The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Laughter is Okay, Really: Good News from Christianity

I've been reading a wonderful book, Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor, by Robert Darden. Author Darden exposes a long history of dour theologies meant for the best but producing the worst. Laughter and humor were long felt to be an uncontrollable and highly suspect behaviors associated with the unwashed masses and certainly not behaviors for the saints of the church. Long did theologians and priest and ministers proclaim that Jesus himself never laughed and Paul spent much of his time weeping through life for the ills of humanity. Life was grim and only improved when you died. Laughter was sin. Humor odious. To quote the author,
You control humor the same way you control anything in the religious world--you declare it a sin (maybe even a mortal sin) or call it heresy. As one Christian writer who could be very, very funny when he wanted to, G.K. Chesterton, put it, "Every heresy has been an effort to narrow the church."
This has left many church congregations in the unenviable position of sitting stolidly through Sunday services, limited to an occasional polite chuckle at a ministers very tepid joke. This is especially true in largely Caucasian churches (our brethren of color have livened things up, much to their credit, in many cases) and we have been aptly labeled, "the frozen chosen." Fortunately, such does not need to be the case anymore. As the author states, some churches are seeing the light and looking on the light side of life, to paraphrase The Life of Brian. To all those whose lives have been negatively impacted by this sour outlook, I apologize in a way that dates me, "Well, Excuuussseee Meeee!"

We can be merry. There is humor in the Bible if you look for it. There is joy aplenty and reasons for joyful noises of all sorts, including laughter. There are brilliant books written to help pastors lighten things up, including The Gospel According the Peanuts and The Gospel According to Doctor Seuss. I recommend these both to anyone who wishes to see Christianity from the lighter side. This is not a brand new thing either. George Macdonald, a writer of the 19th century much admired by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis declared in 1871,

I wonder how many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe God made them that they can laugh in God's name; who understand that God invented laughter and gave it to His children. Such belief would add a keeness to the zest in their enjoyment, and slay that feeble laughter in which neither heart nor intellect has a share. It would help them also to understand the depth of this miracle. The Lord of gladness delights in the laughter of a merry heart. 

Who am I to argue with such logic. As also pointed out in this wonderful little book, Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding and thereby spreading joy and laughter to the wedding couple and their guests. The first miracle brought joy with it and we who claim to follow Jesus should spread joy and laughter wherever we go. When I attended the Comic Con convention last week, I was struck by the enthusiasm, friendliness, and joy of the participants and found myself asking, why can't church be like this? Why can't we Christians be like this? Well, the good news from Christianity today is that we can, we should, we must. All good things come from God and laughter well used can be a very good thing. So, go ahead, laugh. Who knows where that will take you and who you might inspire.

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