Good for What Ails You
At last, the faltering state of humor has an apologist, a man who can prove scientifically that laughter is good for you. I speak (in hushed tones) of Norman Cousins, the esteemed editor of Saturday Review. He tells his story in Anatomy of An Illness, a bestselling book that is currently raising eyebrows and blood pressures in medical schools.
The story is this: Cousins came down with a puzzling sickness and went to the hospital. He hurt all over; he had a hard time moving his limbs or even turning over in bed; at one point, his jaws were locked. A team of doctors (the medical version of “share the wealth”) informed him that he had a “collagen illness.” In laymen’s terms, the connective tissues in his body were coming unglued.
Well, the doctors’ first suggestion was to kill the pain, but Cousins decided he didn’t want to lie around in a stupor. One cheery day, they told him that only one patient in 500 ever fully recovered. That did it! Cousins exerted the old journalistic will power and decided to pull himself together and get well. Without drugs.
He imported a movie projector and a stack of old “Candid Camera” films and even older Marx Brothers movies. He seriously devoted himself to laughter. Guess what happened? He discovered that 10 minutes of “genuine belly laughter” brought him two hours of pain-free sleep! Often the nurse read to him from some book of humor, and the beneficent results were the same. Eventually. Cousins went back to the Saturday Review desk and also returned to golf, tennis, and even horseback riding. It didn’t happen overnight, of course; but that it happened at all is truly wonderful.
God’s people might become holier and healthier if they would just learn to laugh. Some of them don’t know the difference between being serious and being solemn. It would do a congregation good to have a few sanctified belly laughs. If the pastor needs material to help them, he might read them the minutes of the last board meeting. If anybody complains, sing the “Old Hundredth.” and note the refrain: “Him serve with mirth. His praise forth tell.”
Solomon said it best: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine …” (Prov. 17:22). The NASB margin reads, “A joyful heart causes good healing …” And Martin Luther daredto say. “If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”
Yours for more healing laughter,
It was my privilege to minister in Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church between the pastorates of Barnhouse and Boice (1961–67). I can only react to the news of the congregation’s withdrawal from the UPCUSA (“Rumbles of Realignment in U.S. Presbyterianism.” News, Apr. 18) with regret and rejoicing.
Regret—that hierarchical intransigence, theological liberalism, and moral relativism have made this decision necessary. The evangelical conservatives still in the denomination may comfort themselves with signs of “increased openness” on the part of the power structure. But the fact remains that the seminaries, publications, and central funds of the UPCUSA are firmly in the hands of those who deny the full inspiration, total trustworthiness, and absolute authority of the Scriptures.
Rejoicing—that an overwhelming majority in such a unique congregation has shown the courage to act consistently with its historic commitment to the faith of the gospel. Separation from entrenched heresy, however painful when one remembers the evangelical remnant within the UPCUSA, is not schism but faithful testimony to the truth.
REV. MARIANO DI GANOI
Department of Pastoral
Studies Ontario Theological Seminary
This is to reply to your editorial, “Homosexuality: Biblical Guidance Through a Moral Morass” (Apr. 18). The Bible condemns homosexuality as sin—period. There is no such thing as a professing Christian having a loving relationship with a sexual partner of the same sex. Homosexuality and Christianity are incongruous. I attack your choice of labels attached to these homosexuals who attend church and profess to be Christians. You call them Christians; Christ would call them sinners.
You are right to condemn homosexuality as sinful; you are dead wrong to say that a Christian may be homosexual. Christians do not practice sin. Therefore, churches that toy with the idea of accepting—let alone endorsing—homosexuality are not to be commended. They are deceived.
Your editorial calling for both “compassion” for and the forced celibacy of all homosexuals stood in ironic juxtaposition to the news item in the same issue concerning the Dutch Reformed Church’s continued resistance to marriage and sexual relations between whites and blacks in South Africa. To support its position, the DRC uses “biblical” and cultural argumentation similar to the approach taken by CHRISTIANITY TODAY on homosexuality. To whatever extent you have moved beyond the DRC on mixed marriages, you have done so through enlightenment, both cultural and biblical.
I do not doubt that you intend to be helpful—and I must say that you have come some distance from where you were—but your effort at this stage is still hardly helpful to the many evangelical Christians who need to come to more realistic terms with both homosexuality and Christian discipleship.
New York, N.Y.
I’ve grown tired of hearing ministers preaching against homosexuality and offering no hope to the homosexual. I heard one popular minister say it was impossible to be a Christian homosexual. I know better because I’ve met a number of them. Salvation adds to you, it doesn’t take anything away. If you are gay before your salvation you will still be gay after your new birth, just as an alcoholic will still be an alcoholic after his conversion. The main difference is that God gives you power to lay aside the sin that so easily defeats you.
THOMAS W. OTT
While destroying three common myths, the editorial seems to endorse the great myth about homosexuality: that it is a condition one does not choose and for which one is not responsible.
A homosexual becomes one by a series of choices. These choices may seem imperceptible to him because they are not at first conscious choices to overt homosexual activity. Most frequently they are those of social attraction, for reasons other than sexual, to a person of the same sex. As the friendship becomes more intimate, some sexual stimulation occurs and if there is not a prior commitment to the wrongness—or at least undesirability—of homosexual conduct, this develops into overt acts.
The pattern, if not abruptly broken off, develops more rapidly if the person or persons with whom the novice associates is already practicing homosexual activity. As the friendship deepens, the values and lifestyle of his friends are accepted. Then one day he “discovers” that he really has a preference for homosexuality. This is entirely because of the conditioning that has taken place and has no basis whatever in his genetic, anatomic, or physiologic make-up.
LORNE E. BROWN. M.D.
University Health Center
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
John Warwick Montgomery’s article “Truth in Transition: A Case Study” (Current Religious Thought, Apr. 18) delineates the painful disciplinary process undertaken by The American Lutheran Church against Central Lutheran congregation in Tacoma. Washington. Unfortunately, it fails to mention some rather essential pieces of information.
One is left with the impression that Central Lutheran, Faith Evangelical Seminary, and Lutherans Alert-National are unrelated institutions. Thus, one may indeed wonder why the ALC reacted so harshly to Central’s calling of a graduate of a Lutheran seminary who was “ordained” by a Lutheran entity.
Here are the missing pieces of the puzzle: Both Lutherans Alert-National and Faith Evangelical Seminary are products of Central Lutheran and the congregation’s pastor. Rev. Reuben H. Redal. They form a unit. Rev. Redal and his organization have established themselves as an ultraconservative watchdog unit within the ALC.
Such activities are, perhaps, at times called for within the life of the church. Lutherans Alert, however, has taken an adversary position. It holds its own national conventions, at which the primary activity is a “roasting” of the ALC. It publishes a magazine in which dissent and friction within the denomination are encouraged. And, finally, it has established its own seminary, rejecting, as mentioned in the article, the theological educational system of the ALC.
In light of such activities, the actions of the ALC are understandable. In spite of disagreements within a denomination, it is of crucial importance that the denomination retain control of the processes of theological education and ordination. Normal channels exist for the redress of grievances. Rev. Redal and his followers have chosen to take another route.
REV. JAMES C. BANGSUND
Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church
San Jose, Calif.
I am writing to correct an error in your April 18 news article, “Evolution, Creationism Backers Tangle over Teaching of Origins.”
“Spokesmen for scientific creationism” do not “assert that all species were created separately.…” The author has most unnecessarily brought in the old canard of “fixity of species,” which even Linnaeus deemed wise to “desert” after his lengthy studies of hybridization. If anything, we modern creationist scientists make pointed assertions about the concept of “fixity of kinds.” And kinds most certainly must not be equated with species (which is possible only for humankind), as “kind” may relate to family, order, or other entry in the arbitrary scale of adopted classification.
JOHN N. MOORE
Professor of Natural Science
Michigan State University
East Lansing. Mich.
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