I’ve written about laughter and humor a few times in varying contexts, but today I’m arguing for a God Who Laughs. This God doesn’t replace the God Who Weeps, but rather fleshes out that vision of God to become a God Who Weeps & Laughs (maybe even weeps from laughing? Or begins laughing because He/She/They can no longer bear the weeping? Or laughs sometimes and weeps others?). So, that’s my goal. I think we could all use a little more laughter in our lives and maybe if we embrace a God Who Laughs we’ll feel better about laughing a little every now and then.
Life has been piling up to push me towards this, I think. I first had the idea months ago, but obviously haven’t written about it (until right now). A few things I think have brought it to the forefront of my mind recently—the fear, anger, and hate filling the world around me (leading inevitably to suffering, as we all know), drafting an essay for a side-project I’m involved in about Mormonism and the Movies specifically looking at depictions of Christ in film (I’ll keep you posted on how that project is going and when you can buy the book, but in the meantime here’s some not quite up to date info on the project), and finally reading through The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens. So, here we are.
Let’s break this down some into categories to work through.
- Loud Laughter (aka The Concern)
I think that some of the resistance to a Laughing God is tied to Mormon concerns with “loud laughter.” I’m not and have never quite been sure what exactly that means. But it seems clear to me that such an idea suggests that some forms of laughter are not acceptable, or perhaps are simply not part of the divine life. This is definitely not an explicit belief that I’ve heard expressed in Mormonism, but there seem to be threads of such a belief running throughout other aspects of Mormonism. Yet, I feel like laughter is essential to a divine, joyful life.
Laughter seems impossible to separate from joy. I cannot imagine a place that is meant to be the pinnacle of joy that does not include frequent bursts of laughter. I think that joy is more complex than that and doesn’t necessarily require constant happiness and smiles and laughter. However, laughter has to be a part of joy. I mean, if God is watching all of us all the time, there’s gotta be loads of moments that just fill Him/Her/Them with joy that bubbles over into laughter. Pure joy is probably akin to watching The Princess Bride or Fantastic Mr. Fox and being overwhelmed with laughter, tears running down your face because you can’t help yourself. Those moments you’re with your friends and get laughing and then can’t stop and soon you have no idea why you’re laughing, but you all feel amazing and closer together and it’s incredible. I worship a God that laughs right along with me in those moments. The God that made a platypus. And a mantis shrimp (if you don’t know about mantis shrimp read this piece by The Oatmeal and know that “It extols death with the luminescent brilliance of a dying star.”).
- Dark Humor
This may be a bit more controversial (blasphemous?), but I believe that God has a wicked, dark sense of humor. Perhaps because I do. And I still make God in my image, even when I strive not to. But think about it. God has seen everything. Everything. Seeing that much violence and horror and sorrow and pain and suffering practically demands the development of a dark sense of humor. Yes God feels our pain and sorrow, but I think He/She/They also laugh sometimes at the absurd/brutal/awful nature of mortality. Not in a malicious way, but like in a Coen Brothers, I’m-not-sure-what-the-meaning-of-all-this-is sort of way. There’s only so much crying a being can do. Maybe that’s limiting the infinite charity of God, but I feel like dark humor is a powerful coping mechanism. Vonnegut-style “So it goes.”
- Spiritual Snark
Unsurprisingly, I firmly believe in a snarky God. I mean, I’ve written about Snarky Jesus before, so it follows that God would also be snarky. This definitely stems (at least in part) from my snarky family where jokes and jabs are a part of life and we throw witty barbs at one another all the time (and sometimes when you’re the oldest you outwit your younger siblings and they may or may not get incredibly frustrated that they can’t match your verbal jabs so they throw physical objects that small, yellow plastic chairs at you). I feel that my interactions and exchanges with God (or impressions or feelings or Holy Ghost sourced promptings or whatever they are) are tinged with snark. I’ll ask questions or suggest things and God will raise an eyebrow and twitch His/Her/Their lip before dropping some snarky line asking to be tweeted and retweeted. My spiritual life is one undoubtedly augmented with snark—I tweet snarkily during GenConf, I comment snarkily to whomever is next to me at Church, I interject self-deprecating snark into my lessons and Ward Council, etc. So, it follows for me that God is a snarky God.
- Where Do We Go From Here?
What do we do now? Well, I guess you should probably rethink all your interactions with the divine and see if perhaps what you thought was sincerity was actually God’s crouton-dry sense of humor. In case understanding revelation wasn’t already complex enough. I think we need to rehabilitate laughter. We need to incorporate more joyful stuff into our worship services, maybe like religious stand-up comedy or something (in case testimony meeting wasn’t already terrifying enough). I feel closer to a God Who Laughs and hope that others would too, but perhaps not. God’s hilarious. So let’s all laugh together and come a little closer to God, laughing our way to Heaven (you know, like in Mary Poppins, but without a ceiling and ignoring the physics and science problems of laughing through outer space).