In recent news, CBS doubles down on eccentric male geniuses for its fall television lineup. One show, Pure Genius, treats us to an inside view of a Silicon Valley billionaire’s game-changing medical innovation; another, Bull, features the “brilliant, brash, and charming” titular consultant. And the MacGyver reboot, in addition to...
Of 385 varieties, to make the simplest
all you need are two sticks:
one vertical; the other, horizontal.
Call one time; one, space or
life—death, good—evil, male—female.
You choose. Any polarity will do
as long as the cross-piece cuts across
the one upright. Now, it’s a human form
with arms outstretched. Rub them together.
A couple of sparks, a few more,
a flash of light, a slow increase in heat,
and radiating around you: uncontainable fire.
If the Gospel is ever experienced for the ridiculous good news that it is, then laughter is soon to follow it. And this is mostly because humor is, in part, an expression of relief. Steve Brown describes it perfectly in his story about a woman who, after years of hiding a moment of infidelity from her husband, suddenly feels the (spontaneous!) need to admit it to him. Though nervous, she decides to do it.
“I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘When I told him,’ she exclaimed, ‘he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!’ And then she started to laugh. ‘He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!’ Perhaps you are like this woman who had been forgiven and didn’t know it.”
Her laughter is the laughter of the forgiven. It stems from a simultaneous flood of relief (“He forgave me twenty years ago!”) and a corresponding lack of self-seriousness (“How ridiculous that I carried this around for so long?”). A sense of humor comes from the ridiculousness of your happy outcome, and the fact that it had nothing to do with you.
Humor and hyperbole are, then, delicate ministers of God’s good relief. In various ways, either through satire or self-deprecation, humor is a way of uncoupling the truth from its sting. It is a way of including oneself on the wrong side of the righteousness equation. It is a delightful willingness to be wrong, because you can afford to be. It also allows us the privilege of disarming the stings against us, to find humor in things around us that might have offended or wounded us before.
Humor can also be used as a form of gracious misdirection. It is a chance for the forgiven to put on a clown suit in love, for the sake of deflecting another’s judgment. This is precisely what Christ does for the woman caught in adultery, lining out a distracting drawing in the sand for her team of accusers (Jn 8:6). If we are so lucky, we experience the same willingness to play the fool, to feel the great pricelessness of God’s wonderful gift, and thus to ham it up at no cost to anyone.
In the realm of the Law, we must keep face. In the realm of the Gospel, we can laugh at our own faces in the mirror. In the realm of the Law, we must tediously craft emails with the right balance of seriousness and brevity. In the realm of the Gospel, we’re free to say precisely the ridiculous thing that comes to mind, without fear of what brand of trouble our words may bring. While the Law incites us to point our fingers at others in blame, the Gospel provokes us to return the pointing finger back to our chest, and shrug our shoulders, and laugh at the absurdity.
 “The Laughter of God,” When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (Keylife, 2014).
 Surely humor is part of what is meant by the meaning of pure love “casting out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). When we are out of the realm of fear, we are into the realm where self-ridicule is easy.
This one was written by the esteemed Margaret Pope.
Growing up in the Bible-belt south and actively participating in youth group, I could hardly be considered a good Christian if I didn’t listen to NEEDTOBREATHE. I distinctly remember singing “Washed by the Water” for the first time in ninth grade on a senior high youth group retreat, and the rest, as they say, is history. Wikipedia classifies NEEDTOBREATHE as an “American Christian rock band,” but I think of NEEDTOBREATHE as a rock band with a hint of folk whose members happen to be Christians. Each of their albums consists of a mix of…
I have always been a bit skeptical of the “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” adage deployed in many an evangelical circle. It’s not just the implicit condescension it lends to the ‘minister’ in any given moment. The main skepticism has to do with the supposition that anyone is actually comfortable in life–that, beneath the surface, all of us are experiencing some underlying discomfort with the world we’re inhabiting. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all afflicted, and we all need comfort.
If this adage makes any sense, then, it’s that we sometimes need help facing ourselves. It’s that maybe the…
My late father-in-law, a pastor, used to say he would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding. It shocked my young ears at the time, but after I became a pastor I could see his reasoning. Weddings, at their worst, have a kind of dramatic tension that completely overwhelms its sacramental significance. Not all brides and their mothers live up to their stereotypes, but some do. In those cases, give me a simple funeral of a God-fearin’ woman or man.
But weddings at their best are animated by a sweetness and beauty that are hard to find anywhere else on a…
Calling all Mockingbirds! Attention, all Mockingbirds!
Run Don’t Walk to the Martin Luther exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York. And first let’s get a couple of details straight. The Morgan is at the corner of 36th Street and Madison Avenue, which is exactly six blocks south of Grand Central Station. You can check out the opening hours on line, and the Morgan is only closed Mondays. Also, it’s a great place to go to the bathroom — always an issue in New York — and the cafe is excellent, and never crowded. Plus,…
Welcome to Ian and Blake’s annual Halloween series about a genre that does what few others can. This month, look out for weekly top-five horror lists–with blistering #hottakes below.
Trick ’r Treat (2008) / Southbound (2015)
There is nothing better than an anthology horror film that actually attempts to weave its stories within a grander wraparound narrative. Most find themselves framing the short films with characters telling each other stories, but a newer breed of anthology films is attempting to make the framing device just as compelling by truly weaving the vignettes in with the wraparound. Enter Trick ’r Treat, arguably the best…
This morning’s devotion comes to us from none other than the President of the Mockingboard, Aaron Zimmerman.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, ESV)
Here again we see Paul addressing the bickering problems among the Corinthians. But rather than addressing the external behavior, Paul realizes the real problem is internal and theological.
Paul knows that there are two approaches to life for all human beings. The first approach is human-centered. Men and women in this camp see themselves as in control of their lives. This is like The Office’s Dwight Schrute quoting Billy Zane’s character in Titanic: “A man makes his own luck.” In other words, human beings have the ability to judge people and events, map out their lives, and control their destiny. Students at elite colleges positively ooze with this kind of thinking. This is the human-centered view of life. In the spiritual realm, this view is called justification by works: making oneself acceptable to God through good behavior.
The second approach to life is God-centered. In this view, people are seen as they are, flawed and broken, prone to compulsive acting-out. Like the Harvard student who plays a video game for 10 hours straight, despite the fact that he has a paper due and is already on academic probation. Or like the suburban mother who regularly spends thousands of dollars on clothes she doesn’t need. Or the executive who is a furtive alcoholic. Or the high-achieving honor-roll student who is anorexic and cuts herself. Or the Bible study leader who obsesses over pornography. Thus, unlike in the human-centered view, the clear thinking God-centered man or woman no longer places the burden of “getting better” on the ones who are ill. The God-centered view knows that people need a divine rescuer—like sick people need a doctor—and that this never stops being true, even for “serious” Christians.
The Corinthians are decidedly human-centered. As a result, as we see in this passage, they quarrel about their spiritual leaders. Since they believe their personal growth is their responsibility, they know they better pick the right guru! Paul attacks this view. He steers them back to reality: God is the one who calls, redeems, saves, and continues to heal. Paul says that he and his co-pastor Apollos are nothing. An amazing thing to say! Can you imagine TV preachers saying that? But Paul says conclusively: only God gives the growth.
Do you feel like you control your closeness to God? Is your “walk with Christ,” your “spiritual journey,” all up to you? Paul says only God gives the growth. See the illustration Paul uses to close the argument: God is the gardener, and you are simply a plant in the field. So don’t do something, just sit there!
Another Week Ends: Ethical Shoppers, Progressive Oppression, Beautiful Orthodoxy, Evangelical Bears, and the Production of Faith
1. Let’s start with this article, by Cari Romm, from NY Magazine: “Buying Fair-Trade, All-Organic Everything Can Actually Make You a Meaner Person.” Romm reports that moralistic eating and shopping habits may actually produce bad attitudes due to ‘moral licenscing,’ something we’ve talked about here before. If a person feels that they are doing well in one particular area, they will likely feel entitled to slack off in another:
One 2010 study, for example, found that people who chose environmentally [friendly] products were more inclined to later cheat on a test; another study from 2006 found that people who imagined themselves behaving generously were more…
It may not come as a surprise to learn that Lesson 39 in Randy Paterson’s wonderful How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use is “Pursue Happiness Relentlessly”. According to Paterson, there’s no more reliable way to ensure your future discontent than by enshrining happiness as the purpose of life.
Actually, there’s one more reliable way to do so, and that’s to make happiness not simply a goal but an expectation. Which is what we do when we (mis)interpret Mr. Jefferson’s classic line about “the pursuit of happiness” as a guarantee rather than a right.
That’s a brief intro to one…
How I spend my time, what books I read, where I get my news, who I talk to and allow to influence me, these are the things I always want to manage (and micromanage). This is clearly a huge factor in my tendency to procrastinate. I don’t want to do that, so I put it off, forever. Of course, the truth of our psychology is that I am not my own person and never could be despite my protestations to the contrary. Too bad that never sinks in unless it’s forced on me.
Occasionally, I recognize my desire for constant control….
Behold! A sneak peek into the Mental Health Issue that’s probably arrived at your (cooler friend’s) house this week. If it hasn’t, well, there’s still time…but they are selling out!
In the midst of an election year, and in the middle of a mental health issue, we’d be remiss not to visit the wide world of cognitive biases. When it comes to finding a bridge linking Christian theology and cognitive psychology, there’s really no better place to look than in the descriptions of many our self-contained blind spots. Much of this list is brought to us by David McRaney’s You Are…