Carbonated Holiness

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.  She’s an amazing writer.  We don’t agree on a whole lot, theologically or politically, but the whole book is worth this beautiful sentence:

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”


In just about any subfamily of the church, there are people who practice this, and practicing it, they recognize each other despite denominational and sectarian boundaries.  For these people, “An Episcopalian, a Methodist and a Baptist walked into a pub” is not a joke, it’s fellowship, and it’s a common occurrence.  Their common fellowship with the God who rejoices leads to a laughing life, and they recognize Him in each other.

And in every subfamily of the church, you will also find people who don’t practice this, don’t understand it, and are deeply suspicious of the whole thing.  They gravitate toward positions of influence and authority, because they’re sure that anywhere someone is laughing, there’s danger, and more control is required.  They don’t want the sort of control that comes of inspiring others through the overflow of their own lives and ministries; they want the sort of control that allows them to regulate and contain other people’s lives and ministries.  And because the laughing people are generally not interested in that sort of control, the squinty-eyed folks often succeed in getting their hands on it, more’s the pity.

And anywhere they do, they do their utmost to choke the life out of the church.  The organization thus infected may, and often does, dwindle away to nothing…but not always.  Sometimes a spiritually dead organization grows in numbers.  “Woe to you!” Jesus said to one such group, “for you travel land and sea to make one convert, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”  The test is not numbers, but whether they turn their converts into sons of hell.


4 Responses to Carbonated Holiness

  1. Jim says:

    LOL! And the seminaries are great at turning out leadership that thinks like this. There are also those organizations outside the church in a consulting role that are adept at converting those who laugh into those that don’t. And subfamilies as you mention (the other kind) reproduce themselves.

    Another great post.

  2. Danny says:

    Hi Tim. I just wanted to make sure you got my comment about 1 Peter 3:21 in your previous post. Looking forward to your answer. You can e-mail the answer to my e-mail address if you don’t want to post it on this site.

  3. Tim Nichols says:

    Yup. See the response there.

  4. Tim Nichols says:


    Unfortunately, you’re right — seminaries too often deliver a person addicted to correcting others, but who doesn’t know how to build anything. It’s endemic to the environment, I think: uproot a man from his community, move him halfway across the country, and plant him in an environment where, for the next four years, the measure of whether he’s doing well is how correct he is, and he is himself constantly subject to correction, and what would you expect him to come out looking like? It takes a remarkably well-balanced person not to be corrupted by that kind of environment. Mostly, people recover after a few years of actual ministry, but unfortunately not always.

    Seminaries serve an important function: they train up leaders whose churches are simply not adequate to the task. This is the same function that orphanages serve. But we think ill of parents who — simple because an orphanage will take in their kid — decline to do the job themselves. In churches, we think it’s normal. Why? 2 Timothy 2:2 was given to a man in church ministry.

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