Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

-- Proverbs 17:22

How can one have a cheerful heart in this time of global climate change, natural disasters, and violence on every hand in nearly every land? How can we speak of humor, levity, jesting, and laughter when our world is in such pain?

Having a cheerful heart, as the author of Proverbs put it, does not mean that we avoid engagement in serious peacemaking work. What it means is that humor can provide interludes in many of the deepest reaches of seemingly desperate situations.

There is a time and place for humor. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." Humor -- like art, music, and dance -- is essential for the well-being of the human spirit.

Healthy humor is inviting and forgiving, never hurtful, and often involves some kind of pleasant, incongruent surprise. For example, I recently heard a 4-year-old (whose parents live in Ohio and grandparents in Iowa) ask his mother if he was a Buckeye or a Hawkeye. His mother wisely replied, "Ivan, you can be anything you want to be," to which the boy replied, "Good, then I want to be Chinese!" We have all heard comedy routines, at stand-up clubs or on TV sitcoms, that are sarcastic, acerbic, and hurtful to one population or another. This is not healthy humor.

It is well documented that stress has negative effects on our immune systems and our general health. While there have been few studies on the positive effects of healthy humor, and the scientific evidence is still unfolding, available information strongly suggests that humor, with its inherent laughter, has many benefits:

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Interview with the Prince of Darkness

(Editor’s Note: As the United States prepares for its inevitable takeover by special interests, Sojourners recently sat down with the godfather of them all, the National Rifle Association.)

Sojourners: Thank you for coming. Umm, is that a costume you’re wearing? I mean, those horns make you look like ...

NRA: What costume?

Sojourners: Never mind. Sir, a terrible tragedy recently took place in Tucson, one laid squarely at the feet of a handgun.

NRA: Handguns do not have feet.

Sojourners:  You know what I mean. Your insistence on almost no control of guns is one of the most outrageous abuses of our democratic system.

NRA: Guns don’t kill people, people do.

Sojourners: You never get tired of saying that, do you?

NRA: Not at all. Would you like me to say it again?

Sojourners: Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns.

NRA: It’s the price we pay for free-dom.

Sojourners: Eight children a day die from gun violence.

NRA: It’s the price we pay for ...

Sojourners:  Stop with the empty words! Don’t you think you have some responsibility here?

NRA: Actually, no. I believe the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of inflammatory political rhetoric.

Sojourners:  Inflammatory political rhetoric does not have feet.

NRA: As I was saying, there has been a regrettable coarsening of our public discourse, and we need to keep talking about it.

Sojourners:  That way we don’t talk about guns, right?

NRA: Precisely. Because guns don’t kill people, freedom does. No, wait. Sorry, we only have two talking points, and sometimes I get them mixed up.

Sojourners: So, how much does freedom cost these days?

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

The Top 10 Stories of March 30, 2011

Quote of the day.
"Apparently that language [in the ruling] was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation [of the collective-bargaining bill] was enjoined. That is now what I want to make crystal clear." - Dane County WI Judge Maryann Sumi, who issued an injunction to prevent the state's' controversial collective-bargaining bill from becoming law, issued a second order Tuesday to stop the state from violating her original ruling.
(Christian Science Monitor)

1. Senate hearing on Muslim civil rights.
"Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he convened Tuesday's hearing because of rising Islamophobia, manifested by Quran burnings, hate speech and restrictions on mosque construction."
(Religion News Service)

2. Food journalist writes on fasting.
"I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry."
(Mark Bittman, New York Times)

3. U.S. may arm Libyan rebels.
"At the end of a conference on Libya in London, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said for the first time that she believed arming rebel groups was legal under UN security council resolution 1973, passed two weeks ago, which also provided the legal justification for air strikes."

4. Gaddafi troops [uch back rebels.
"Troops loyal to longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have capitalised on an apparent slowdown in the frequency of coalition air strikes in the east and have pushed back opposition rebels, taking the strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf."
(Al Jazeera)

5. Setbacks in Japanese reactor crisis.
"Setbacks mounted Wednesday in the crisis over Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear facility, with nearby seawater testing at its highest radiation levels yet and the president of the plant operator checking into a hospital with hypertension."
(Los Angeles Times/AP)

6. Government shutdown looms.
"With a government shutdown deadline just days away, House Speaker John A. Boehner faces a fateful choice over whether to abandon conservative Republicans to reach a final deal on 2011 spending."
(Chicago Tribune)

7. Supreme Court hears Wal-Mart discrimination case.
"The Supreme Court appeared closely divided on Tuesday during arguments over the theory put forth by the plaintiffs in an enormous sex discrimination class-action case against Wal-Mart."
(New York Times)

8. Canadian campaign heats up.
"[Prime Minister] Stephen Harper has ramped up his election pitch for a majority government, warning in a Winnipeg speech there is no way he can hold power if he wins a minority of seats."
(Globe and Mail)

9. Ivory Coast tipping toward civil war.
"Ivory Coast tipped further toward civil war Tuesday as soldiers loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the former prime minister and banker, continued their fight against the strongman Laurent Gbagbo."
(New York Times)

10. Arctic sea coverage lowest in decades.
"Sea ice coverage in the Arctic shrank to one of its lowest levels in decades this winter -- more bad news for polar bears that need it to survive."
(McClatchy/Anchorage Daily News)