For Youth Workers Post


Darren Wright

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for September 29–October 5, 2014.


“As I was almost done with this session, I watched “Last Week Tonight” and John Oliver’s discussion of American prisons. He referred to Sesame Street’s willingness to discuss with children what it’s like to grow up with a family member in jail while many others simply don’t talk about it or even seem to care.

“I was reminded of one of the letters from The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, about the various causes of laughter. I realized that sometimes the ability to laugh is more a sign of flippancy than joy.

“John Oliver says that we have made jokes about an issue that we should care about, and shows how jokes have been used in film and television to make us laugh: It’s so easy not to care about prisoners . . . that we are really comfortable making jokes about one of the most horrifying things that can potentially happen to them.’

“As I watched John Oliver, I was confused. Do I laugh, or do I cry? Do I need to ask forgiveness for laughing at jokes that have been made at the cost of others? And that is John Oliver’s point really.

“Humor can be used to make us laugh at issues that we should be taking seriously or at people we should be loving. But humor can also be prophetic. It has the power to say what others are afraid to say, in which case, many of us may be forced to address our own flippancy, ignorance, and self-centeredness.

“So I think I need to rewrite what I’ve put together to reflect what I learned from The Screwtape Letters and John Oliver.” —Darren

[NOTE: The video clip of John Oliver has strong and often offensive language. I do not use it in this session but have used it as a means to explore flippancy as a cause of laughter. In Australia, comedians regularly use prophetic humor, asking us to address our flippancy and ignorance. As an example, you might check out Clarke and Dawe and “First Dog on the Moon.”]


darrenDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Education Worker serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Youth and Children’s Ministry Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, high school chaplaincy, and local government as a youth worker. He’s also been a petrol station attendant, a supermarket employee, a dairy manager, and a furniture sales person. His interests include music (Moby, Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Muse, All India Radio), film (MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim), TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community), theology, pop-culture, working with young people in at-risk areas, and the connections between church and theology and pop culture. Check out his blog.


  • a printout for each person of Letter XI from The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. This letter from Screwtape to Wormwood addresses the use and abuse of humor [NOTE: The Screwtape Letters is a collection of fictional letters written by a senior demon, Screwtape, to a junior demon, Wormwood, and provide Wormwood with advice in his task of using the human he has been assigned in the expected way.]
  • a copy of the instructions for the drama games included in the session
  • a recording of the song “Laughing With” by Regina Spektor
  • a recording of the song “I Love to Laugh” from the Mary Poppins soundtrack
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session


If you want to develop this session in other ways, here are a few resources that may be of assistance.


Welcome group members, and invite them to sit. As they make themselves comfortable, play the song “I Love To Laugh” from the Mary Poppins Soundtrack. Then invite the group to play one or two games that may get them laughing.


(from Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops, by Jessica Swale, page 4)

Ask group members to stand in a circle. Explain that you are all going to shake your right hand in the air eight times, while counting loudly and quickly, “8, 7, 6, 5,4, 3, 2, 1!” Then you will all repeat this with your left hand, then right leg, then left leg. The counting needs to be fast and loud, and the shaking needs to be vigorous and energetic. As soon as you shake all four limbs while counting from 8 to 1, repeat the shaking and counting from 7 to 1, then 6 to 1, and continue until you finally shake each limb once, counting, “1, 1, 1, 1!” Then group members will shout “Rubber chicken!” and shake their whole body like a rubber chicken.


(from Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops, by Jessica Swale, page 16)

Ask group members to stand in a circle. In this game players must “pass the face” around the circle, but each time someone new receives it, he or she transforms it into another face. You will begin the exercise by making a funny face. Then turn in slow motion to the person on your right—let’s call her Katie—continuing to make the face. Katie must mirror your face exactly. Holding that facial expression, she then turns in equally slow motion toward the person on her right—Jack. As she turns past the middle of the circle, she slowly transforms your funny face into a different expression. Jack must mirror Katie’s face and then turn to the next person, changing the expression again, and the game continues. [NOTE: You can easily “theme” each round of the circle with an emotion, in order to explore all the facial expressions we associate with a specific feeling. Each person must find a new facial expression to express a quality of the chosen emotion, so the game gets progressively harder as you get further round the circle. There is a surprising amount of scope within this exercise; even in large groups players manage to find new possibilities. It can also act as an effective starting point for characterization exercises.]

After group members have played one or both games, invite discussion:
       What makes you laugh?
       What does your laugh sound like?
       How would you describe the laughter of other people in the group?


Instead of exploring scripture, this section takes a look at The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. Many of Lewis’s books examine the Christian faith through stories. Explain the premise of The Screwtape Letters to the group: It is a fictional series of letters written to Wormwood, a junior demon, by Screwtape, his mentor. Make note that “the Enemy” is God; and when the demon speaks of evils, he is talking about what we would call virtues. (Everything is turned on its head.)

Read aloud Letter XI from The Screwtape Letters. You may wish to read one paragraph at a time, engaging the group in discussion after each.

Questions for discussion:
       What do you think about the way Screwtape describes the four causes of laughter: “Joy, Fun, The Joke Proper, and Flippancy”?
       How have you experienced laughter due to each cause?
       Consider “The Joke Proper.” How do jokes demean the value of a person?
       How do they make an issue seem less than serious? (“Cruelty is shameful—unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke,” writes Screwtape.)
       Consider “Flippancy.” When have you heard of a virtue (charity, love, courage, benevolence, compassion, loyalty, honor, honesty, respect, justice, and so on) spoken of as if it were a joke?
       What causes you to laugh?
       How do we create more laughter caused by Joy and Fun?


Play the song “Laughing With” by Regina Spektor.

As the song comes to an end, invite people to name three things that bring joy to their life. After each is named, invite the group to respond, saying, “Thank you, God.”


Invite the group to visit a comedy club, and spend a night laughing.

—from devozine In the Habit (September/October 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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