Sydney Missionary and Bible College

Humour and Formation in a Culture of Contempt

Presentation Abstract

In his 2019 book Love Your Enemies, Arthur Brooks defines contempt as “not merely an outburst following a moment of deep frustration with another but rather an enduring attitude of complete disdain.” Brooks argues, along with many others, that contempt has become a default posture within our political discourse. It is arguably the same within educational practice, including within the classrooms of theological educators. One key facet of such practice is the use of humour in the construction of contempt. Because of its frequent associations with “superiority” (moral and otherwise), humour naturally lends itself to the expression of aggressive hostility to the “other”. Within educational settings, such “othering” can be used to marginalise alternative points of view, and to forestall critical engagement. Such a phenomenon might be seen as commending the elimination of humour from the theological classroom. This paper will argue for a different set of opportunities for humour in the toolkit of theological educators. Beginning with exegetical and theological reflection on humour in the Scriptures and the Christian tradition, we will move to a consideration of the benefits of humour for theological, pastoral, and spiritual formation.


Teaching & Learning (D.3)