If you want a light laugh, you can do worse things than listen to comedian John Crist as he breaks down the dos and don'ts of pre-meal prayer. Having watched this video with a bunch of students last week, the question was raised “is laughter theologically correct?” Not liking my first response, which was “what do you think?”, the students challenged me to answer the question in my newsletter write up. So…. my young learned friends, I accept your challenge and offer this.
Now I must confess, that is one of the more odd, but fascinating questions that I have been asked recently. Upon reflection, laughter is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about being spiritual or being a Christian. Youth group was certainly fun, and I must confess that we did laugh a lot. Laughter is also one of the things that I dearly love about being at the College. It is something that students do all the time and it brings an atmosphere to the College that I sorely miss across term breaks when students are absent. But although none of this answers the question of "is laughter theologically correct?", it certainly suggests that it is part of a healthy thriving community.
Further reflection on this front, however, led me to ponder Umberto Eco’s novel, “The Name of the Rose”, in which a monk decided to poison anyone who read a certain book that suggested that God laughed. He did this out of a concern that the monks would become too familiar with God, and lose their awe of Him. I wonder though, if he ever considered that laughter is one of the things that sets mankind apart from all the animals.
On a more serious note. Doris Donnelly, in her book “Spiritual Fitness”, says that humour has two aspects: firstly, an acceptance of life's incongruities; and, secondly, the ability not to take ourselves too seriously. She notes that the Christian faith is full of incongruities such as the meek will inherit the earth, death leads to life, and a king is born in a stable. Donnelly’s second point, I think though, is critical. Humour she says, enables us to face the truth about ourselves and helps us let go of our self importance. And this she says allows us to better see what God is doing in our lives.
So, in answer to your question, “is laughter theologically correct?”, I say an emphatic "Yes!" My encouragement to you is to laugh when you can because not only does it break the tension, it’s good for you. Your job as a student is to work hard, study hard and strive to reach your potential. However, you need to break the tension from time to time and relax, not take yourself too seriously and reset. This I suggest enables you to serve the Lord better and for longer. And if all this does not convince you, I will throw in Psalm 2:4, which says, “He who sits in heaven shall laugh”(NKJV). That has to seal the deal doesn’t it?!
To those wonderful students: keep thinking, asking questions, and debating. I look forward to your critique.