“Laughter is war.”
Our school motto stems from a two-page spread for New Saint Andrews College in an old Credenda/Agenda. We saw that, laughed out loud, and knew that we wanted to live it, so we translated the phrase into Latin to give ourselves a little class. As far as we know, “Risus est bellum” can’t be quoted from classical antiquity but maybe it will earn its marks in coming generations.
We need laughter as a weapon in the war against our pride. G.K. Chesterton scorned pride in his book Orthodoxy:
[K]ings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness….It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.
Much of our modern educational production is in shambles. There is pressing and painstaking work ahead to train our kids and it would be easy to take ourselves seriously. But that would be seriously foolish, so we desire to wage war against our big heads by sweating forward with laughter.
We will also fight in the battle for the evangel with laughter because we fear God. In Psalm 52, pre-king David, on the run for his life in the wilderness, professes:
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
(Psalm 52:6-7, ESV)
God Himself established enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. His enemies are real and their lofty opinions are hostile to His reign. Like Doeg in Psalm 52, they think that they can conquer in their own understanding, strength, and resources. But when God’s people fear Him, that is, when they take refuge in His wisdom, power, and steadfast love for His own, then they can laugh. The righteous see God as supreme in His story, so they submit to Him and trust Him until He triumphs.
Even when, maybe especially when things look bleak, responsible leaders laugh.
For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land. (King Lune in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis)
We have much work to do and many of His enemies to provoke. We will only contend well when we look to God, watch Him work, worship His majesty, and laugh by faith as we wait for His coming.