For all of us, I'm sure that we understand laughter to mean a good thing,that things are going well. Laughter is a sign of acceptance, of things being okay. This is a good thing, and perhaps something that not too many of us think too much about. But I think we should. Therefore, I hereby challenge you to stop and consider the effects your laughter has, the message you are sending, and the things you may not really be aware that you are giving your approval to by it.
Most parents will tell you that much of what babies do is rather funny, especially if it is something that they really ought not be doing, whether it is tugging and pulling at Mom's earrings, or slapping their Dad's around the shin when they don't get their way. Such antics often cause grown-ups to let loose a chuckle or two. Good parents do their best to repress this almost instinctive reaction, because they know full well that the child interprets the laughter as a sign of approval. If a parent laughingly tells the child no, and removes the child from whatever act it was, the child will most likely do it again because it has become a game, and it makes Mom/Dad happy - see, they are laughing!
So it is in the rest of life too: how many of us can lay claim to infamy in the number of time we have laughed at a dirty joke, some hurtful racist comment, the sight of someone getting the snot beat out of them? Though we may have protested and expressed disapproval afterward, (perhaps even in the midst of our laughter), "Oh! That was terrible! You ought not say things like that!" such words have no force because the laughter which preceded them carries such weight of approval.
Many Christians wonder how the world has become such a degenerate place, and don't even stop to think about how they themselves may have helped to contribute to the current state by what they found entertaining. Homosexuals, when first portrayed on T.V., were comic relief type characters; now they have become main characters with shows of their own. How? Because good people, though they disapproved of the lifestyle, gave consent with their laughter - "No, I don't agree but it sure is funny!" Take promiscuity: yes, there have been elements of it in shows since forever, but it used to be shameful. Add some comedy to it, and ta-da! Instant acceptance! Who cares what kind of moral lessons such characters are sending, they are funny!
Take the soon to be released "romantic comedy", The Pill*, for example. From what I gathered from the preview, some guy has a one night stand with some girl, who he was hoping was on the pill but actually wasn't, coerces her against her wishes to take the morning after pill, which is actually 2 pills, of which she only takes one, and he then spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to get her to take the other one. Talk about a movie which objectifies women and focuses on forcing them into actions they do not want to make, taking away their freedom to choose! She clearly did not want to take the pill and he badgers her into it. And here are the reviews such a movie got: "Refreshingly Original" - Suite101.com; "Damn Entertaining" - ManILoveFilms.com; "Joyous to Watch" - SameNightMovieReview.com. Great review of horrible things, all because such horrendous things were set in a funny way.
So the next time you go to laugh at something which you don't agree with, stop yourself and consider what you are really communicating by your laughter. Do you really want to grant approval to X, Y, or Z? Perhaps not...
*Many thanks to the folks at Aggie Catholics for unknowingly providing incentive and examples for my post, which I had been intending to write for a while now.