IT’S PERSONAL blog
A fellow Christian once told me that God had no sense of humor. “Nowhere,” he said sanctimoniously, “does the Bible record that the Lord Jesus laughed.”
I replied, “It doesn’t record that he went to the bathroom, either, but I don’t think he held it in for 33 years! He wasn’t into that kind of miracle.”
I hope I’m right. If God doesn’t have a sense of humor, I’m doomed. Doomed, I tell you!
Because I really love humor, even religious humor, and I love to laugh. Always have. As a kid I listened to George Carlin’s vinyl LP records. And for that one year (1974) that it was on the air, I tuned in faithfully every week to The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which featured some unknown young comics, such as Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner.
The ability to laugh at the world around you is a gift from God. I am convinced of this, even though references to laughter are relatively scarce in Holy Scripture. For me, there is a close connection between humor and spirituality. Humor arouses delight and joy — two pathways of the holy. And I’m not the only one who is onto this.
Years ago I interviewed a Roman Catholic monastic who told me his community valued a sense of humor in people who wanted to join. Humor, he said, indicates a healthy and balanced psychological makeup. By contrast, people who are too serious may be hiding real issues.
Scientists have verified that a sense of humor and frequent laughter has amazing psychological benefits. Among other things, people with a sense of humor tend to be more relaxed, less stressed, more creative and less prone to depression, according to a 2006 report in Psychology Today (click here!). Moreover, the article points out numerous physiological benefits:
Laughter … sharpens most of the instruments in our immune system’s tool kit. It activates T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, both of which help destroy invading microorganisms. Laughter also increases production of immunity-boosting gamma interferon and speeds up the production of new immune cells. And it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can weaken the immune response.
I bring humor into worship at church. The weekly bulletin has a “Sunday Chuckle” — a joke or cartoon. It makes people smile. One choir member actually got the giggles in the middle of service. I also make the occasional wisecrack or joke during announcements, in the sermon and whenever the appropriate occasion arises.
Laughter relaxes people, as Psychology Today points out, and relieves stress. It brightens the mood of the church and makes worship a much less sober, dry experience. Perhaps the most surprising side effect I’ve noticed is that it sharpens the attention of people in the pews.
One senior citizen told me, “I have to listen carefully because I never know when you’re going to throw in a zinger.”
Do you think God has a sense of humor? If so, let me know your thoughts. If not, let me know your thoughts and pray for me, because I am doomed.
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Photo of “The Laughing Buddha” by Superhans, used under a creative commons license. Thanks!