conveying formational teachings found in Scripture.

Unlike many secular comedians that rely on vulgarity and crude metaphors to draw laughs, clergy have a constant responsibility to create a family-friendly environment in which they then do the difficult task of interpreting Scripture to their flock. This means that they have to find ways to hold the attention of a crowd so that Christian adherents hear the finer points of the message. Sometimes the best way to do that is with semi-humorous jokes.

It has often been said that the easiest way to stay awake during a sermon is to deliver it. Additionally, most pastors know that the phrase guaranteed to wake up an audience is usually "And in conclusion." But if the goal is to actually engage a congregation in meaningful ways, then a combination of wit and humor becomes an essential part of a pastor's teaching methodology.

This is because practically demonstrating for groups of people how to be cheerful and humorous is an important component of helping folks learn to be winsome in conveying their faith. Showing people how to appropriately construct jokes and shaping what is perceived to be funny is an essential part of a pastor’s job. If a congregant cannot turn to their spiritual shepherd to teach them how to be virtuously joyous, then whom can they reasonably expect to provide them such guidance?

This formational teaching of how to be jubilant then aids people throughout the course of their lives. It provides a positive way for persons to address some conflict situations. It creates avenues for evangelism. Humor often offers a glimpse of hope in the midst of despair.

Moreover, Christian theologians have long advised the integration of humor into one’s faith as integral part of Christian flourishing. The Bible itself says in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.” St. John Chrysostom said, “Laughter has been implanted in our souls.” St. Thomas Aquinas believed that that there is a time for “playful deeds and jokes.” Martin Luther articulated, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.” John Wesley claimed that “A sour religion is the devil’s religion.” Søren Kierkegaard thought that “Humor is intrinsic to Christianity.” And Elton Trueblood said, “Never trust a theologian without a sense of humor.”

So the next time you hear a dad joke, consider its true origins. Because it is likely the case that the joke’s architect learned that creative skill-set via an acculturation process deeply rooted in the church. And behind all the joke’s deep layers of cheesiness – you too might actually be learning a formational virtue – without even knowing it.

So... If you’d like to brush up on your dad jokes you can do so here at CNN’s - Dad Joke Generator.

Or check out 70 Church-Oriented Dad Jokes.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How has humor positively impacted your life?

Q2. How do you determine what is appropriate humor for you and your family’s consumption?

Q3. What is one way that you could practice being more joyous every day?