A rabbi, a Baptist pastor and a Muslim walk into a ………theater. No, not the start of a joke but certainly an invitation to an evening of humor! I recently attended the Laugh in Peace Comedy Tour that was held in the theater at the Crosstown Concourse. As soon as I heard about the event, I knew that I wanted to attend. I loved the idea! Rabbi Bob Alper started this program years ago, with a mission to employ humor to help knock down barriers among various religions. What a wonderful concept! Too often religions can seem stuffy, formal, and full of unfamiliar practices. That can prevent some people from wanting to take part in them. The inability to laugh at ourselves also sets us up to feel too self-important and to be dismissive of other religions, especially those with which we may not be familiar. This comedy tour works to dispel the notion that people of other religions are unapproachable or too different from what we are. Rabbi Alper knew that humor is one of the great equalizers in this world. It can cross the barriers that we erect, barriers that we build out of fear/ignorance/laziness/apathy….
Their program was simply delightful! Besides Rabbi Alper, who has been a rabbi for 40 years and a comedian for 30 years, there was Susan Sparks and Gibran Saleem. Susan was an attorney and a comedian in NY before accepting the call to become a minister. She grew up as a Southern Baptist in North Carolina but knew that she couldn’t become a minister if she remained in that denomination, so she went to seminary and is now associated with American Baptists. Gibran is a comedian, writer, and actor. They each performed separately and then came together at the end to talk about the intention behind what they do, the experiences that have informed their comedy, and their hopes for positive outcomes from their tour. It was obvious to all of us in the audience that these three people loved what they were doing and they loved each other. They spoke of their gratitude to be able to perform together as they do, traveling the country, making new friends and helping to spread laughter. What of course makes them the happiest is to perform in front of audiences comprised of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc., and watch those people laugh and clap together, finding humor in the same jokes. Bob, Susan and Gibran all stressed the truth that there is so much more about humanity that is the same than is different. Humor is an important tool in aiding people’s ability to see and feel that truth. It is a truth that too many of us stubbornly try to ignore.
All God’s Children
I was grateful for the opportunity to see their performance and also thankful to be in a very diverse audience and in a community that still appreciates and honors our differences, whether they be in our religion, our skin color, our socio-economic situations, and any other difference you can name. As a Christian, I have to honor the truth that God made all of us. He made us with all of our many differences, but He also made us with brains and hearts to discern that regardless of the many and varied ways we look and live, we are all His children and as such, He loves us all the SAME. God tells us to love one another, the same way we love Him, but time and again, we try to ignore that commandment by putting limitations on loving everyone. We tell ourselves that someone looks too different or believes something unfamiliar and that we cannot love them. Then, we often go a step further and convince ourselves that if we “really” love God, we could not possibly love anyone who does not “measure up” to how we perceive God; that we are actually honoring God by spurning those people and denigrating them. Follow the so-called logic in that train of thought, and you can see how completely wrong we can be! We take God’s commandment and turn it upside down! How is that possibly following what God has asked of us?!
My hope is that we all will think twice before we cast aspersions on others and that we will look around us at the diversity that God has created and see that it is good!