Once upon a time there was a newly wedded couple. The husband was happy with his bride and loved her very much. She was beautiful, modest, and smart. She spoke well, and–being deeply in love–she delighted in making her husband happy. There was only one thing wrong with her. He hated her laugh.
The loving young husband hated how she laughed during comedies. He hated how she laughed at his friends’ jokes. He hated how she laughed with her friends. Her laughter was repulsive to him.
One Sunday morning their pastor was preaching from Luke, and a single verse leaped off the page, as verses sometimes do. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” It was an epiphany.
The loving young husband rushed home after church and pulled his concordance off the shelf. He was amazed at what he found. “It’s not just me,” he thought to himself, “God hates her laughter, too!” The young man put a sticky note on every page of the Bible that proved that God condemned his wife’s laughter.
When he was finished, the loving young husband said to his wife, “I love you with all my heart, darling, but there’s something I need to tell you. I can’t stand it when you laugh. I love you, but you just have to stop laughing.”
His wife said to him, “What? You’re kidding, right? You don’t like how I laugh?”
Her husband replied and said to her, “No, I can’t stand you laughing at all. I can never accept your laughter. I will always hate that about you.”
And the young man’s wife answered him saying, “What do you mean, you hate my laughing?”
And the young husband said to the wife whom he loved, “I’m sorry, but I hate how you laugh during comedies. I hate how you laugh at my friends’ jokes. I hate how you laugh with your friends. Your laugh is repulsive to me, and it’s repulsive to God, too.”
“But I still love you with all my heart,” he continued, “and I always will.”
Unhappy memories filled in her mind.
The young woman answered her husband saying, “You can’t be serious! God hates it when I laugh? You’re joking, right?”
And the loving young husband said to his wife, “No, I’m not joking. God hates your laughter, too, dearest. It’s not just me.”
Then the loving young husband opened his Bible to all the verses that proved God disapproved of her laughter. In Proverbs he read one verse: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”
In Ecclesiastes he read three verses: “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” “As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is meaningless.”
In Jeremiah he read four verses: “I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in the streets of Jerusalem.” “In your own lifetime, before your very eyes, I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in this land.” “I will take away your happy singing and laughter.” “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
The loving young husband went to the sticky note in the Epistle of James and read to his beloved wife, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Turning to the Gospel of Luke he read Jesus’ words, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”
Finally the loving young husband turned to Genesis and read to his wife, Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But the Lord said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
The loving young husband closed his Bible. He arranged the yellow sticky notes in a neat pile, each one on top of the other. As he piled them on he said to his wife, “You see, it’s not just me. It’s those thirteen verses. It’s God who’s speaking to you. God has spoken consistently in his Word that he hates your laughter, in both the Old and New Testaments. God consistently disapproves of your laughter in every section of the Bible: in the Law and the Prophets, in Wisdom Literature, and in the Gospels and the Epistles. I’m sorry. I will always love you, but you must never laugh again.”
The young wife was silent. She remembered her father telling her she cackled like a chicken. She remembered her friends mimicking her in school. Now her husband said he hated her laughter, and God hated it, too. The proof was there.
“It must be true,” she said to herself. “Everything they said must be true.”
In the coming months and years the wife trained herself to not laugh. When she knew she would be watching a comedy, she would steel herself against laughing. When she knew she would be with his friends, she practiced being icy cold. “Self-control,” she thought to herself, “a fruit of the spirit.” Even when she was with her own friends, she learned to never relax, to never laugh.
Years went by and all of the woman’s love grew cold. Her love for her husband grew cold, her love for life grew cold, and her love for God grew cold. One day when the minister said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” She prayed, “God, please forgive my iniquity and my coldness of heart.”
The woman knew her love had grown cold, but did not know that the cause was not because iniquity abounded in her own heart, but because of the iniquity in the heart of her husband.
When the loving husband observed that the love of his wife’s heart had grown cold, he said to himself, “Jesus said this would happen. He said that once she repented of her laughter that she would mourn and weep. I am not responsible for this. God did it.”
To read more parables, click here.
If you want to Demolish the Strongholds of shallow anti-gay slogans, click here.
If you want to respond to the Clobber Passages, click here.
The Facebook responses I’m getting this morning are mixed. Some people have shared it on their FB pages, while others let me know that it was “horrible” and “offensive.” I understand where they’re coming from, really.
Lana responded, ” This is a good analogy. Thank you. Maybe someone will ‘get’ it.”
Frank writes, “I truly don’t understand why you posted this, except perhaps you wanted to make the point that a few verses of scripture, taken out of context can indeed ruin lives. Still there are other ways of doing that rather than posting this horrible little story.”
Myra writes, “You obviously can use the Bible to prove anything. This story is so offensive to me as a member of UUCFL. We laugh a lot and we like it. to have divorced her instead would be a gift! The moral to me is just because it’s in the bible doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do things. (do we still throw out moldy homes, do women leave town on their periods, sit on the ground and bleed into the ground?) I think in some ways our modern ways are better…. Random reading of Leviticus would do that. We don’t need much help in finding reasons to eschew the Bible. We need more help in finding the good in it. We are all pretty capable as UUs of coming up with biblical passages we cannot get behind.. That’s easy peasy.”
Joanie writes, “When I read this, I started thinking that all of the laughter that the husband cited was the laughter of those who were very much like those in Sodom and the Cities of The Plain. (see Ezekiel 16: 48 to the end of the chapter) As I read about the ultimate fate of the woman, her love gone cold, like the ashes in a fireplace, all I could think of was the phrase “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” From my experience, laughter is a form of expressing joy. In this, I saw the tragedy of being too literal and fundamental in one’s application of scripture.
“It is by love that we are set apart – made different from the world. If I were in the situation of that woman, I would have told my husband, “I will never repent from laughter as it gives me joy and freshens the love in my heart. It gives me strength in times of adversity. It gives me the ability to love with greater depth. I think you need to read the New Testament and pay special attention to the ministry of Jesus and how He applied the law, not the old testament and the legalism that Jesus died to save us from.”
This made me cry. Do you think people would get it if the story was about a parent and child? I love your posts. I am trying to help my daughters understand that not all Christians are bullies which is sometimes how it appears here in Riverside. These posts show what it is to be truly Christian, I think.
I have something of an objection to this. A good relationship is a two way street, not merely one way. To ignore this is to ignore the realiy that there are some problems that real people are going to have with this type of thinking if it is used regarding social problems. Regarding the issue of homosexuality, for example, to ignore the reality that some non-homosexual people are going to have problems with homosexuality is merely asking for trouble. It is a setup for failure. I wonder if it would often be better for homosexuals to learn to expect trouble rather than to continue to hope that it will not happen, It is better to be strengthened rather than arguing and risk causing more anger rather than less. Indeed, some people will keep their own reactions rather than change their minds, merely because this is the only thing that they know. As far as I know, human nature needs to learn from its own mistakes. Of course, people need to be permitted to make mistakes.
To put it clearly into the format of the parable, it might be better if the wife slowly shows more emotional expression, in spite of what her husband does. Indeed, he may even find out that he has an an emotional reaction also, and that this is ok.
Maybe homosexuals people could stop reacting to the clobber passages and the rest and then not react as if the world is falling apart when people respond with heretofor normal reactions. People learn only in relationship. If some folks do not want a relationship, then that is ok also.
I think you mean well, but you’re blaming the victim.
First of all, you want the woman to show more expression when she has been condemned by him for the very thing that gave her pleasure. In the parable, she would then not be submitting to her husband. Psychologically, once a person has been criticized by a loved one or someone important, that trait which was criticized takes on much more importance than anything else. (Try mentioning the pimple on your teenager’s face and see how devastating that is!)
Second, why should homosexuals not hope for something better from their fellow man? Isn’t hope one of the things that gets us through this life? Where would any of us be without hope? Should I stop hoping that my husband with dementia will get well, even though it’s clear that he will not? Should I not hope that tomorrow will come, even though we’re told to not worry about the morrow?
Maybe so-called Christians could stop using the clobber passages, and then the homosexuals wouldn’t react to them. Why should another person’s reaction be considered “normal” if it condemns that which is normal and natural to a gay man or woman?
As I said, you’re blaming the wrong part of society. But, of course, it’s easier to place blame than it is to search one’s own heart.
1- There is a difference between prove and indicate. There is no way that a collection of quotes from the Bible can “prove” anything.
2- G-d does not write books. To call a book written by man “the word of G-d” is a violation of the first commandment.
3- I left a comment at the previous story, and it has not been posted.
If you re-submit your comment, I’ll post it.
Ron, This seems like a good analogy of how the church says to those of us who are gay “We love you!” and then tell us to park our sexuality at the door or else the love will end. I can’t help wondering how many disciples the church has driven away because of this kind of “love”. “We love you. Just don’t express your love to another human being or we’ll kick you out” Your analogy of laughter is beautiful.
There are so many parallels between laughter and sexual expression, especially the elements of play and pleasure. Many things conspire together to rob us of our enjoyment of life. Three of the fruits of the Spirit–love, joy, and peace–are at least partly experienced as strong, positive emotions. God help us to not rob our friends and acquaintances of their enjoyment of life. Love is kind, and taking the joy out of life is definitely not kind.
My interpretation of this is that people use parts of the Bible for their own selfish purposes. This is an example of twisting the real meaning (taking it out of context) and then refusing to accept the blame for misinterpretting the material. The husband blames God, when he should blame himself for killing his wife’s happiness. It is a sad story, but happens everyday in the name of religion.
Ah! Metaphor and parable; so many people are angered by them. I seem to recall that the Pharisees tended to be enraged by Christ’s parables. His still provoke the discomfort of self examination and when people get glimpses of their own failings in a parable, they tend to either quickly denounce the parable or find ways to explain it that do not involve addressing their own failings. There have been whole careers in theology spent avoiding how the words of Christ might pertain to the theologian’s personal experience of life and God.
What I find wonderful about your parable, Ron, is that it applies to so many different situations. Yes, it can be directly applied to how some Christians use the Clobber Passages, but I think it actually has greater depth than that. It serves as a model for denominational interpretations, especially those denominations built upon one principle culled from the scriptures – and how in their effort to adhere to one small variation in interpretation of scripture, whole movements are born (often at great cost to the families involved).
It also reminds us that prophecies are often self-fulfilling. When we make it impossible for love to flourish, it will wither. When we estrange others from our lives with prophecies that they will fall away, they do understand that they are not really wanted. When we tell people they are inferior, they will act inferior or contest the statement (automatically making them inferior in our minds).
Additionally, it has great psychological insight. Often, as human beings, we have selfish desires that override our concern and love for those around us. We have been known to use even our most sacred and cherished ideals as weapons to secure our selfish desires. (Think of how Wall Street uses the Constitution of the United States in a similar manner to the husband in this parable.) Inevitably, though, when we pursue such a course, great unhappiness arises. But rather than admit our error we self-righteously cling to our faulty ideas. We would rather be “right” than loved.
Thank you for a wonderful and insightful look into the darkness of our hearts. All of us, especially me, need this.
Well crafted parable. It certainly delivers the intended message. Clearly, though, as several response illustrate, if one does not first grasp the meaning of the term ‘parable’, one will inevitably miss the meaning of the parable itself.
Thanks. I agree about comprehension problems.
AWESOME analogy, Ron!!! 😀 Er, I mean 😐
Uh-uh-uh-uh . . .
You rang? 🙂
😐 Uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh … 😐