Reflections on laughter as holy practice: themes from Luke and ministry of Christ

I commend mirth. — Ecclesiastes 8:15

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. — Phyllis Diller

A child’s laugh should be
the butterfly wing,
the ripple-maker,
for all the world.
There are many children crying —
we hear them echoing
from news media.
It is time to pray
the change of the world
in children’s laughter.
— Maren Tirabasi


Questions to consider:

  • Do you have favorite comics/comedians who are able to act in a prophetic way, stating uncomfortable truths, by using humor? What issues do they address?
  • Have you ever experienced or used ‘gallows humor’ as a form of coping in tough times?
  • In whose company do you relax enough to laugh? With whom do you let down your guard?
  • When was the last time you belly laughed?

Songs about laughter:

Holy Humor

Satire, or any sort of humor for that matter, is tough to do right.  … using humor as a prophetic, yet disarming, method for sharing with vulnerability, challenging the powerful, and tearing down idols. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses on this — from the prophets, to Chaucer, to Swift.  Jesus too was a brilliant humorist, with a penchant for hyperbole—planks in the eye, camels through the eyes of needles, straining gnats and swallowing camels. (I love that God seems to find camels especially comical.) — Rachel Held Evans

It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart. — Martin Luther King Jr

I developed a sense of humor to protect myself from abuse and jeering. I learned to roll with the punches. There’s nothing like humor to help you do that. There’s a line in Plan B that “laughter is carbonated holiness.” Always my salvation was laughter–laughing with friends, with girlfriends, laughing in the dark. The name of my first book was Hard Laughter, about trying to keep one’s sense of humor and one’s head above water in extreme crisis, which at that time was my father’s brain cancer. So I’m not sure how much humor the hardship has given me. But it turned out that when hardships came, the sense of humor of my friends, and of my own, saved the day.— Anne Lamott

The Bible is funny. But it’s not a gag type of funny like Lucille Ball. The humor we experience in the Bible is more of a meeting of the tragic and the absurd. It’s a can’t-stop-laughing-at-a-funeral-because-the-honest-weight-of-our-mortality-is-too-much type of funny. It’s the slightly self-effacing type of funny we get to when we’re willing to see how absurd we are. The Bible offers us an “ouch” type of funny, an honest funny. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

If Christ laughed a great deal, as the evidence shows, and if he is what he claimed to be, we cannot avoid the logical conclusion that there is laughter and gaiety in the heart of God. [and] There are numerous passages … which are practically incomprehensible when regarded as sober prose, but which are luminous once we become liberated from the gratuitous assumption that Christ never joked. … Once we realize that Christ was not always engaged in pious talk, we have made an enormous step on the road to understanding —Elton Trueblood

A master storyteller would never forsake humor as a means to reach an audience. Jesus, who spent much of his ministry breaking down barriers between people, knew that humor does exactly this. Humor disarms and unites; it sets people at ease and leaves them receptive to the speaker’s message. — Father Tim

The opposite is also true, of course: if Jesus wept, surely he laughed. — Jennifer Johnson

Having mentioned the problems in the Middle East, he turned to me and said, “And what is this about chosenness?”  I answered that Jews believed God chose them for a particular purpose, but it does not mean we are the only ones chosen; different peoples can be chosen for different things. He laughed, and said yes, it is true, Tibetans think they are chosen as well. It seems strange to say that a religious figure’s authority is dependent on his laugh. There is far more, but nonetheless His Holiness’ laugh is striking. Having met my share of religious leaders, I don’t think any of them is as un-self-conscious and as devoid of a sense of self-importance. Every now and then, if feeling particularly mischievous, he will stick his tongue out to emphasize the ludicrousness of it all. It reminded me of a comment by G.K. Chesterton, that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. — David Wolpe (about the Dalai Lama)

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Laughter Is the Best Medicine (excerpt – full article) — Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  Physical Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens resilience

Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

On Laughter

A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around. — Carolyn Birmingham

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. — Friedrich Nietzsche

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. — Voltaire

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh. — Qu’ran

The moment of awakening may be marked by an outbursts of laughter, but this is not the laughter of someone who has won the lottery or some kind of victory. It is the laughter of one who, after searching for something for a long time, suddenly finds it in the pocket of his coat. — Thich Nhat Hanh

I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can. — Linda Ellerbee

Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy. — John Cleese

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