Abstract

This article examines religious humor in the “Pulpit and Pew” series of the midcentury monthly magazine Negro Digest. By entertaining the recurring link in African American Protestant traditions between religion and irreverence, this study of “Pulpit and Pew” examines the mode of religious affiliation that I characterize as irreverent religious participation. This literary humor provided relatable scenes and scenarios in Afro-Protestant life as the source materials for humor about African American religious thought and practice. With the “Pulpit and Pew” series of compiled jokes, irreverent religious humor reflected the reality of African American social practices and, in turn, provided levity that lessened the association of an ostensibly pious individual's religious devotion with an irreproachable moral status. “Pulpit and Pew” demonstrates that many African Americans with religious commitments have appreciated irreverent religious humor that may register as antireligious without necessarily rejecting all things associated with religious fidelity.

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