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Can we laugh at God?

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, June 15, 2013, at 7:19 a.m.

Audible joy

The Rev. Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on The Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.:

God is the spirit of life in this universe. The essence of all that is. God is “It All.”

Within the “allness” of God, there is a tapestry of emotions, each of which has a purpose and a benefit. Happiness is one of the most pleasant emotions. We strive to be happy; we desire to be happy; we put forth effort to make others happy; sometimes we try so hard to be happy that we become miserable in the process.

Why? Because a consistent level of happiness awakens us to how blessed we are. It makes us glad we are alive.

Laughter is happiness made loud. The bellow of laughter is a universal sound that bridges all languages. I’ve stood next to a stranger in a foreign land and together we laughed at something funny that was happening nearby, yet we could not communicate a single word.

When you laugh at the face a baby makes the first time it experiences a sour taste, you are laughing at God. When you laugh at two puppies rolling around and playing with each other, you are laughing at God. When you listen to a good comedian talking about the funny things in this world, you are laughing at God.

Seek out the many variations of God in this world that provoke laughter and laugh heartily.

Yes, but gently

The Rev. Justin Hoye, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church:

Yes, we can. Should we? Not if it is a prideful laughter that boasts of one’s willful obstinacy. God humbles the haughty laughter. But what of a gentler laugh?

Laughter can indicate an ability to see the divine through the ordinary. In his 1962 booklet, “These Are the Sacraments,” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen asserts that only the one with “a divine sense of humor” could understand how a sacrament worked. This one sees through the surface of an event, beyond the word or action to its meaning. Sacraments make present divine things through the ordinary.

Laughter signals an awareness of something below the surface. To make the point, Sheen notes that both you and a horse could hear the same thing, but only you have the potential to laugh. We’ll never get the horse to laugh (even if it has better hearing than you).

Thomas Aquinas saw this risibility as a distinction between humans and other animals. We laugh, and because we are made in the image and likeness of God in a way other creatures were not, laughter says something about our identities. We laugh when we see deeply, which includes seeing God.

Laughter need not be a sign of an offensive posture. Laughter toward God can be a sign of openness to his will and his presence, beyond the surface of the ordinary.

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