Saturday, 17 June 2006

The quality of COG humor

COG humor - the kind the ministers toss from their pulpits - has always been a blunt instrument. Regrettably it has on occasion been openly racist. There's the prominent Aussie UCG minister who delights in using the term "bubble butt" to describe women of color, while I recollect vividly a one-liner from former Auckland WCG pastor Jack Croucher relating to what can only be euphemistically called the "color-coordination tastes" of Afro-Americans. The congregation predictably guffawed in delight.

But the years have passed and we've all got a little more circumspect about such things. In my salad days I admit to engaging in a few Peter Sellers-type impressions. Back then I didn't know any Asian people personally, however when you work alongside a dignified Sri Lankan woman with a beautiful but pronounced accent, you suddenly realize just how downright churlish it is to make fun of it. To call it "political correctness" is to miss the point entirely. It's simply about treating other people with respect and a measure of dignity. Can someone claiming to be Christian possibly do less?

Enter Jerold Aust, Good News writer and UCG minister. Such subtleties are apparently lost on this bloke who, on a website where he preens and fluffs about his Christian beliefs, has a little collection called "Learn Chinese in Five Minutes." It's not explicitly racist, but you'd have to wonder whether it's exactly appropriate. In case you're wondering whether I'm entirely objective in pointing this out, it was a UCG member who first raised the question and set me thinking. Here's what Mr Aust posted (currently appearing at

1) That is not right.........................Sum Ting Wong
2) Are you harboring a fugitive?.............Hu Yu Hai Ding
3) See me ASAP...............................Kum Hia Nao
4) Small Horse...............................Tai Ni Po Ni
5) Did you go to the beach?..................Wai Yu So Tan
6) I bumped into a coffee table..............Ai Bang Mai Ni
7) I think you need a face lift..............Chin Tu Fat
8) It is very dark in here...................Wai So Dim
9) I thought you were on a diet.............Wai Yu Mun Ching
10) This is a tow away zone..................No Pah King
11) Our meeting is scheduled for next week...Wai Yu Kum Nao
12) Staying out of sight.....................Lei Ying Lo
13) He is cleaning his automobile............Wa Shing Ka
14) Your body odor is offensive..............Yu Stin Ki Pu
Have a great week and weekend.~jwa

Funny? Perhaps some of the brethren in Singapore or Burma might like to comment. It would be interesting to find out from UCG how they "officially" feel about this kind of ragging.


Michael said...

I don’t know about the “racist” part of it—I never heard that during my short tenure with the WCG, but I heard quite a bit of “offensive” sermons and ribald language coming from behind the pulpit to make me leave the WCG in a hurry. I even heard it on tapes I ordered from the old CGI when GTA was still there. I was under the impression that “ministers” were spokesmen for Jesus Christ, not Henny Youngman imitators. I can’t imagine Jesus walking into the local synagogue and whipping off a one-liner like, “Take my wife—please!” The purpose of gathering together is supposed to be spiritual growth, fellowship, and supporting one another in a spirit of “love.” It makes me wonder if the Father gave the spiritually begotten Jews permission to make sport of the Gentiles when they were brought into the Church. We seem to forget that when the time comes for our induction into the Kingdom there won’t be any “race” involved—we’ll be changed from flesh to spirit. If the COG’s have become a “white only” social club, then they don’t represent the Father in heaven. God Almighty is NOT a racist!

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

Hey Gavin,

I score one up for you in my blog for refuting this man's nonsense. As one who is African Canadian I refute strongly in my own "naughty" and perhaps "cheeky" way of that Aussie minister's distate for black women and their body image. Have a good laugh.

xbeliever said...

You have to wonder about the maturity level of a minister who would display such insensitive and childish humor.

Jered said...

I'm half asian and I find nothing offensive about his "jokes." Myself and other asian friends commonly make similar jokes. When done in a spirit of good humor you shouldn't be offended.

If you want something that is racially offensive its the term "Afro-Americans" or "African-American." I have both friends and family who are actual African-Americans (born in Africa). They find black Americans using the term insulting. I had one African-American friend in college who went ballistic on a black guy who was wearing "tribal" colors. He was wearing colors from three different tribes... who hate each other! She was offended by the ignorant way he was pretending to be African.

African is not a racial descriptor, its a location of origin; unlike Asian which is both. Still, I wouldn't say I'm Asian-American since I wasn't born in Asia. I'm simply American. Racially there are broadly these categories: white (caucasian), black, American Indian/Eskimo, Asian/Pacific Islander, East Indian, and Hispanic.

Ok, rant over. Back to topic. I don't think jokes of those types are offensive at all. They aren't denegrating which is the key factor to offensive jokes. White people are entirely to sensitive about these things and us "colored" people find it irritating, sad and funny in equal parts.

Anonymous said...

Comment from Felix Taylor's board: "That Asians may themselves have found it funny is also not at issue. "In-group" humor exists in all types of social groupings, but the locus of power and control of that form of humor is situated within the group. That is, we might observe black people calling each other by the n-word in fun or casual conversation. We might hear two wheelchair users calling each other "crips". This does not give persons outside of that particular ethnic or "insider group" permission to use those terms."

Jordan Potter said...

"This does not give persons outside of that particular ethnic or 'insider group' permission to use those terms."

I object to that kind of hypocrisy. Ethnic humor exists: perhaps most of us have used it or laughed at it at one time or another. As with all things, much depends on context, timing, and intent. It's possible for "outsiders" to use such humor in an inoffensive way, and it's possible for them to use it in an offensive way. It's possible for "insiders" to use self-referential ethnic humor in an inoffensive way, and it's possible for them to use it in an offensive way. It's irrational and absurd, and great fodder for humor, for folks to complain about the fact that we humans can notice the fact that we are amazingly goofy creatures and crack jokes about it.

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

Interesting, thoughtful and intelligent discusion so far. I'm impressed.

Douglas Becker said...

Apparently, Mr. Aust has already removed the offending material or I just can't find the original from the provided URL.

It's hard to say. Perhaps a United States Agency or Corporation would issue a remprimand for violating discrimination rules concerning diverstity, or maybe not. Probably not. But be warned, Human Resources probably would not take kindly to this. And United does have policy. In fact, the UCG has so much policy in its governance, it's a lot like the Congressional Record. It's all image over substance anyway. What sort of substance can the UCG claim anyway? It's such a seductive troupe.

The Reader's Digest published a short blurb on Russian awhile back and here's the meaning of "AHA!":

Caught you, didn't I?

Like The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, it's mostly harmless. Except when it isn't.

Papyrus said...

Hi, Jordan--
These are good observations and I like your point about the context, timing and intent of humor being key--all very true!

My comments on this particular instance of ethnic humor is contexted around the appropriateness of this form of humor being used by a minister --we (ministers) are specificaly training not to do this, especially in a public context --why take the risk of hurting someone? There are many other kinds of humor to use that are general and not directed at specific groups of people.

Papyrus said...

also--I too have asian friends who would have found the joke hilarious. I also know some asians who are embarrassed by their language skills to the point that they have been paying language tutors for years to improve their English and are forever apologizing at their accents. We just don't know who is sitting in the pew or reading our material, what their level of personal discouragement may be, or what's happening in their lives to make them more sensitve to something less than tactful. So best to use some restraint and err on the side of caution and sensitivity in public situations. Among friends who know each other well, that's an entirely different matter! Hope this clarifies a little.

Michael said...

You (ministers) need to get real jobs! You've got too much time on your hands.

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

No kidding Michael but the problem is that most of dread hard work or labour of anykinds.

Ralph said...

Apparently it was the 60's that introduced "Let Stalk Strine", a book authored by 'Afferbeck Lauder'. When I first saw it I thought, "Afferbeck", what an unusual name then when reading the book the lights came on. I doubt if any 'true blue' Aussie would take offence at the book's play on English words. I can't really remember but think the book may have been a best seller. Extracts can be found at this address Would any 'true blue' Asian take offence at the subject matter of you post? Wee jar stono!