Two Minutes of Wisdom

From HuffingtonPost, whose video studios we covet!  And for even more "wisdom," an interview on Duke University's Faith & Leadership page on "Why Faith Leads to Joy," along with an excerpt from "Between Heaven andMirth, on why religious settings are often so stultifying, and what to do about it.

 

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Anne Chapman
7 years ago
Fr. Martin, your efforts to find laughter and humor in a church that is so lacking in it is admirable.  I haven't read the book, so perhaps it goes more deeply into the ''what to do about it'' than does the article excerpt, which gives a lot of reasons why laughter and humor are absent from the Catholic church and from Christianity in general. Some on the ''why'' but not much on the ''what to do about it.''

I was curious about the ''why'' also and did a keyword search on one of the searchable bible websites. Perhaps christianity is dour partly because the scriptures don't much mention ''laughter'' or ''happiness'', although there are quite a few references to ''joy''.   A few examples - A search for ''laughter'' turned up eight passages - only one from the NT and it, like several others, did not use ''laughter'' in a very happy sense.

Job 8:21 : : He will yet fill thy mouth with laughter, And thy lips with shouting.
Psalm 126:2 : : Then was our mouth filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing:
Proverbs 14:13 : Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; And the end of mirth is heaviness.
Ecclesiastes 2:2 : I said of laughter, It is mad;and of mirth, What doeth it?
Ecclesiastes 7:3 : Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad.
Ecclesiastes 7:6 : For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 : A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh glad the life; and money answereth all things.
James 4:9 : Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
There was only one passage with the word ''smile'' - (Job 29:24). The word ''happy'' was found 25 times (mostly in Psalms and Proverbs, but also in Malachi and Ecclesiastes), twice in the NT (Acts 26:2 and Romans 14:2)

Happiness  was a total bust -'' Your search did not return any results.''

However, the words joy/joyous/joyful appeared ~195 times. This is the rather slippery concept that was the subject of one of your earlier blog posts - somewhat hard to grasp since it does not necessarily convey ''happiness'' - but can be comfort in the absence of happiness. I searched the New American Bible since that is the ''official'' Catholic translation in the US these days.  If you choose other translations, the numbers of hits change somewhat, but basically the bible doesn't seem to provide a lot of push towards laughter and humor in religion, sadly.

As far as finding humor and laughter among Catholic writers, there is no religious/spiritual writer who is better at making me smile and even to laugh out loud than the late Jesuit, Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ - one of the greatest spiritual writers of the last 40 years  and so very accessible. There is no need for advanced degrees in theology. Finding  joy and happiness (and laughter!) seems quite possible for those who can truly internalize what Fr. de Mello teaches.  But that can be quite challenging.

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