Saturday, March 8, 2014

Is Faith Funny? An Interview with Cuyler Black

(Christians aren’t known for being particularly funny—at least, not intentionally. One funny person of faith is Cuyler Black of Inherit the Mirth. I was able to interview Black in 2011.)

 Is faith funny? Cuyler Black thinks it is.

“I believe that God is a God of joy,” says Black, who draws cartoons about the funny side of religion.

“When Jesus talks about heaven, he talks about a banquet or wedding, a place of joy and laughter,” he says. “Laughter is a part of who God is.”

Born into a preacher’s family in Ottawa, Black, 44, started cartooning at the age of ten in a local newspaper. At 17 he produced Furtree High, a comic strip about high school life, for the Ottawa Citizen; it ran from 1984-96.

He syndicated another strip from 1996-98 before going into youth ministry in London, Ont.

“I decided I didn’t want to be chained to my drawing table, so I dove into youth ministry,” he says.

He started drawing again in 2003 raise money for a youth group mission trip at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richfield, CT, where he was working at the time.

People loved the cartoons; five years later he decided to do cartooning full time and started Inherit the Mirth, a company that produces greeting cards, calendars, books and other products.

“My ministry is founded on the belief that God has a sense of humor and that positive laughter can improve health and spread joy throughout the world,” says Black, who still lives in Connecticut.

He acknowledges that not everyone will appreciate his humour, which has been described as The Far Side meets the Bible.

“Not everyone going to find them funny,” he says, noting that humour is subjective. His goal is not to make fun of Christianity—just to have some fun with it.

“I’m not making fun of faith, and I don’t want people to think I don’t take church seriously,” he says. “I consider my cartoons to be playfully reverent, or reverently playful.”

He has, in fact, only received a couple of complaints, even though most of his sales are in the American Bible belt.

His goal is to “encourage Christians to lighten up—we don’t need to feel we have to check our sense of humour at door when we go to church,” he says.

At the same time, he views his cartoons as a way to reach out to people who aren’t religious.

“Many people say to me ‘I’m non-religious, but your stuff is really funny,’” Black says.

“I find cartoons can be used to witness—they can be a light-hearted opening gambit.”

In addition to his cartoons, Black has also published two children’s books and a collection of cartoons. He’s also is producing youth curriculum, and is exploring animated e-cards and applications for phones.

“There is so much room for the God of joy,” he says of his ministry. “I think God wants me to be in this, to use me to help show a side of who He is.”

More information about Cuyler Black and his cartoons on his website. 

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