Laughing in Church: Between Heaven and Mirth Excerpt #7

Our Between Heaven and Mirth Twitter Book Club continues today with our next excerpt, below. Join the conversation by reading the excerpt and tweeting a response, or a question for author Father Jim Martin – and don’t forget to include the#patheosmirth hashtag!  You can follow the whole Twitter conversation here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23patheosmirth

Between Heaven and Mirth, by James Martin, SJ

Excerpt 7: Laughing in Church (pp. 142-144)

Despite the seriousness of the call to preach the gospel; despite the ancient traditions of Christianity; despite the place of suffering in Christian spirituality; despite the sober writings of the church fathers; despite the grave issues that have faced the church throughout history; despite the fallout from some painful recent history, like the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church; and despite widespread theological divisions that keep Christians separated, churches can still be, from time to time, very funny places.

For that we should be grateful. Thank God for salt, leaven, and light.* Thank God for salt in bland times, for leaven in flat times, for light in dark times. Humor is salt, light, and leaven. Humor is a gift to the church.

For all its dignity and grandeur and gravity, the Christian church is, like any institution, manifestly human. With that humanity comes some laughter, both intentional and unintentional. This is a gift from God, who wants us to enjoy ourselves, to appreciate the absurdities of life, and not to take ourselves so seriously, particularly in religious institutions, where it’s easy to become deadly serious.

Is it any wonder that many people find religious settings stultifying? “The lack of humour and irritability into which we in the contemporary Church and contemporary theology have so often slipped is perhaps one of the most serious objections which can be brought against present-day Christianity,” wrote Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian and a Vatican official.

Levity is still considered excessive in some churches. (Believe me, I’ve visited them and worshipped in them.) And when bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, ministers, pastors, elders, pastoral associates, music ministers, hospital chaplains, directors of religious education, and religious education teachers act as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, that no job is as difficult as theirs, and that they alone are responsible for doing God’s work, then we’re in trouble.

What do you think ?  Are churches too serious?  How can we bring laughter and levity into worship?   Tweet your thoughts, and include the #patheosmirth hashtag to join the Twitter conversation!

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About Deborah Arca

Deborah Arca is the Managing Editor of the Progressive Christian Portal and Book Club at Patheos.com.

  • Ann Hall

    Amen!! Too true. I’ve seen many Catholic priests give it their all to get SOME kind of response from the “frozen chosen,” and there may be two or three, myself included, who dare to laugh in Church. Even smiling seems prohibited, especially in the suburban churches of the Midwest. But I ask, how can you not smile, having witnessed and partaken of the Eucharist?! If those activities don’t make you smile, I’m not sure anything will!! Let’s show and share our joy!


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