This Sunday, we welcome the humor of Christian Comedian Anita Renfroe to Johns Creek Baptist Church. In thinking about the laughter that is to come, I have been thinking about the power of humor in the human condition.
Do yourself a favor. Take a moment to click this audio clip and enjoy.
It’s hard to listen to something like that and not at the very least crack a smile…and be filled with a little moment of levity and lightness. Laughter is powerful, in that way.
In fact, our friends in the area of biology and neuroscience happen to agree. Research has shown that laughter is caused by negatively-charged electrical impulses within the cerebral cortex. Unlike any other emotion, with LAUGHTER, these impulses have the capacity to stimulate areas in several parts of the brain; both in the occipital lobe (the center of motion), and in the frontal lobe (the center of Emotion). When these lobes are stimulated, there is a collaboration of involvement from all major organs and systems in the body. Electrical impulses within the Limbic system cause movement within our limbs, and abdomen, resulting in an a kind of massaging of internal organs. In addition, during laughter, there is a reduction in the production of certain hormones associated with stress, and an increase in the production of gamma-interferon “t-cells” which are responsible for fighting disease. Gelogologists (specialists in the area of Gelogotology-the psychology of humor) have suggested that laugher may be the greatest panacea yet…credited with everything from lowering blood pressure and reducing heart attacks and strokes, to increasing your intelligence and abilities to retain and process information. (see “A Serious Look at Laughter,” by Tua Chaudhuri).
So what does all that mean? It means that laughter really IS the best medicine!
But wait, there’s more.
I believe that just as laughter has the capacity to (biologically) break in and infuse our bodies with well-being and health…I think there are moments when our lives are interrupted…injected…infused by a kind of theological laughter; a laughter that, on a completely different level, has the capacity to send a surging impulse of hope into our sometimes seemingly hopeless lives.
A few weeks ago, in our “Rhythm” sermon series, I quoted the work of Joel Kaminsky, in “Humor & the Theology of Hope.” In that article, he suggests that in many places, humor is “injected” into scripture to make theological points. I think he’s right. Many of the comical, laughter-filled moments found in the Bible are there to proclaim a kind of counter-reality. There is laughter in the story to challenge and even mock what the character thinks is his or her seemingly hopeless reality.
Peter Berger says, “humor challenges the dominant tragic worldview that confines humans to a stoic acceptance of their current existence. In the moment of laugher, our human tragedy (whatever it may be) is bracketed…placed in parentheses…put in perspective. By laughing at the imprisonment of the human spirit, the implication is the imprisonment is not final, but will be overcome!”
For an insightful and provocative reading on the subject of humor in scripture, check out “Humor and the Theology of Hope: Isaac as a Humorous Figure,” by Joel Kaminsky. Or for a longer read: Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience, by Peter Berger.
So, join us this Sunday evening, as we laugh our way to hope!
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Johns Creek Baptist Church