Kelly Rae Roberts painted this particular ‘mantra of the soul” painting calling it “Divinity of Gladness.” Happiness, humor, and laughter should be a divine attribute to our Creator.
I think we got off to a rocky start with happiness and humor associated with religion… with our ‘first’ founding Mayflower immigrants…especially those Puritans. They were a quite “hell, fire, brimstone” group of worshipers who were definitely not in the category of “a laugh a minute” kind of personality.
Over the years humor has slowly but steadily returned to most religions with some exceptions. I would think most “men of the cloth’ would much rather look out on a smiling group in their congregation nodding at them encouragingly than a terrified, shell-shocked group wondering about being left behind to be eaten by seven-headed serpent monsters.
A friend from church, Pam Stewart, gave me this book several years ago to read soon after my diagnosis…it was the perfect read then…and again now. Humor does more to tear down barriers between races, political ideologies and religions than any weapons of destruction.
One can’t keep a straight face as Father James Martin shows the humorous side of saints and even Jesus himself. Here are some examples from the book and questions asked about the place of humor in religion.
In Between Heaven and Mirth, Martin uses scriptural passages, the lives of the saints, the spiritual teachings of other traditions, and his own personal reflections to show us why joy is the inevitable result of faith, because a healthy spirituality and a healthy sense of humor go hand-in-hand with God’s great plan for humankind.
A Guidepost writer interviewed Father Martin with some of the following questions and got these wise and witty responses.
Why do you think that most people don’t see humor in religion?
I think we have a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jesus was. He was fully human. So he had a fully human sense of humor. The image Jesus chooses for heaven is a banquet or a party. It’s very significant that his first miracle is to make more wine at a party. That symbolism would not have been lost on the people of his time. Jesus’ miracles would have been occasions of joy for people.
How do you think humor is significant when it comes to a relationship with God?
God became human so we would be able to approach and encounter God. If we always see God as serious and judging and angry, then our ability as people of joy to relate to God is going to be limited. It’s going to really prevent our entering into a relationship with God on a deep level because we’re going to be afraid of God. You might even think, for example, that God frowns on laughter, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Are there any Biblical examples of Jesus’ humor?
Sure! Many scripture scholars say we don’t understand the humor of first-century Palestine. Many of the parables probably would have been laugh-out-loud funny. Stories about a man who built his house on sand or gave his son a scorpion instead of a fish would have been seen as humorous. Jesus told clever stories and funny parables.
One of my favorite examples of biblical humor is that at one point Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat and you swallow a camel.” The Aramaic word for camel is gamlâ’ and for gnat is qalmâ’. It’s a little wordplay. He’s doing a little pun. You can imagine his hearers thinking that’s pretty clever. But when we translate it into English, it doesn’t retain that sense of playfulness.
So what do you think the spiritual significance of laughter is?
I think [laughter] is a spiritual release. Many times we laugh at something that is ridiculous so there’s a sense of perspective that the world is not perfect. If we can laugh at ourselves, it’s even better. It’s a sense that we’re not God. Even if we just laugh at a joke, we can enjoy life. There’s a release of spiritual energy. It’s like saying “I love this life” or “I enjoy this world” or “I’m not so perfect after all.” How can we say that each of those insights is not spiritual?
How can we cultivate a more joyful perspective of the world?
Well that’s a good question. I think the first thing would be to interact with people who have a joyful perspective and try to see the world through their eyes. The second thing is creating a joy inventory where you list all the things that make you joyful or make you laugh. And the third thing is taking every opportunity to laugh at yourself. That’s invaluable. There’s good laughter and there’s bad laughter. Good laughter builds up, bad laughter tears down. Good humor is self deprecating. Bad humor tries to make fun of someone else. It’s important to keep those things in perspective.
Humor has always been a beneficial release of both physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress for me. A night out with friends laughing over nonsensical conversation is just what the doctor ordered many times for me in my life…a shot of medicine to strengthen my resolve that this world is a wonderful place to fight for in our lives. I have discovered that the funniest things are the every day aspects of living.
Speaking of…I mentioned Eva Cate had some minor oral surgery and we were all worried about her reaction to this and post-surgery soreness. Look what a new pair of unicorn pjs and ice cream can do to change that around! (Not to belittle Eva Cate’s bravery and definitely some soreness when she woke Friday morning…but little things certainly help the bounce-back recovery time in children!)
The Turners are getting ready for fall and Halloween…
Jakie got new PJ’s too…so both siblings were all smiles. Eva Cate decided to draw her self-portrait of her costume Halloween night…her rainbow dress and shoes and mane for her Unicorn Pony.
So until tomorrow…laughing at ourselves can be the most therapeutic thing we can do!
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
Creative Vickie, across the street, made Halloween cards from a photo of her BOO sign on the back door. I just got it yesterday when I got back….so cute!