Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life

Why is God often viewed as a joyless judge? Why does the aim of religion sometimes seem like one of gloom and seriousness? Issues like these are what Jesuit priest James Martin (author of My Life with the Saints and culture editor of America magazine) addresses in the compelling and extremely entertaining Between Heaven and Mirth. Martin fully understands that some religious organizations seem more concerned with sin than with virtue--in Catholic culture, for instance, suffering is more often linked to spirituality than is joy. But he believes that God wants us to experience a joy-filled life, and thus his book becomes "an invitation, a challenge... to rethink the importance of humor and laughter in the life of believers" who seek to live out their spirituality in the modern world.

Martin refreshingly veers away from dogma and scholarly arguments to present an accessible historical examination of humor via the Bible (notably the Psalms and the Gospels), the lives of the saints and biographies of other notable spiritualists. He illustrates how the parables contain bursts of the absurd and "comedic hooks," and how numerous Biblical passages portray the playfulness of Christ and those who encountered Him. Between Heaven and Mirth is an enriching, inspiring read, leavened with humorous personal stories, jokes and anecdotes that give believers strategies to deepen their faith by cultivating a sense of delight and good humor in their own lives and church communities. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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