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.