Laughing with God: Humor, Culture, and Transformation

Overview

When Sarah overhears God tell Abraham that she will give birth to a son, she laughs. She laughs to herself at the impossibility of her, in her old age, bearing a child (Gen 18:12). But God's ways are not Sarah's ways; God is far more wonderful than Sarah imagines. Of course, Sarah does give birth to a son and names him Isaac, whose name means to laugh: God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me (Gen 21:6). Surely, the ancient audience 'aware of the many incongruities in this story 'did...

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Overview

When Sarah overhears God tell Abraham that she will give birth to a son, she laughs. She laughs to herself at the impossibility of her, in her old age, bearing a child (Gen 18:12). But God's ways are not Sarah's ways; God is far more wonderful than Sarah imagines. Of course, Sarah does give birth to a son and names him Isaac, whose name means to laugh: God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me (Gen 21:6). Surely, the ancient audience 'aware of the many incongruities in this story 'did laugh. But can we in modern times recover the divine humor, the paradox and promise, in this and other biblical accounts? Can we use that sacred laughter as a means to evangelize a world that longs for God every bit as much as the ancients did? In Laughing with God: Humor, Culture, and Transformation, Catholic priest and cultural anthropologist Gerald Arbuckle helps us do just that.

With Arbuckle, readers will enter many rich biblical stories and come away laughing, not laughter as in response to a joke or comedy, but a profound laughter of the heart. Readers will laugh at Sarah as she laughs at God, and they will laugh together with Sarah and God. Readers will discover divine humor in the parables of Jesus and even in his suffering and death, the ultimate paradox for Christians. In addition to uncovering and recovering humor in Scripture, Arbuckle's work is a treasure trove of modern examples of humor 'from literature, movies, and television 'that surprisingly can be a means of transforming cultures to better reflect the kingdom of God. In the end, readers will want to turn the phrase, He who laughs last, laughs best, into, They who laugh with God, evangelize best.

Gerald A. Arbuckle, SM, PhD, is co-director of Refounding and Pastoral Development, a research ministry, in Sydney, Australia. He is internationally known for his expertise in helping church leaders minister effectively in a postmodern world. Arbuckle's most recent books include: Confronting the Demon: A Gospel Response to Adult Bullying; Violence, Society, and the Church: A Cultural Approach; and Healthcare Ministry: Refounding the Mission in Tumultuous Times (2001 Catholic Press Association Award), al published by Liturgical Press.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

[O]ne comes away from this work with a light heart.
Catholic Books Review

This is a comprehensive, fascinating study which Church leaders and preachers would do well to read and appreciate. The author rightly states that understanding the ‘laughter of the heart’ is the time-honored way to reach the souls of the faithful, and to evangelize the unchurched. . . . This is a recommended purchase for college, university, and particularly for seminary libraries.
Catholic Library World

We have here the essentials of a first world liberating theology: the power of the incongruous to break open the intractable and bring scrutiny to the inscrutable. The author, well known for his writings on religious life, inculturation and more recently Catholic health care, refocuses and invites us into the sacrament of laughter, the subversive sacrament of an incongruous God. With cultural awareness and biblical insight he cajoles a reluctant church to retrieve the divine humor, to delight in the incongruity of grace, and rejoice because of it.
Associate Professor Gerard Moore, Director of Research, Sydney College of Divinity

God’s surprising love and forgiveness is expressed in Divine Humor, but Arbuckle’s analysis takes us on a journey across cultures, through the Bible, and into the mind itself. A remarkably creative work, full of apercus and illustrations, this is yet another example of the creative interplay between theology and anthropology.
Anthony J. Gittins, CSSp, PhD; Professor of Theology and Culture, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago

Don’t be fooled by the slim size of this book and the levity of its title. With his characteristic theological depth and ‘shaking-the-status-quo’ insights, Arbuckle, internationally known for his work on inculturation and church reform, offers us a genuine ‘tract for the times’ when we are tempted by world and church affairs to sink into despair. And if you are angry or despondent at what has been happening in the church, read Chapter Seven. You will be able to laugh with God, hear God’s chuckle and even roar, and recover our common humanity. We owe Arbuckle a great debt for showing us the human face of God.
Peter C. Phan, Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814652251
  • Publisher: Liturgical Press, The
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Gerald A. Arbuckle, SM, is codirector of Refounding and Pastoral Development, a research ministry, in Sydney, Australia. He is internationally known for his expertise in helping church leaders minister effectively in a postmodern world. In 2011 he presented the Martin D’Arcy, SJ, Lectures at Oxford University. He is the author of many books, including Violence, Society, and the Church; Laughing with God; and Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians, all from Liturgical Press.
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