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.
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