I know I’ve written previously about John Dorhauer: “Funny as a Rubber Crutch.” But this guy is such a stitch! Kind of like Pat Paulson, the Laugh-in comic who ran for President, or like Chevy Chase’s anchor in Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” skits, Dorhauer feigns deep seriousness, while spouting absolutely hilarious material. I don’t know how he keeps a straight face.
Here’s an example of Dorhauer’s humor, complete with my explanations:
But the most humorous elements are written into Dorhauer’s over-the-top praising of the wonderful effectiveness of his own seminar. He plays the pompous self-congratulator with a classic absence of self-awareness.
One of my staff colleagues is the Rev. Sheldon Culver. Together we have worked untold hours [Don’t you love the irony--his TELLING about his own unTOLD hours of labor? He’s playing the dolt who doesn’t realize that one doesn’t applaud one’s own efforts.] over the last four years researching attacks [Note the subtle word choice.] on our churches [See how he pretends to take ownership of churches, as if HIS point of view alone has legitimacy.] from renewal groups associated with the Institute on Religion and Democracy [Intended guilt by association as subtle as a bulldozer in a jewelry store.].
We are finishing the manuscript on a book that is due out next spring [Oh, for joy!], and are available for workshops and seminars on the subject [Not that he would ever interject a self-serving advertisement in serious humor.]. A month ago we presented such a workshop to a group of about 75 delegates from the Missouri Mid-South Conference.
We always hope that such an effort will, at the very least, provide active church members with some new insight [As opposed to “stale insight”?] and some good, hands-on information [Ha! What a funny description of wacky conjectures and sloppily “researched” conspiracies!] designed to equip them for the difficulties they will face should their church ever come under attack [That subtle “attack” word again. It’s doubly funny when the “attack” is by some poor soul who wonders aloud if perhaps heresy might possibly be out of place or the denomination might not be serving congregations’ Christian ministry interests.]
Let me set it up: Dorhauer teaches a seminar about the vast conspiracy that is out to destroy their good little liberal churches with the introduction of some outlandish idea that the church ought to conform to the Bible. He plants the notion that there are trained agitators and infiltrators out to dismantle churches for secular political ends.
But such lethal agents of the dread Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and its affiliated minion organizations can be recognized and neutralized by diligent liberals. The agents blow their cover by asking astute theological questions, by considering the Bible relevant to church life, and by at times questioning the legitimacy of some denominational actions and pronouncements.
So Dorhauer equips his seminar attendees to be on the lookout for such hostile actions by sleeper cells waiting to destroy churches for right-wing political reasons. And sure enough, “In the short time since we made our presentation,” Dorhauer crows, “we have heard from one of our local churches, which talks about the immediate and direct impact the presentation made on their church.” Again, ever the comic, Dorhauer acts as if he is not the least bit hesitant to praise himself.
A woman in one church, it appears, has blundered into suspicious territory. She asked that her church “cut all funding from the local church to the denomination offices,” in which offices, coincidentally, Dorhauer serves and depends upon for his livelihood. Aha! An IRD henchman at work? An evil plot to take over the church uncovered?
Well, actually, no, it turns out, in a rather awkward denouement. The lady simply didn’t think the church could afford to pay the assessments. She had nothing to do with IRD or any other renewal group. In fact, she fell over herself to undo her suggestion and pledge allegiance to the UCC.
So the truth of the matter is that Dorhauer provoked a great deal of angst and accusation, but there was absolutely nothing to the vast conspiracy worry. This “illustration” was much ado about nothing. Ha ha! Fooled you! False alarm.
But here’s the comic genius: Dorhauer pretends not to get it. Not only that, Dorhauer turns the situation into a burlesque comedy by acting as if he had introduced a wise and necessary process.
You can imagine his frowny face as he intones, “I am not now in a place to say one way or the other what was going on prior to this new revelation” [that the woman rescinded her proposal not to fund Dorhauer’s office]. What understatement! Dorhauer had made up a conspiracy and frightened everyone, and then the theory was found to be incorrect. He explained, “That is not the purpose of my writing telling [sic] this story.”
Okay, then, what was the purpose? Comedy. “The point to be made is this,” Dorhauer continued: “we made a calculated decision a long time ago to treat the matter of church takeovers as a pandemic affecting even our strong, healthy, and covenantally connected churches” (as if many such churches remain under his leadership).
Brilliant! The comic ruse is that church takeovers are pandemic. You start with the crazy assumption that outside agitators are being trained and sent into churches to destabilize and then overthrow them. You ignore that the people mislabeled as outside agents are typically faithful, longtime members of the churches, who simply ask some difficult questions because they want their congregations to be God’s church and not a political action group for leftist concerns.
Forget that. Stick with your mindless assertion. Figure it’s a conspiracy, obviously orchestrated with amazing brilliance and reach by the dastardly IRD (spit when you say the name).
Now, find a supposed instance. Ignore or downplay the most logical motivations on the part of the alleged guilty party. Inject fear and suspicion. Get everyone all worried. Inexplicably drag in the detested IRD. Impeach the intentions of a church member. Figure the worst until the woman protests and demonstrates her innocence of being anyone’s minion. Find there was no conspiracy, no minions, no problem actually. But don’t fully believe the suspected woman when all is said and done.
Now, hold up this debacle as the positive outcome of your work, and thus you have the comic genius of John Dorhauer.
Remember: IRD had no involvement in this prime instance Dorhauer chose. No one was ever found to be an outside agitator. The church had not been “attacked.” Nothing nefarious was afoot. Remember that in no way was the church ever served by Dorhauer, either. The suspicion and acrimony he infused into the situation actually injured relationships within the church. With delicious irony, Dorhauer proves to be the outside agitator in this instance!
But still the good ol’ clueless character Dorhauser introduces soldiers on with inanities. “[H]ere is direct evidence that the strategy to equip church members with information about what may be happening in their churches is in our long term best interests,” he solemnly intones, absolutely counter to the evidence. “We will continue to do everything we can to empower churches to defend themselves against these new age marauders who find themselves on a crusade to destroy our churches in the name of an intolerant God.”
Damn the facts of the illustration! Full speed ahead.
That’s our hilarious Dorhauer.