A Faith That Creates Laughter

Browsing the shelves at a second hand bookstore, I ran across a book in a happy yellow dust jacket.  The color and the snappy title caught my interest.  I would recommend it for anyone who wants to explore life, faith and the balancing of the two with a fresh tone. "Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?" by Rhoda Janzen is an honest, witty, and thought provoking look at what it means to be human and a person of faith.

As a woman raised in the Mennonite church she explores and contrasts church in  various traditions: Episcopal to Pentecostal.  The lens of her conservative background, her liberal arts education (she is a PhD who teaches literature), and her natural inclination to see things through a glass twisted enough to be a fun house mirror all unite to create a fun and meaningful read.  It is a spiritual book but it is not a religious book.  There is too much honesty in it for the later and too much willingness to accept that people are less than perfect even if they are trying to live a Christian life.  For Janzen, however, that is okay.  She has seen her own fun house reflection and come to terms with herself as the unique and gifted person she is and can become.

What truly attracted me to the book was the willingness to aim at sacred cows, to examine this thing we call church and Christian life and take a pea shooter to it as needed, and finally, to say I am who I am, the person God must have intended me to be, and so there!  Having begun my own life in one faith group and then later in life migrated into another faith group, I understood many of the observations of the experiences.  In such situations you meet wonderful people, but see things about them with a different eye and the choice is to ignore, minimize, patronize, or recognize the messages and lessons they provide.

This ability, and willingness, to laugh at who we are is refreshing because Christians can be so boring, so deadpan, and so serious.  We apply a heavy varnish of sacred holiness to so much of life and live in fear that we are not somber minded enough.  We live from extreme to extreme.  In the middle space is the ability to laugh at ourselves, accept the foibles, and tolerate the humanity we see in the mirror everyday.  This, in turn, allows us to accept those same things in others around us.

The grim faced, everything is a sin or provides a slippery slide to one, mentality is one that attracts no one to a life of faith.  The pious inability to laugh at our own human weakness as weaknesses and move on is not one that Jesus would recognize.  The illogical and wrong headed thinking that says we will not do X, W, Z but turn around and do L,M.O should be recognized as the human nature it demonstrates. 

We are illogical, inconsistent, demanding, hypocritical, hypercritical, superior, fearful, fearmongering, and hopeless at times.  All people are and the fact we claim a relationship with  God should not make us more so but should make us humbly aware of those faults and grace filled enough to make allowances and help one another to be better - in love. 

The title question is a good one.  Does this church (my faith, my life) make me look fat (complacent, self-satisfied, inactive).  I say we all start focusing on finding the laughter in life and in our faith.  Yes, there are deadly serious aspects to life but moping and be melancholy do not help the situation and actually show a decided lack of faith.  

If your God is not big enough to laugh and cause you to laugh at life - maybe you need to reexamine the nature of your God, your faith and yourself.